Spotlight: Turning The Screw at Maazel Farm; How Isserlis Bettered His Book

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: Turning The Screw at Maazel Farm; How Isserlis Bettered His Book
What the stars are up to, onstage and off.

When New York Philharmonic music director Lorin Maazel isn't busy in the Big Apple or jetting off to guest-conduct, he relaxes on a sprawling Virginia farm that he bought as a retreat 18 years ago. The 550-acre spread, nestled in Rappahannock County, boasts a manor house built in 1858, its own state-of-the-art 130-seat theater, a bowling alley, and various guest buildings equipped with swimming pools and Jacuzzis. Plus 150 head of cattle, a zebra, llamas and emus. In addition to Maazel and his wife, the German actress Dietlinde Turban, the farm is home to the conductor's 102-year-old father.

Recently, the Maazels hosted about 40 people including a crew of young music students who mounted a production of Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw in the estate's theater. The project was an effort by Maazel's Chateauville Foundation to bring together students from various disciplines. The group included an orchestra of 13 pre-professional musicians and a crew of hand-picked young singers. Maazel told the Baltimore Sun that he hopes a similar project can be completed each year. Once this year's production was performed at the Maazels' several times, it moved to Washington's Kennedy Center for a limited run.


A new children's book by British cellist Steven Isserlis is fast becoming a hit across the pond. Why Handel Waggled His Wig, a whimsical, humorous look at the lives of great composers, has been drawing stellar reviews since it hit bookshelves in Britain last month. The book, a sequel to Isserlis's Why Beethoven Threw the Stew, recently stood at a very respectable No. 1,578 on the Amazon UK sales chart. The London newspaper The Guardian, applauding the author's "high intelligence and schoolboy humor," quipped, "as a writer, he turns out to be a natural, although not exactly normal."

Besides the book, Isserlis has been involved in other projects for young people. He has developed a concert program related to Why Handel Waggled His Wig. The concerts, with guests including violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk, will be performed in the 2006-07 season in both Britain and the United States, where the book is due for release shortly. Isserlis and pianist Stephen Hough have also recorded a CD aimed at budding cellists. Inspired by Isserlis's cello-playing son, the disc, Children's Cello, on the BIS label, contains a range of music from beginning pieces to relatively unknown 20th-century works.


Isserlis is not the only musician with a book deal. Daniel Hope, known for his thoughtful approach to performing and his adventurous taste in repertory, recently began work on his first book. The violinist signed with Rowohlt, a prestigious German publisher and the book is due out in August of 2007. No word on the title or subject. Hope, who performs as part of the legendary Beaux Arts Trio when he is not soloing, is also busy putting together a tribute to his mentor, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. In 1957, Menuhin and Benjamin Britten launched the Gstaad Festival in Switzerland. To mark the 60th anniversary of the event, which is now known as the Menuhin Festival, Hope is recreating two chamber concerts programmed by the festival's founders. The programs, which included music by Bach, Schubert, Mozart, Telemann and Britten, were performed by Menuhin, Britten (on piano), tenor Peter Pears and cellist Maurice Gendron. Hope has selected an all-star lineup to join him in these concerts: composer-pianist Thomas Ads, cellist Peter Wispelwey and tenor Mark Padmore. The concerts are scheduled to be performed in Gstaad in late July.


Marin Alsop's appointment as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra raised the hackles of some of the musicians, who complained vociferously about the way management conducted its search. But Alsop's presence is already starting to raise the visibility of the BSO, a fine but underrated orchestra. Alsop, who has made a number of well-received recordings in the past couple of years, brought her new band before the microphones this month for its first commercial recording since 1998. With Joshua Bell as soloist, Sony Classical recorded the orchestra's concert performances this month of John Corigliano's Violin Concerto, which is based on his score for the film The Red Violin and was originally commissioned by the BSO. In addition to taping a pair of concerts, Sony scheduled a studio session to record "patches." The disc will also include Bell's performance of Corigliano's Violin Sonata.

Before coming to the BSO, Alsop had an affiliation with Naxos and she plans to make additional recordings for that label with her new orchestra. Among the scheduled projects is a set of Dvoršk symphonies, beginning next year with Nos. 7 and 8.

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