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BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons is one of five prominent conductors from the BSO family and Bernstein family tree who will lead the Bernstein anniversary concert. (Photo by Marco Borggreve)

Final Summer Tanglewood Concerts Honor Bernstein

By Stephen DanknerGuest Column
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Leonard Bernstein conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1970. (Heinz Weissenstein/Whitestone Photo, via BSO Archives)

This week, Tanglewood concludes its 2018 classical programming, culminating with the always-anticipated traditional final concert, on Sunday, Aug. 26, featuring Beethoven's glorious and triumphant Ninth Symphony, which will be preceded by two brief works of Leonard Bernstein – a fitting tribute to cap this "Centennial Bernstein Summer" festival season.

Before the "Ninth," there are three exceptional programs you should consider attending in Ozawa Hall and in the Shed this week – most importantly the astounding lineup of talent that will comprise “Celebrating Lenny at Tanglewood” – an evening-long festival-within-a-festival, on Aug. 25, which is also the great man's 100th birthday. You will likely never again experience anything at Tanglewood to equal it.   

Looking ahead, in preparation for the late summer/early fall musical offerings, read below for a listing of upcoming performances at two outstanding and favorite local venues, which neatly bridge the summer classical music "high season."



• Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 22 and 23, 8 p.m. in Ozawa Hall: Leonard Bernstein's delightful 1956 comic opera "Candide" will be performed in Ozawa Hall on two successive evenings. "Candide" is based on the 18th-century French philosopher Voltaire's eponymous satirical novel, which follows the title character's traumatic adventures in imperial Europe and semi-civilized South America. All the while, his teacher's philosophy of "all's for the best in this best of all possible worlds" is put to the test. Candide's vain sweetheart Cunegonde undergoes even worse trials, as they're separated and reunited. Playwright Lillian Hellman wrote the original libretto; the song lyrics were mostly by poet Richard Wilbur.

The score includes such familiar Bernstein hits as "Glitter and Be Gay" and "Make Our Garden Grow." Performing the work are the innovative chamber orchestra The Knights and conductor Eric Jacobsen alongside a large case of vocalists, dancers, and actors, including tenor Miles Mykkanen in the title role, baritone Evan Jones as Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss/Cacambo and soprano Sharleen Joynt as Cunegonde. Alison Moritz directs the fully staged production.

• Friday, Aug. 24, 8 p.m. in the Shed: BSO maestro Andris Nelsons leads the Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a performance of Mahler's gargantuan Symphony No. 3, which was a signature work often performed by Leonard Bernstein. The superlative Susan Graham is the mezzo-soprano soloist. A multi-faceted and emotionally wide-ranging work, the Third Symphony is notable for its length (the longest symphony in the standard repertoire), difficulty, and overwhelming cumulative impact. Across its nearly 100-minute duration, the broad musical canvas incorporates a full range of musical and emotional expression, moving through rousing fanfares, tender lyricism, and melancholy to heights of exaltation. Don't miss this one.

• Saturday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m. in the Shed: Reflecting the season-long theme, "The Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood," will spotlight Bernstein's wide-ranging talents as a composer, his many gifts as a great interpreter and champion of other composers, and his role as an inspirer of a new generation of musicians and music lovers across the country and around the globe. The gala concert will feature a kaleidoscopic array of artists and ensembles from the worlds of classical music, film, and Broadway. Contact Tanglewood to check on Shed seating availability; only lawn seating may be available. Read below for all the details.

On this, the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's birth, Tanglewood pulls out all the stops to celebrate the legacy of a man who was one of its most remarkable alumni and one of its most important faculty members and significant champions for half a century - beginning when he was a student of Serge Koussevitzky at the festival in 1940 - the first year Tanglewood included young musicians to be mentored by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra - until his death in 1990. For this landmark performance, members of the New York Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Pacific Music Festival, and Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival - all ensembles that were important to Bernstein in his career, join forces with the BSO. The orchestra will be conducted by five prominent conductors from the BSO family and Bernstein family tree: BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams, San Francisco Symphony Music Director and Bernstein protégé Michael Tilson Thomas, and National Symphony Orchestra Conductor Laureate Christoph Eschenbach, who won the Leonard Bernstein Award from the Pacific Music Festival, where he was co-artistic director from 1992 to 1998 with Tilson Thomas.

The first half of the program celebrates Bernstein as a composer, including the Overture to "Candide"; "Phaedrus" from the violin concerto "Serenade" (after Plato's "Symposium"), featuring soloist Midori, whose career was launched to stardom in 1986 after a Tanglewood performance of this composition with the composer on the podium; the "Three Meditations from 'Mass,'" featuring cellist Kian Soltani, the most recent winner of the Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, which Bernstein co-founded; "Two Love Songs"; and selections from "West Side Story," featuring singers Isabel Leonard, Jessica Vosk and Tony Yazbeck, directed by James Darrah and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse.

The second half of the program focuses on works that speak to Bernstein's influence as a conductor, champion of fellow composers, and inspiration for the next generation of American composers. This section of the concert includes a selection from Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn," featuring baritone Thomas Hampson, whom Bernstein also mentored early in his career; the final section of Aaron Copland's ballet "Appalachian Spring"; John Williams's new "Highwood's Ghost, an Encounter for Harp, Cello and Orchestra," featuring Yo-Yo Ma; and the last movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," in which the orchestra joins forces with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, soprano Nadine Sierra, and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham.

• Sunday, Aug. 26, 2:30 p.m. in the Shed: Maestro Christoph Eschenbach leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in its traditional season-ending performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, featuring soprano Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, tenor Joseph Kaiser, baritone Thomas Hampson, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Two short Bernstein works open the program: "Afterthought: Study for the Ballet 'Facsimile,'" and "Take Care of This House" from Bernstein's final, 1976 Broadway musical "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

For tickets for all Tanglewood/BSO concerts (lawn and Shed seating) and special events, call 617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200 (TDD/TTY at 617-638-9289). For local information, call 413-637-1600. You can also order tickets and get information online$20 tickets for attendees under 40, one of the BSO’s most popular discount ticket offers, will be available for select BSO and Boston Pops performances in the Shed.


Post-classical Tanglewood events

• Saturday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m. in the Shed, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet with very special guests the Ellis Marsalis Quintet: Internationally acclaimed trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and educator Wynton Marsalis brings the Ellis Marsalis Quintet to the Koussevitzky Music Shed as part of the closing weekend of the 2018 Tanglewood season.

• Sunday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m. in the Shed, Steve Martin and Martin Short in "An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life" with The Steep Canyon Rangers and Jeff Babko: Comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short join forces for their hit show "An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life." The Grammy Award-winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers will join Martin and Short. Audiences can expect an evening of nonstop laughs as the duo recall their iconic careers, creative influences and most memorable encounters, uniquely presented though a blend of stand-up, musical numbers and conversations about their lives in show business.


Post-summer chamber concerts

Looking ahead, Labor Day marks the conclusion of the summer music festival season, and so the local classical music scene coalesces, as regional presenters favor intimate spaces for chamber music. This will become the dominant genre of music making to be found until next June, when the warm late spring weather invites us to share massed performances outdoors at Tanglewood and other venues, large and small. Looking ahead, you'll find a variety of concerts presented in churches, chapels, small auditoriums, halls and the like throughout the region.

This is good; chamber music sounds best in - what else - chambers, not enormous spaces, and flourishes, as the intimacy of small spaces invites us to listen ever more closely. The confessional nature of chamber music bestirs us to derive solace as it nourishes and invigorates our spiritual selves. Chamber music reminds me of the old aphorism: "Good things come in small packages."

Here are two series that fill the bill admirably, performed is intimate and welcoming spaces that are acoustical gems – perfect for chamber music.


Concerts at Tannery Pond

Pianist Gilles Vonsattel will perform at Tannery Pond on Sunday, Sept. 8. (Photo by Marco Borggreve)

Tannery Pond – that pristine series in stunningly beautiful New Lebanon, N.Y., bordering Pittsfield on Route 20, will be presenting their final two chamber music concerts of this, their 28th season. As always, this exemplary venue showcases amazing talent performing both classic and 20th century music in a gorgeous and historic setting.

• Sunday, Sept. 8, 8 p.m., a solo piano recital: Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel is an artist of extraordinary versatility and originality with an enormous range of repertoire. Mr. Vonsattel received his bachelor's degree in political science and economics from Columbia University and his master’s degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied with master pianist/mentor Jerome Lowenthal. He is on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and makes his home in New York City.

• Saturday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m. (note the early hour), a duo-recital for violin and piano: Violinist Paul Huang is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant and the 2017 Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists. He has been acclaimed for his eloquent music making, distinctive sound, and effortless virtuosity. He made his debut on Lincoln Center's "Great Performers" series, as a substitute for Midori, with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony to critical acclaim. Born in Taiwan, Mr. Huang is a recipient of the inaugural Bruce Kovner Fellowship at The Juilliard School, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Conductor Kurt Masur discovered Helen Huang, Taiwanese-American pianist, (married to Paul) after she won the Young People's Competition, which resulted in engagements with the New York Philharmonic and a recording contract with the Teldec record label. Ms. Huang received the Arthur Rubinstein Prize upon graduating from Juilliard in 2004, and went on to obtain her master's degree from Yale.

Tickets are $30 and $39. For credit card purchase by phone, call 888-820-1696. Visit online for more information and repertoire listings for the above concerts. Tannery Pond is located on the grounds of Mount Lebanon Shaker Village and Darrow School, New Lebanon, N.Y., one and a half miles east of the town center on Route 20.


South Mountain Concerts

The Escher String Quartet opens the South Mountain Concert fall 2018 series on Sept. 2.

Only the most well regarded ensembles are invited to perform at this revered institution. Perhaps only Music from Marlboro can lay claim to presenting such exalted and seasoned talent and, as well, attracting the most dedicated and knowledgeable audience in the Northeast for chamber music.

Performances this fall will be by long-time favorite ensembles and soloists: The Escher String Quartet, with clarinetist David Shifrin (Sept. 2); the St. Lawrence String Quartet (Sept. 16); the Juilliard String Quartet (Sept. 23); chamber music with pianist Wu Han, cellist David Finckel, violinist Benjamin Beilman, violinist Kristin Lee, violinist
Arnaud Sussmann, violist Paul Neubauer and double bassist Xavier Foley (Sept. 30) and the Emerson String Quartet (Oct. 7).

All five concerts are Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40; students with ID $15 at the door. To order tickets in advance, send a check payable to South Mountain Concerts and mail, with enclosed stamped self-addressed envelope to: South Mountain Concerts, P.O. Box 23, Pittsfield, MA 01202. For more information and a listing of the repertoire to be performed, visit the website. South Mountain Concerts is located on Routes 7 and 20 (South Street) in Pittsfield, approximately two miles south of Park Square at the center of the downtown area.

Tags: classical music,   Tanglewood,   

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Tanglewood's Online Festival Continues

By Stephen DanknerGuest Columist

The Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival will enter its seventh week with a capacious selection of state-of-the-art digital audio and video streams. These performances were recorded at Tanglewood’s breathtaking spaces at the superbly designed Linde Center – a constituent part of the BSO's/Tanglewood’s new entity, the Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI). Other concerts will include performances previously recorded and archived by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. 

A unique, all-encompassing digital music festival, the diversity of programming replicates a choice selection of the previously announced 2020 live performances Tanglewood had hoped to present this summer, but which had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. 

Here is this week’s schedule of streamed events, from Wednesday, Aug. 12, through Tuesday, Aug. 16.

New content, recorded especially for the online festival:

• Aug. 12, 8 p.m.: Recitals from the World Stage featuring Boston Symphony Chamber Players, joined by pianist Vivian Choi, in works by Poulenc, Allison Loggins-Hull (played by BSO Principal Flute Elizabeth Rowe), Henze, Stravinsky, and Brahms, hosted by Karen Allen.

• Aug. 14, 8 p.m.: BSO Musicians in Concert with Alexander Velinzon, Danny Kim, Adam Esbensen, Toby Oft, Stephen Lange, James Markey, and Mike Roylance, hosted by Lauren Ambrose, performing music by Beethoven and Baroque and 20th-century works for brass ensemble. 

• Aug. 15, 8 p.m.: Great Performers in Recital featuring pianist Conrad Tao performing pieces by Beethoven, Crawford Seeger, David Lang, Tania León, and Conrad Tao, hosted by Nicole Cabell.

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