Just got back from Paris. I'm energized for creativity!
When Richard Kastle was five-years-old, his father couldn't beat him at chess. His sister was dating a grad student studying for his MBA at the University of Miami who couldn't beat him either.
At ten-years-old, he bought the score to Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #2 and made a recording of the famous Tom and Jerry cartoon that featured the piece. Using the score and the recording, he figured out how to play it. Kastle started piano lessons with Mary Anne Quick who was quoted in the Miami Herald saying, "He's a musical genius. He walked in and played the Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt after hearing it in a cartoon. Back then, he couldn't even read music." He also played the opening theme of Tschaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 before his first lesson.
As a teenager, he studied with Ivan Davis, Artist in Residence at the University of Miami and student of Horowitz. Davis was quoted in the LA Times saying, "He was a very bright boy with lots of technical facility. Very talented." Kastle composed his first piano concerto at 14 and performed it the next year. He made several appearances on local television and with the Miami Beach Symphony. The city of Hialeah, recognized his accomplishments by naming March 30, 1976, "Richard Kastle Day." He continued studying with Davis while a piano major at the University of North Texas where he studied with Larry Walz. After moving to Los Angeles, he studied film scoring at UCLA with Academy Award nominated composer Walter Scharff.
In the late 1980's, Kastle had a big impact on the music scene in Venice Beach, California, where he gained notoriety as the rebel of classical music, attracting surfers and punkers to monthly piano recitals. He performed a different program each month featuring classical standards along with his new symphonies and concertos. He ended each concert with Liszt's La Campanella or the second Hungarian Rhapsody.
The LA Weekly commented, "He drove his teachers batty, the famed Ivan Davis among them, with fiendishly difficult arrangements of works already known as finger twisters. His version of Liszt's 'La Campanella' etude is said to be impossible."
The Venice Beach concerts received world wide press coverage. He was invited to perform as the musical guest on a Canadian television show, CBC’s Pilot One. He made his network television debut in the United States on CBS's The Pat Sajak Show and was the subject of eight minutes of coverage on CNN.
Virgin Records offered him a recording contract. His album, Streetwise, was released in March, 1991 with much fanfare which included a televised performance of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 on the Joan Rivers Show. The label president referred to Streetwise as a "hit out of the box'' as it made it on to the rock sales charts in many of America's retail chains in its opening weeks. Jay Leno invited Kastle to start touring with him as his opening act that summer. Kastle made a guest appearance with Leno on NBC's The Tonight Show, performing his own composition, Batcave at Dusk. By the fall of 1991 Cleveland Scene Magazine reported, "Streetwise became the biggest selling album on Virgin Classics."
In 1992, Kastle toured as the opening act for both comedians Jay Leno and the late George Carlin. Virgin sent Kastle to London to record his fifth concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra. The piece is also known as the "Royce Concerto." Entertainment Tonight did a profile on Kastle while the album was being recorded. Soon after the recording was finished, Richard Branson sold his record label to EMI. European executives closed the New York offices, run by Virgin Classics label president Rogher Holdredge, while keeping Kastle tied to his contract for years. In 1997, the Royce Concerto was released by an independent label. Kastle promoted the album performing piano recitals on college campuses and as Jay Leno's opening act in Las Vegas.
Kastle appeared at Lincoln Center in 1996, performing a piano recital that included original compositions along with works by Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt. He appeared there again in 1999 as a pianist and conductor. He conducted the premiers of his Titanic Symphony and Symphony #5.
He began composing his Symphony #6 in 2001. The piece was created in Venice, Italy. Titled Symphony Venezia, it is far more complex than any of his other works, It wasn't completed until 2006 and involved many all night composition sessions in Piazza San Marco. Kastle draws inspiration for his compositions by traveling to exotic places like Bora Bora. His Piano Concerto #8 was finished at the Four Seasons in the Maldives and premiered at Symphony Space in New York City in 2003 with Kastle at the piano. He conducted the orchestra while playing the piano, a method frequently used by Mozart.
CBS News interviewed him in 2012 about his Titanic Symphony as part of the coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking. Dic Press published a print biography about Richard Kastle that year. The book was edited by Dismas Renald Apostolos. Kastle continued to perform recitals on college campuses and performing arts series. In 2020, he finished his Piano Concerto #9, a work that took him ten years to complete and ends with some of the most challenging passages ever created for the piano. He is currently working on solo piano pieces and sketches for Symphony #7.