Editorial: In Memoriam: Listening to the landscape

Eulogies have poured forth from around the world upon the death of Lorin Maazel the weekend before last. But for us in Rappahannock County, acquainted with the Maestro’s musical genius in ways uniquely ours, any attempted homage must express his love of the land here.

In his 84 years, his brilliant career made him familiar with places, cosmopolitan and enchanting, all around the globe; and yet he fell in love with rural Rappahannock. With the means to acquire a rural retreat and locate his musical oasis anywhere in the world, he chose Rappahannock County, unpretentious and relatively unknown in the elite, international circles he traveled.

In so doing, he became one of those rare “newcomers” who brought change without altering, much less damaging, that which attracted him in the first place, keeping the county exactly like it was — only somehow better.

Music, according to some philosophers of aesthetics, is the highest, most truthful and beautiful art form. This is at least partly because — unlike an architect’s masterpiece or a famous painter’s most memorable canvas or an acclaimed author’s page of poetry — it is not grounded in a particular place or space. Rather, it transcends not only space but time as well. It needs the passage of time, of course, to be played and heard; yet in the playing and the hearing, it becomes timeless, pregnant with both past and future in one exquisite present moment.

In its beauty, Maestro Maazel must have realized, the Rappahannock landscape is timeless, too — and thus an especially fitting home to his and wife Dietlinde’s Castleton Festival. Not unlike the aboriginal Australian “songlines,” the rolling hills here now float to the chords of Beethoven, Mozart and Mahler, flowing into “the silence of pure joy,” in words from the Maestro’s memorial concert.

Walter Nicklin