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Lord of the Ring

Lorin Maazel conducts the hell out of Wagner.

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It's been 20 years since Lorin Maazel last stood before the Cleveland Orchestra. The two-decade drought ends this weekend when the conductor returns to perform The Ring Without Words, his own all-orchestral arrangement of Wagner's mammoth, four-opera "Ring" cycle. Orchestra members who played under Maazel when he was music director from 1972 to 1982 can hardly wait to work with him again. "There's a vitality to him," says percussionist Donald Miller. "He even look good on the podium. You never leave his concerts without speaking about it — either praising it or swearing up and down."

Miller recalls the sometimes enigmatic persona Maazel, a former child prodigy, exemplified during his Cleveland years and continues to cultivate with the New York Philharmonic. "He just walks out and conducts the hell out of everything and does whatever he's feeling at the moment," he says. "Maybe he's in a good mood, and the music will sound different from when he's not. He has no problem reflecting his mood in a performance. It makes things that much more exciting."
May 11-13, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 14, 3 p.m.

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