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The Greats (Dec 15, 2014)

Legacy of Laszlo Varga (Dec 13, 1924 – Dec 11, 2014)

Laszlo Varga, former principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, passed away last Thursday, shortly before his 90th birthday.

Under Music Director Leonard Bernstein, Laszlo Varga, along with John Corigliano and Bernstein himself, were the soloists for Beethoven's "Triple" Concerto during New York Phil's summer 1959 tour to Europe and the Soviet Union; their subsequent October performance of the "Triple" at Carnegie Hall is available in the 10-CD set "New York Philharmonic - Bernstein Live". In addition to the New York Phil, Varga had been a soloist with many orchestras around the world. He had also performed as a member of chamber ensembles such as the Borodin Piano Trio and the Léner String Quartet. Besides performing, he was on the cello faculty at San Francisco State University, UC-Santa Cruz, University of Toronto, and the University of Houston.

As a conductor and arranger, he founded the Virtuosi of New York and the Virtuosi of San Francisco. The original manuscripts of his over 50 transcriptions for cello ensemble and other combinations, including several unpublished works, are available at the Laszlo Varga Musical Score Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The Greats (Aug 8, 2014)

Tribute to Peter Sculthorpe
(Apr 29, 1929 – Aug 8, 2014)

Internationally acclaimed composer Peter Sculthorpe, known for using Aboriginal sounds to evoke the Australian landscape, passed away this morning in Sydney.

His "Requiem for cello alone" (Introit; Kyrie; Qui Mariam; Lacrimosa; Libera me; Lux aeterna) is available in a CD recording of Pieter Wispelwey. Shown on right is a video of his "Threnody for solo cello" performed this March at the inaugural Australian Cello Awards by this year's winner, Yelian He.

The Greats (Jul 15, 2014; updated Jul 17)

In memory of Lorin Maazel (Mar 6, 1930 – Jul 13, 2014)

Maestro Lorin Maazel, former music director of the New York Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Vienna State Opera and many others around the world, passed away Sunday morning, Jul 13. He had been at his Castleton Farms rehearsing and preparing for the 6th annual Castleton Festival where he was the founder and artistic director as well as composer in residence.

Later that day following the maestro's death, the concert at Castleton went on poignantly. Three of his orchestral works were featured, including "The Giving Tree" performed by Maria Tucci (narrator), Daniel Lelchuk (cello soloist) and Kensho Watanabe (conductor).

In 2005 at Avery Fisher Hall, for his 75th birthday celebration, the Maestro conducted the New York Philharmonic in a program entirely of his own compositions, showcasing guest soloist Han-Na Chang in both "The Giving Tree" and the more substantial "Music for Violoncello and Orchestra". The latter, a 30-minute work, was commissioned by Mstislav Rostropovich and has been released in a CD recording (shown on left).

The Castleton Festival is Maestro Maazel's legacy; he described working with young musicians as "more than a labor of love - a labor of joy". Last night (Jul 16), his family, staff and artists at the Festival hosted a memorial in which Alisa Weilerstein opened the program with the Sarabande from Bach's Cello Suite No. 3. The next symphonic concert is this Sat, Jul 19 featuring Weilerstein and returning Castleton conductor Rafael Payare in Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations.

The Greats (Jan 21, 2014)

Remembering Claudio Abbado

Former music director of La Scala, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna State Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic, Maestro Claudio Abbado passed away yesterday, Jan 20. Devoted to the young generation, he founded the European Community Youth Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Orchestra Mozart. With cellist Natalia Gutman, he co-founded Berliner Begegnungen (Berlin Encounters) which brought young musicians to rehearse and perform alongside experienced professionals at the Berlin Festival.

The Greats 2013