Finely Tuned

Pianist Kevin Cole headlines the Castleton Festival.

Michael Prepejchal

Kevin Cole

Hundreds of acres of rolling pastures, eager artists and captivated audience members are all important notes in the distinctive harmony that is the Castleton Festival.

Founded by Maestro Lorin Maazel in 2009, the Castleton Festival is a unique month-long gathering of over 200 ambitious young musicians, who have earned their spot at the festival through a competitive audition process. On his 550-acre Rappahannock County estate, Maestro Maazel—who conducted the New York Philharmonic from 2001 to 2009 and, from September this year, will be Chief Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra—mentors the young artists and prepares them for a series of performances.

While most of the performances will take place at the Castleton Farms estate at the Maestro’s own Theater House and open-air stage, Maazel will travel twice with a group of his own artists and special guests to perform in Merchant Hall at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. The first of these special performances will be headlined by guest pianist Kevin Cole in “Gershwin and Company: an All-American Evening.”

Cole had his first piano lesson at the age of four and a half and first heard the music of George Gershwin at the age of six, and has gone on to perform Gershwin’s music to sold-out crowds at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

“He was a pianist and composer and the first American composer to be almost like a rock star to the public,” says Cole of his idol. “The music of Gershwin was fresh then and is still fresh and exciting to audiences today with vitality and energy connecting to the audience … He captured the real sense of excitement, urgency, and energy of the people of New York in the teens and twenties. His music reflects the change from the horse and buggy to the machine age and all the sounds of the city. He gave American music an identity.”

This will be Cole’s second year at the Castleton Festival, and he’ll perform an all-Gershwin show. “I will be performing both Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F,” he says. “Rhapsody in Blue is really what put Gershwin on the map.” 

Gershwin isn’t Cole’s only idol, though. He is also a huge admirer of the Castleton Festival’s organizer. “It was an honor to be asked back by Maestro Maazel,” he says. “I am honored to be a part of it because I have been a fan of Maazel for many years and the opportunity to perform with him again is very exciting,” says Cole.

The other factor attracting Cole to Castleton was the opportunity to support and encourage young musicians still looking to find their own musical and performing niche. “Young people are not stuck in certain ways or styles of performing. They are truly a clean slate. They can find their own new way of connecting to the music,” he says.

“I really think what they are doing at the festival is so special. Maestro Maazel is passing on to young performers his wisdom of all musical styles. With all the experience Maazel has, he can connect emotionally and invest himself in the music. He really is the catalyst bringing people together.”

June 22 to July 22 at the Castleton Farms estate. In addition to those productions, the two performances held at the Hylton will feature Kevin Cole and Maestro Lorin Maazel on June 28, and Maazel and the Castleton Festival Orchestra and singers in a Grand Opera in Concert with Puccini’s “La Bohème” on July 7.

For a complete schedule of events visit CastletonFestival.org

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