THE ARTS ETC

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TANGLEWOOD - SUMMER 2013

ALL TCHAIKOVSKY PROGRAM


Joshua Bell: Poet of the Violin

VIOLIN CONCERTO in D


Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Conducting

SYMPHONY NO.5 in E MINOR

JULY 5, 2013

 

Reviewed by Donna Bailey Thompson

Finally, after waiting ten months, Tanglewood’s 2013 Opening Weekend let loose the expectations of its diverse crowd of music lovers. From infants in slings to the elderly in wheelchairs, from complexions ranging from alabaster to ebony, music was their common denominator.

The less said about the excessive heat and humidity, the better. Faced by such a formidable party-crasher, New England hospitality triumphed. In spite of melting heat, it was possible for all to just get along – at least for several hours.

I hope my favorite Joshua Bell story is never proven to be untrue. According to Wikipedia: “Bell began taking violin lessons at the age of four after his mother discovered that her son had taken rubber bands from around the house and stretched them across the handles of his dresser drawer to pluck out music he had heard her play on the piano. His parents got a scaled-to-size violin for their then five-year-old son and started giving him lessons.”

At age 14, Joshua Bell made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra. By the time I first heard him play – circa 1990, Toledo Symphony Orchestra – he was 23 but looked like he was a teenager. Within minutes, I was stunned by his impeccable playing, especially his controlled emotions (as opposed to runaway sloppiness). Knowing next to nothing about his background, I was surprised the TSO had snagged him. But why not? Toledo boasted a fine arts museum, a first-rate zoo, lovely metro parks, and the lovable Mud Hens.

Now in his mid-40s, he looks half his age. He shares his singular talent around the world. Wearing his subtly tailored performance uniform – black, casual, relaxed pants and shirt -- he entered the stage of the Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed to strong, affectionate, welcoming applause. I leaned forward. Tanglewood’s opening weekend began.

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, Opus 35, as befits a romantic theme, is musically seductive. I imagined Joshua Bell absorbing the opening phrases. Soon his body began to sway, a motion I interpreted meant he was “in the zone,” attuned to what he was playing – with us but not of us. I scribbled, “He loves what he’s doing.” Duh!

With the collaboration between Tchaikovsky and one of his former students, Josef Koteck, a violinist, the violin concerto came together relatively quickly – performed within three years. That seems especially long but the back-biting among some musicians was vicious. An influential critic, Eduard Hanslick, who detested the violin concerto, declared “music can exist which stinks in the ear” and for added measure (no pun intended) stated that Tchaikovsky’s work was “odorously Russian.” Does that suggest the critic had a jealousy problen?

Although the intensity of the concerto fluctuated, its course continually generated more steam – Allegro moderato, Andante, Allegro vivacissimo. The beautiful theme wove in and out between the orchestra and the violin. I suppressed the desire to hum the melody.

And then, too soon, the enchantment that Joshua Bell generates began to fade. All efforts of the audience to cajole this truly amazing violinist to play something else, just a little something, was to no avail. He had played full bore for almost 40 minutes. He had to be drenched with perspiration. (That was happening even without expending any energy.)

Joshua Bell, a “classical music superstar” is entitled to a reasonable finis.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Following intermission, responding to the Tanglewood bell, we returned to our row and to a happy surprise: the two seats directly in front were vacant. Our horizons had doubled. And what a treat awaited! Guest artist Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, a dynamic man of 80, generated judicious energy, leading the Mighty BSO through Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor.

I have read Michael Steinberg’s comments as “program annotator of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1979" and specifically his remarks concerning Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor which “Tchaikovsky himself led the premiere of his Fifth Symphony on November 26, 1888, in St. Petersburg.”

Steinberg refers to “a notebook page outlining a scenario for the first movement: “Introduction. Complete resignation and before Fate, or, which is the same, before the inscrutable predestination of Providence. Allegro.(l) Murmurs, doubts, plaints, reproaches against XXX. (II) Shall I throw myself in the embrace of faith???” Steinberg writes: “XXX is less likely to be a particular person than what he usually refers to in his diary as Z or THAT – his homosexuality, which caused him deep pain and which, in addition, terrified him as a potential cause of scandal.”

Neither my woolgathering nor my notes suggest my thoughts were centered on Tchaikovsky’s sexual agony. I sat in the Shed, following the music, and because I had spent time thinking about the uprising in Egypt, the delicacy needed for an effective solution, my “libido” envisioned war, deliberations sinking into shouting matches, followed by troops heading toward the battle zone, the cellos deep. Moonlight. Resembles delicate, sane, negotiations. But the Mighty BSO intercedes. War! Kettledrums: 1, 2, 3; 1, 2, 3; etc. After the storm, the killing ceases, olly-emfree. Kettle drums! Flying dervish; new dreams, be positive. Arguments begin anew. Reason interceded. Trumpet resists. Bass trembles. Reason wins out. Triumph! Victory!

The audience roars! The energy is palpable. With the Maestro’s every instruction to groups within the orchestra to stand, the another roar of approval breaks loose. Audience members inching toward the exits continue clapping. And the bulk of the appreciation seems directed to the conductor. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been lifted onto the shoulders of enthusiastic younger men and paraded around the Shed.

Sure seemed like the Fourth of July!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TANGLEWOOD -- SUMMER 2012


 

TANGLEWOOD 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2:30 P.M.

 

THE BOSTON POPS ESPLANADE ORCHESTRA

 

THOMAS WILKINS, conducting

 

MICHAEL FEINSTEIN'S AMERICAN SONGBOOK

 

starring

MICHAEL FEINSTEIN, BETTY BUCKLEY AND CHRISTINE EBERSOLE

with Sam Kriger, pianist/music director

 

special surprise guest star

LIZA MINELLI

 

REVIEWED by KRISTINE CRIMMINS

 

The Koussevitzky Shed filled up quickly. The bell clanged to encourage everyone to be seated in anticipation of a fantastic performance.  Maestro THOMAS WILKINS walked onto the stage to welcoming applause.  He engaged the Boston Pops Orchestra in Gershwin and Anderson’s SELECTIONS from GIRL CRAZY including I LOVE MUSIC, MY EMBRACEABLE YOU and I GOT RHYTHM.  Dressed in a white over-the-waist show shirt, Maestro ended the set with an enthusiastic jump, encouraging resounding applause. It was a grand start to the afternoon as he swiftly moved into the CONCERT SUITE from GIGI by Lerner and Lowe and Salinger and Mauceri which included such great musical gifts as THE NIGHT THEY INVENTED CHAMPAGNE and the magical GIGI.

Introducing MICHAEL FEINSTEIN created huge applause as the AMERICAN SONGBOOK virtuoso entered the stage in a well-fitting black suit and tie.  Maestro explained that Michael maintains a huge amount of ‘insignificant information’ about music and Michael quipped ‘but, as my mother reminds me, I make a living with it’.  He blasted right into I LOVE A PIANO by Irving Berlin.  No one can best Michael’s ability to work the piano and the audience.  He sang and imitated Liberace and then joked that he’s had therapy over his love affair with the piano.  Clearly he can work the instrument like no other.  His enthusiasm was evident with his jump off the piano seat at the end of the song.  The audience went wild.  This was a promise he would keep his friends fully engaged.

SAM KRIGER took over the piano as Michael quipped that the next song was written in revenge.  I WANNA BE AROUND by Vimmerstedt and Mercer exposed the rich velvety texture of Michael’s voice, the sound that caught my attention the first time I heard him sing.  He did not disappoint as he went on to sing WHEN I FALL IN LOVE and MY FOOLISH HEART by Young, Heyman and Washington.  The orchestra tuned into that soft and lustrous sound and matched his gentleness.  They all knocked this selection out of the park.

As a contrast to the Michael dominated stage, BETTY BUCKLEY entered with a flare in a silky-flowing turquoise A-shaped jacket and brilliant, white hair.  She sang with Broadway exuberance a MEDLEY from MY FAIR LADY by Lerner and Loewe including ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE and I COULD HAVE DANCED ALL NIGHT.  Together Michael and Betty sang an expressionistic version of YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU by Monaco and McCarthy, he claiming it was the letter he wrote to her, the one she claims she never received.  They kept the audience entranced.

Michael closed the first half of this performance with a velvety rendition of SOMEWHERE by Bernstein and the classic SING, SING, SING by Prima and Goodman.  Both selections engaged excellence -- from the conductor in tune with the voice of an angel and a BSO who digs jazz.

After intermission Thomas Wilkins returned to warm the audience with the MADAME BOVARY WALTZ by Rozza.  The crescendo at the end is nothing but a warning as to what was to happen next.  The program changed and Michael belted his version of Sammy Davis’ ONCE IN A LIFETIME.  He quickly went into a Fred Astaire reference that made the audience say “ahhh”, THEY CAN'T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. The orchestra played smoothly and softly while Michael ended sweetly.

CHRISTINE EBERSOLE was introduced and entered wearing an exquisite black and white suit. She asked the audience if they remembered the old steamer trunk and the five cent tip.  She belted ON THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND SANTA FE  by Warren and Mercer.  The audience loved her; she garnered the biggest applause yet.   Michael and Christine moved into a first-class duet of EMBRACEABLE YOU from Gershwin and Gershwin.  The intricate, sophisticated arrangement mimicked rounds which demanded extraordinary focus.  Exuberant applause followed Broadway star Christine Ebersole's exit.

A strange stirring was noted as Michael faked confusion when telling us a surprise guest had arrived.  LIZA MINELLI walked onto the stage wearing a striking black pant suit with a long black scarf.  She wore silver bracelets, a large silver buckle and sparkling silver earrings all of which  glistened in the spotlight.  She looked fabulous.  With Sam Kiger at the piano, she and Michael vigorously and soulfully sang NEW YORK, NEW YORK.  The crowd loved every minute only to have it end too soon.   I hoped she would return for more, but she did not.

Instead, Michael welcomed back Betty and Christine for a trio of Johnny Mercer’s ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE.  This was a huge finish to a flawless afternoon’s entertainment riddled with applause and whistling.  The AMERICAN SONGBOOK proved a fitting end to the Summer of 2012 at Tanglewood. 

 

THE ARTS ETC

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TRIGGERED BY THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK

Homespun Back Stories

 

During the 50s and 60s, Greater Springfield, MA had an impresario who loved the circus and legit show business -- Wally Beach. He ran Storrowton Music Fair, one of Guber, Ford and Gross tents (Cape Cod, Long Island, West Springfield). His wife, Bobbi, ran the box office. Their son. Wally Jr. was a cute kid; their dog, a Bassenji, kept flunking obedience school, the only animal I've ever disliked. Headliners included Stars on the way up (Jon Voight in The Sound of Music, stars plateauing (Van Johnson, Cab Calloway) and a young woman with a show business pedigree to choke a horse . . . To be continued . .

 

THE ARTS ETC

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 ALTERNATIVE MUSIC

EVANESCENCE & CHEVELLE

                     SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2012, 7PM                     .

REVIEWED by KRISTINE CRIMMINS

The ending to Tanglewood’s fabulous 2012 season of anniversary and birthday celebrations brought no disappointment to CHEVELLE and EVANESCENCE fans. Entering the Koussevitzky Shed to find our seats only 11 rows from the stage, which was totally ensconced in spotlights, speakers and equipment including the covered pedestal mystery, we knew we were in for a show beyond our wildest dreams.

CHEVELLE did not disappoint with their poignant message about Wall Street and the Madoff scandal that rocked our nation. The opening song revealed the life-size bronze bull on a pedestal. The back lighting exposed a very angry, red reflection of the song’s lyrics. Pete Loeffler, lead singer, made no bones about his purpose as did his brother Sam, on the drums, and Dean Bemardini on bass. The colors changed as the fog poured out from rear stage and the head banging and emotional input of the band added several more songs to their opener, never letting their purpose go unnoticed. One could not help but pay attention to this 45 minute opener that ended with fans cheering and Sam removing one of his cymbals, sliding it across the stage floor, and then jetting two paper airplanes into the audience. Point well made in their newest album, HATS OFF TO THE BULL.

After intermission the spotlight turned to EVANESCENCE. There was no turning away from this stunning, black-haired beauty, Amy Lee, who teased us with her incredible vocal and piano abilities only to be reabsorbed into the background guitar and drum magic of guitarists Terry Balsamo and Troy McLawhorn, bassist Tim McCord and drummer Will Hunt. Amy covered the stage with an amazing amount of energy dressed in skin-tight black pants, black boots, black halter, topped by a rainbow of toile streaming from her waist in a up-side-down V fashion. The three-inch, shiny silver belt around her waist accented her curvaceous difference from the four men behind her. The audience adored her. At her entrance, the fans stood and never retreated to their seats until she was done an hour later. The crowd sang word-for-word, swayed, rocked and sent Amy ‘I love you’ signals from their seats. The last song, MY IMMORTAL, became the crowd pleaser especially when Amy sat at the piano under a solo spotlight and invited everyone to sing the lyrics with her. She quieted her voice and let the sound of the crowd show through, ending the concert with bows and thanks, sending an ‘I love you’ signal to everyone.

Adding these two progressive, truth seeking, thunderous but hopeful, lyric- laddened groups to Tanglewood’s schedule proved music is for everyone and it doesn’t matter your preference.  It is a delight to be educated and excited about music and enjoy entertainment that pours from the hearts of musicians with a message.  Tanglewood can be proud it has provided such opportunity this season.  

 

 

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Tanglewood 75

Sunday, August 26, 2:30pm
SUPPORTED BY UNITED AIRLINES

Boston Symphony Orchestra

RAFAEL FRUHBECK DE BURGOS, conducting

HARBISON “Koussevitzky Said” Choral Scherzo with Orchestra (2012)


World premiere;commissioned by the Boston Synphony Orchestra

through generous support of the New Works Fund

established by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency)

 

KOUSSEVITZKY  SAID

I. Presto 

The next Beethoven will from Colorado come.
We musicians must be first to stand by the composer,

because we owe him most.
I will keep playing this music — until you hear it.

II. Maestoso
I am an American citizen, but I still love Russia.
                            I am depriving Europe of my art in order to give your town

                    the best of my artistry, but this is where I carved out my career in life.

III. Tempo

If not in tune, all our tragedy goes to le diable.
If not in tune, you play as if Government employees.
If not in tune, it smells of office, as if price five cents.
If not in tune, still we will arrive.
Tanglewood: 4000 people, 8000 eyes are on you.
You have to portray the music correctly; play it from your hearts.
Let’s do it together for our own satisfaction.


REVIEWED by DONNA BAILEY-THOMPSON

If you were there, then maybe you sensed that the aura prior to Tanglewood’s annual presentation of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 differs from the pre-concert atmosphere generated at other events. Unable to restrain from analyzing the ingredients, I offer dignified excitement combined with anticipatory reverence which you are welcome to edit to your heart’s content.

The lawn spreads like water spilled on a slate floor, outlining ideal havens for appreciating one of this world’s best sandwiches – music embraced by Nature. Accommodated were hundreds of people of all ages as well as babies en utero absorbing the music of the spheres. What a polyglot of hushed conversations!

Within the Koussevitzky Shed, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (300 voices, a sea of summer whites) had already taken its places on the honeycomb-like benches. The mighty Boston Symphony Orchestra was in place. The bell had rung. During the last five minutes, a family (father, mother, two sons) rushed to four empty seats – two on the aisle plus two on the aisle (like car seats, front and back). They were breathless. And smiling. They were Swiss German (“near the Alps”) en route to Connecticut when they learned there were still seats available. The pretty mother laughingly told me they’d changed their clothes in restrooms, the handsome father spoke of the rush to arrive on time, how wonderful the seats were, and the handsome boys remained true to their age code: they said nothing.

The applause signalled the arrival of the venerable conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, tall, thin, patrician. He acknowledged the applause, the greetings of the orchestra and immediately took his place on the podium.

KOUSSEVITZKY SAID

is a six-minute jewel sparkling with nostalgia and excitement about the future. Its format is reminiscent of Aaron Copland’s LINCOLN PORTRAIT. The subtle linking of two musicians' contribution is cherished, most especially at Tanglewood where Koussevitzky and his protégé left indelible marks. KOUSSEVITZKY SAID anchor this tribute. Attempts to decipher the words sung by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus was hit or miss but fully successful when the name, TANGLEWOOD! burst forth as a controlled shout.

Composer John Harbison has written,.”It is to Koussevitzky that we owe so much of Tanglewood’s durability, idealism, and singularity. It was an honor to add my six minutes of engagement with his unquenchable spirit.”

FOR MORE ABOUT COMPOSER JOHN HARBISON & KOUSSEVITZKY, SEE END OF THIS REVIEW

 

BEETHOVEN'S NINTH

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Opus 125
Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
Molto vivace – Presto – Tempo 1
Presto – Tempo I
Adagio molto e cantabile - Andante moderato –
Tempo 1 – Andante – Adagio
Presto – Allegro ma non troppo –Vivace
Adagio cantabile – Allegro moderato –
Allegro – Allegro assai – Presto – Allegro
assai – Allegro assai vivace, alla Marcia –
Andante maestoso – Adagio ma non troppo,
ma divoto – Allegro energico, sempre
ben marcato – Allegro ma non tanto –
Prestissimo

LEAH CROCETTO, soprano
MEREDITH ARWADY, mezzo-soprano
FRANK LOPARDO, tenor
JOHN RELYEA, bass-baritone

TANGLEWOOD FESTIVAL CHORUS
JOHN OLIVER, conductor

 

REVIEWED by DONNA BAILEY-THOMPSON

This program is repeated every year.  Many of the same people attend.  Friendships made years ago continue. There are Tanglewood Festival Chorus singers who have been members for 40 years. We met one of the newest singers, alto Irina Kareva, a new Ph.D, and a new addition to the IFC. because she successfully auditioned.


While I marveled at Beethoven’s command of musical composition, savoring the sensations filling the Koussevitzky Shed, feeling a connection with the thousands gathered there and on the lawn, I wondered how many times this year his masterpiece was performed. I have since asked Google. Surely there’s a glitch, a misunderstanding somewhere because this is their response: “Did you mean: 2012 Beethoven’s 9th performances? Powered by Google. Web Search Results. 1-10 of about 63,200 for 2012 BEETHOVEN 9TH PERFORMANCES.” At the time I asked this question, 2012 still had almost four months until New Year’s Eve.


As singular as Tanglewood’s August 26th concert was, as proprietary as any may have felt, as frustrated as some might be because unlocking the mystical essence of Beethoven’s Ninth leads, I’ve heard, to thwarted discovery: there appears to be no end to doors waiting to be opened.

During the school years I sang in a church choir (age 7-17), I gave Ode to Joy every ounce of fervor I had without having a clue about the meanings behind the words. I loved the music. Although my piano lessons included memorizing Beethoven pieces, I had only minimal curiosity about the composer with the large head.

Years ago, on the spur of the moment, a group of friends and I attended a concert that may have begun with The Ninth’s second movement. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Ode to Joy filled Symphony Hall.(Springfield MA) and I was transported back to girlhood.

The personal power of The Ninth, the arc that willy-nilly connects the audience with the orchestra, is seduction at its finest. To also dispense the power to bend time backward, from moments to decades, amazes.

Conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos made few sweeping gestures but at times he bent at the waist, spreading his body forward, as if his arms were embracing a mythical Beethoven. At all times, his contact with the chorus and BSO musicians and theirs with him were laser sharp. The note-by-note construction of the score through the first two movements is described by Jan Swafford, a faculty member at the Boston Conservatory, an alumnus of the Tanglewood Music Center, where he studied composition. He writes:

"The choral finale is easy to outline, hard to explain. Scholars have never quite agreed on its formal model, though it clearly involves a series of variations on the “Joy” theme. But why does this celebration of joy open with a dissonant shriek that Richard Wagner called the “terror fanfare,” shattering the tranquility of the slow movement? Then the basses enter in a quasi-recitative, as if from an oratorio but wordless. We begin to hear recollections of the previous movements, each rebuffed in turn by basses: opening of the first movement . . . no, not that despair; second movement . . . no, too frivolous; third movement . . . nice, the basses sigh, but no, too sweet (Beethoven originally sketched a singer declaiming words to that effect, but he decided to leave the ideas suggested rather than spelled out.) This, then: the ingenuous little Joy theme is played by the basses unaccompanied, sounding rather like somebody (say, the composer) quietly humming to himself."

And so, in lieu of pretending to be a chorus of one who knows all the words, I fall back on what I learned growing up, the happy hymn everyone in any church seemed to know – “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" is a poem written by Henry van Dyke in 1907 with the intention of musically setting it to the famous "Ode to Joy" melody of the final movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's final symphony, Symphony No. 9.

Van Dyke wrote this poem in 1907 while staying at the home of Williams College president Harry Augustus Garfield. He was serving as a guest preacher at Williams at the time. He told his host that the local Berkshire Mountains had been his inspiration The lyrics were first published in 1911 in Van Dyke's Book of Poems, Third Edition

Van Dyke wrote of this hymn: “These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in this present time—hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy religion, or any revolution on earth overthrow the kingdom of heaven. Therefore this is a hymn of trust and joy and hope.”

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, God of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, Opening to their sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, Center of unbroken praise:
Field and forest, vale and mountain, Flowering meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain, Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, Ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, Ocean-depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, – All who live in love are Thine:
Teach us how to love each other, Lift us to the Joy Divine.

Mortals join the mighty chorus, Which the morning stars began;
Father-love is reigning o'er us, Brother-love binds man to man.
Ever singing march we onward, Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music lifts us sunward In the triumph song of life.

Commentary
"This hymn is generally considered by hymnologists to be one of the most joyous expressions of hymn lyrics in the English language."

 

NOTES BY THE "KOUSSEVITZKY SAID" COMPOSER, JOHN HARBISON

When approached to write a piece to partner on a program with Beethoven’s Ninth, the British composer Michael Tippett is reported to have said, “really, my dear boy, does my piece come before – or after?”

Perhaps someday a conductor will assemble a full program of pieces “paired” with Beethoven 9, thus ensuring an unlikely but conceivably lively afterlife for these pesiky gnats who once rode on an elephant.

In the case of KOUSSEVITZKY SAID, I wanted the founder’s words to be a part of a piece for Tanglewood’s 75th. I began working with some wonderfully inspiring passages from some of his early addresses to the Tanglewood community. Eventually I realized that their texture was taking the music to a hortatory place made unnecessary by the Beethoven that would follow.

I also did not wish to let go of Koussevitzky, I began to think about some things he was reported to have said, very informally, and I began to hear a kind of choral Scherzo in which Koussevitzky’s ideas would be present but off the cuff – teaching, rehearsing, conversing. I found manyh choice remarks, some of the best of which I couldn’t fit: “What makes a Tradition? The Arftist. Who follows it? The Kapellmeister.” “I must be a policeman to look for your nuances!” Kousservitzky’s most famous remark, “The next Beethoven will from Colorado come,” leads off this piece. I’ve become aware that some take this quite literally. “Did he know about some composer from Colorado,” “Did that composer ever arrive?” It seems clear that Koussevitzky meant no geographic precision, probably was very vague about Colorado’s whereabouts. However, already knowing Copland, and some of our other composers before he came, he was very sure of our country’s musical future, and his role in it.

It is to Koussevitzky that we owe so much of Tanglewood’s durability, idealism, and singularfity. It was an honor to add my six minutes of engagement with his unquenchable spirit. – John Harbison, August 1, 2012.

 

THE ARTS ETC

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The Boston Pops Orchestra
KEITH LOCKHART, conductor


John Williams, Laureate Conductor

Friday, August 24, 8:30 pm

THE CAROL AND JOE REIOCH CONCERT

Keith Lockhart, conducting
with special guests
Maureen McGovern and
Brian Stokes Mitchell

A GERSHWIN SPECTACULAR

Hot and sticky in the city but ideal at Tanglewood. A perfect night for music in the Koussevitzky Music Shed – a name I have come to appreciate for his vision and determination to create a music mecca for not only the finest musicians but a place of natural beauty to free thoughts, to inspire. The summer home of The Boston Symphony, The Boston Pops, and Tanglewood Music Center, is winding down the celebration of its 75th year.

One of the Boston Pops favorite marches, STRIKE UP THE BAND, directed by Keith Lockhart, opened the evening dedicated to the Gershwin brothers. Written in 1927 by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin for a musical which didn’t catch on, the march did and is included in many Boston Pops albums such as Pops Stoppers by John Williams.

The incomparable MAUREEN McGOVERN (a young 63 and her pianist Tedd Firth) charmed the audience with her engaging personality and her wide range of singing styles. Her voice is as flexible as ever. She glided from song to song be it a Stormy Weather or Embraceable You; her comfort with jazz, including scat, even trilling birdsong, beguiled. Her singing presence confirmed why she’s been dubbed “The Stradivarius Voice.” There is no doubt she was a runaway hit.

Russian pianist ILYA YAKUSHEV presented an emotionally disciplined RHAPSODY IN BLUE. Played with a confidence born from practice, practice, practice, and the absence of fudging George Gershwin’s signature phrasing, my ears enjoyed the cleanest Rhapsody in Blue ever.

Here’s a blanket statement: all the arrangements were terrific. Slight upticking of yesteryear scores blew away any cobwebs or creakiness. In its place were shiny new arrangements of the music classics. This became obvious when the Pops played LOVE IS SWEEPING THE COUNTRY (Gershwin-Ramin) and the moody PRELUDE NO. 2 (Gershwin-Sebesky).

With the arrival of BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, the excitement meter jumped into high gear. I had met him in 2006 when he played the French planter Emile opposite Reba McIntire’s Nurse Nellie Forbush. I knew nothing about him except his baratone and acting were to die for. He opened with Slap Bass, a raucous “duet” with an unidentified bass player from the Pops. His “It’s Not Necessarily So” was animated: although almost older than God, Mitchell’s sly theatrics updated this novelty take on fractured Bible stories.

The finale was a real treat. The big screen was lowered. From MGM’s movie, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, the film’s AN AMERICAN IN PARIS ballet starring Gene Kelly (wearing his trade mark black loafers and white sox, black pants rolled up twice, the better to enjoy his dancing feet) and radiant Leslie Caron flashed onto the screen simultaneously with the Pops musical accompaniment. The costumes were electrifying, the choreography intricate, precise, flowing, and the dancers lithe, limber charged with energy.

What an evening, Tanglewood! Full to the bursting.

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THE ARTS ETC

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Wynton Marsalis Quintet

CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE TRIO

WITH CHRISTIAN SANDS AND ULYSSES OWENS, JR.

August 20, 2012

Seiji Ozawa Hall

 

Reviewed by Kristine Crimmins

Having anxiously awaited seating for this anticipated performance, I was thrilled to be in the first balcony stage right overlooking the drums, bass and piano, a fantastic placement.

My immediate thought was that I would have a first hand view of every stroke, strum, tamp and pluck the Christian McBride Trio and the Wynton Marsalis Quintet were about to play. This incredible Tanglewood performance at Ozawa Hall did not disappoint.

The Christian McBride Trio was introduced as the opening act and the three sharply dressed jazz musicians walked on stage to loud applause. Christian McBride picked up his bass and started plucking, Ulysses Owen, Jr. sat himself behind an elaborate drum set- up that contained additional cymbals and started stirring the brushes while Christian Sands started with a gentle rolling accompaniment on the keyboard. It didn’t take long before all three were storming toward a faster beat. It was a wonderful sampling of the talent about to be tasted. Ulysses used every technique possible to show his drumming expertise including his elbows. Mr. Sands joined in standing to strum the strings inside the piano. Mr. McBride kept both in complement to his very talented bass playing which started the set with a newly written song that is yet untitled, but will appear on their up- coming CD. They immediately went into a rendition of HallelujahTrail, played to perfection as evidenced by the trio’s expression of smiles exchanged between them. The crowd cheered at the end of the solos which for Ulysses were long and fast, mellow for Mr. McBride’s bow addition and smile-laden for Mr. Sands. The audience foot tapped, head bobbed and cheered when Christian McBride picked up the microphone to welcome the audience and announce the chosen song titles, telling us that it had been seventeen years since his last performance at Tanglewood; and that Christian Sands was but eight years old. Laughter ensued.

Breaking into Easy Walker by Billy Taylor, I strained to hear the bassist as this piece started out serene and relaxing. It seemed to be drowned out by the pianist and drums, most likely because of my seat placement, but the jazzmen played to a smashing ending.

My Favorite Things proved to be my favorite when all three musicians displayed how they can maneuver all over their instruments. Mr. Owens used his elbows, knuckles, and hands as well as the shakers and the drum stand to make his point. Mr. Sands rubbed the strings of the piano as well as tapped and plucked. All the while so concentrated on the music, but looking up long enough to smile at Mr. McBride who was keeping the bass strings throbbing even during Mr. Owen’s very long, cool and thrilling show of talent.

From the King and I, I Have Dreamed started with Mr. McBride utilizing his bow as the piano and drums played quietly. This was when I took note of the young girl, aged 7 or 8, sitting next to us. She was sweet and enjoyed the music as she tapped out the notes on the railing holding us all back.

Mr. McBride picked up the microphone one more time to let us know The Most Beautiful Girl in the World , which he usually dedicates to his wife, was to be dedicated this time to the memory of Phyllis Diller, age 95, who died this day. He told us she died with a smile on her face, then proceeded to start with the theme and all three musicians went off into a jazzman’s musical zone only to return to the tune a second and third time. It was a fitting end to a flawless set. The audience cheered with a standing ovation as the trio left the stage.

Following intermission, Wynton Marsalis and his band of merry men—the Quintet-- filled the stage producing cheering and whistling from the lawn. Dressed in suits and ties, the first piece was an interesting start to a curious result. The song had several pauses when after about the fourth or fifth silence, the little girl next to us laughed out loud, peaking Mr. Marsalis’ attention. He smiled, raised his trumpet in her direction and answered her cute, little giggle with a trumpet laugh. The audience cheered and the band played on.

The next piece, Goodbye, by Gordon James, was very mellow and the old, well used and unpolished horn talked to the drums and the piano in an interesting show of raw talent. The turn-taking of the clarinet and trumpet let both men rest between spurts.

Mr. Marsalis stopped to introduce himself and his quintet, reminding us of his New Orleans roots. He gave high praise to Christian McBride and moved onto It’ll Be Ok where he hit incredible notes up and down the scale. Many times through the performance he gave the stage to the sax/clarinetist who in his own right was fabulous.

Moving onto CC Rider, a song that smells of New Orleans sound, Mr. Marsalis used his straight mute and one that looked like a rubber plunger. The sound he created was outstanding. And interesting enough as he moved about the stage, he seemed to reorder the mutes he had on a small table as though he was arranging chess pieces. This rendition ended after the pianist went wild on the keys as the drummer did on what appeared to be a very old, faded but loved set of drums.

Nothing could have ended this performance any better than what happened at the end. Mr. Marsalis asked the Christian Mc Bride Trio, who were sitting on the opposite side of the hall, to come up onto the stage to play with the quintet. This may have not been a surprise to some, but for me it was the frosting on the cake. Switching pianists, drummers and bassists, each took turns showing their best jamming. At one point both drummers shared the drum set, one with brushes the other with sticks and each sliding in and out of the stool as they took over for each other. The music never stopped. It was a wonderful end to a delightful evening of song that filled the air of Tanglewood on a night when there had been some rain and soggy grounds for us to wade through. The standing ovation proved the audience’s appreciation of a night well spent.

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THE ARTS ETC

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TANGLEWOOD 75 -- SUMMER 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2:30pm
THE LEONARD BERNSTEIN MEMORIAL CONCERT

TANGLEWOOD MUSIC CENTER ORCHESTRA
RAFAEL FRUBECK DE BURGOS conducting

 

BEETHOVEN
Violin Concerto in D, Opus 61
Allegro ma non tropplo
Larghetto
Rondo: Allegro

GIL SHAHAM

BARTOK - Concerto for Orchestra
Andante non troppo – Allegro vivace
Giuoco delle coppie: Allegrgretto scherzando
Elegia: Andante, nontroppo
Intermezzo interrotto: Allegretto
Finale: Presto

Reviewed by Donna Bailey-Thompson

The mighty Boston Symphony Orchestra’s powerful bass drums opened Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D – so wonderfully Beethoven – watery drums; major to minor. From violinist Gil Shaham’s first strokes, the bowing he performed the evening before (Schindler’s List, honoring John Williams 80th birthday) was sensitive, clear, whereas at this concert, his playing seemed weak and my guess why was because the electronic aids to augment his playing were not amped to a high enough level. I had to strain to hear what I had expected to hear witih ease – assertive strokes, racing moments. I hoped forte would come to the rescue but alas, any spurts were fleeting. Think of Singin in the Rain and the actress who forgets to focus her lines on the mike hidden among the props.

At home, I often play Anne Sophie Mutter’s breathtaking interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, savoring her assertiveness, take-no-prisoners as well as the sweet break-your-heart moments, and I chose Gil Shaham’s performance because I wanted to experience a live interpretation of one of my favorite pieces. C’est la vie.

Instead, I was rewarded with Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. The music was barely underway when I scribbled in my notes, “You know before you know that you love the piece.” I was smitten before I heard a note. Verily! Strings dove and resurfaced. There were frequent combinations that reminded me of Ravel (and that pleased me). Bird-like calls set moods. Hints of jazz, deep bowing, a mix of the abstract with atonal brass.

During the second movement, a combination of instruments suggested tin drums. (Never heard if them? Neither have I.) They led into prayer, a dedication to music, its many altars. Within the third movement, just like Bartok specified, an elegia created a mood piece of misery that bordered on cacophony.

During the fourth movement, another birdsong and a little dance joined by cockatoo trills (copycats!). With the fifth movement, there was a racing train in such a hurry that it broke through bass fiddles. Windows were blurry, like rain on a wiperless windshield. Deep rumbles. Our hero had been on a quest and finally found what he sought. Optimism elided into reverie. Sun ablaze. Cymbals ring.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE ARTS ETC

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TANGLEWOOD -- SUMMER 2012

BOSTON POPS ORCHESTRA

AUGUST 18, 2012

John Williams 80th Birthday Celebration

Reviewed by Donna Bailey-Thompson

If you were in the Koussevitzky Shed on Saturday evening, August 18 to join others celebrating John Williams’ 80th birthday, you were in an unabashed love fest. If you were tuned into the Shed via electronic devices, you could sense the sea of affection and contribute to it. Be it “long hair” or “short hair” is there no music John Williams cannot create?

From my perspective, one of his greatest talenst is knowing when a piece is done, not embroidering it, not gilding the lily. Even for the wonderfully crazy HAPPY BIRTHDAY VARIATIONS he composed in which Happy Birthday is repeatedly expressed differently – key, tempo, style, rhythm and more – he knew when to move on to a totally dissimilar mood.

In the Boston Pops Orchestra’s August 18 Tanglewood Program, former Boston Globe critic, Richard Dyer, has written a piece commemorating John Williams’ astounding career. Excerpts: John Williams became conductor of the Boston Pops in 1980 when he was 47 “and had long since demonstrated that he was a complete musician. He had been trained as a pianist and composer, and was vastly experienced as an arranger, jazz pianist, studio conductor, and soundtrack composer for television and movies – he had scored 52 films at that point.” Back in 1958, “he could write in any style – symphonic, jazz, popular, Asian, American, Latin, European – and in any genre within those styles.” Now 32 years later, “...he has composed the scores for nearly 50 additional films, including some of the most significant blockbusters in the history of the movies. ... For these films Williams created music of dazzling diversity – he can compose fluently in any style or genre from any period of world music and assimilate all of it into his own style. And he does this with an easy, unobtrusive compositional virtuosity.” Also, he “artfully dodges” cliches. “Williams identifies with the emotions and actions of the characters onscreen and his music conveys them, and makes us believe in them, and indeed, experience those emotions too.”

Without fanfare, the evening got a jump start when the familiar face of NBC newsman Brian Williams filled an oversized screen, made happy talk and funny little jokes and raved about the genius of John Williams – no relation, Brian Williams quipped, unless there’d been some hanky-panky no one knew about (words to that effect; I was laughing and not taking notes).

THE OLYMPIC FANFARE AND THEME, featuring the rousing U. S. Army Herald Trumpets – the official fanfare ensemble for the President of the United States. with Keith Lockhart conducting , officially opened the program to enthusiastic clapping and loud cheering. The excitement throughout the evening did not wane.

World-famous operatic star, dramatic soprano Jessye Norman made a spectacular entrance – high turban with golden accents and a stiff, flaring black and white robe. She sang the only music not written by Willliams – Kern and Hammerstein’s

THE SONG IS YOU.
I hear music when I look at you;
A beautiful theme of evry
Dream I ever knew.
Down deep in my heart I hear it play.
I feel it start, then melt away.

I hear music when I touch your hand;
A beautiful melody
>from some enchanted land.
Down deep in my heart, I hear it say,
Is this the day?

I alone have heard this lovely strain,
I alone have heard this glad refrain:
Must it be forever inside of me,
Why can't I let it go,
Why can't I let you know,
Why can't I let you know the song
My heart would sing?

That beautiful rhapsody
Of love and youth and spring,
The music is sweet,
The words are true -
The song is you.

Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/f/frank+sinatra/song+is+you+the_10122152.html
Song Is You lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

 

 

One section of THREE CONCERT PIECES was chosen as typical examples of Williams’ virtuosity; Shi-Yeon Sung conducting.

CONCERTO FOR OBOE, 3rd movement: Commedia
Keisuke Wakao, assistant principal oboe, BSO
and principal oboe of Boston Pops Orchestra

(Clean annunciation)

CONCERTO FOR HORN AND ORCHESTRA, 5TH movement: NOCTURNE
James Sommerville, principal horn of BSO; also Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra

(This was my favorite; its largo qualities soothing and mentally stimulating')

CONCERTO FOR TUBA AND ORCHESTRA: 3rd movement
Mike Roylance, principal tuba of BSO

(First note of tuba totally non-threatening.)

And then there was a major surprise, announcing Stephen Spielburg who walked out of the wings into a spotlight. The Wows hit the roof. He spoke of the universal recognition of Williams’ music. I wonder how many generations sighed with the playing of ADVENTURES ON EARTH from E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL? Leonard Slatkin conducting. Away from the theater, the sweep of Williams’ music bordered on the hypnotic. I was swept away by his multi-faceted commands.

To return after Intermission and immediately plunge into FANFARE FOR FENWAY– the audience roaring, cheering for the beloved heartbreakers, the Boston Red Sox, doing their thing on the giant screen – making impossible catches as they fell and rolled, somersaulted and rolled, banged up against The Green Monster and secured the catch. The slides into the base – temporarily upright, more likely face first. The wonderful LuisTiant. Real oldtimers in sepia tone flashing by – Ted Williams – and John Williams music, as symphonic as they come.

Keith Lockhart also conducted HEDWIG’S THEME from HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE. Ah the hours parents read to their children . . .as for the movie, classical music kept the adventurers alert.

At President Barrack Obama’s innauguration, at his request, Williams’ arrangement of AIR AND SIMPLE GIFTS was performed by four musicians. Three of the four, Yo-Yo Ma (cello soloist world wide, recital and chamber music activities), Gabriela Montero (pianist, often invites audience to suggest a melody for improvisation) and Anthony McGill (principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) were present and the fourth, new to the group, Gil Shaham (trumpet, recently explored Violin Concertos of the 1930s)  This was worth hearing again ; perhaps another time.

Going to School from MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, YO-YO MA and Leonard Slatkin conducting, another facet of Williams’ talent.

There were surprise guests appearing on the big screen : Seiji Ozawa. President Barrack Obama. Former President Bill Clinton.Of the three, Seiji garnered the most love.

Gil Shaham’s soulful playing of the Theme from SCHINDLER’S LIST brought on a stillness not heard all evening – so powerful are the emotions inhabitating the plaintive score -- suffering beyond understanding.

Symphonic music = special effects in the Main Title from STAR WARS. There’s ballet at warp speed of battles lasting only seconds before one space machine is vaporized. And then another, and another. The battles are relentless.

Suddenly, the birthday party was ending. HAPPY BIRTHDAY VARIATIONS with Leonard Slatkin conducting, with Brass and Woodwind Players from the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra adding to the delightful nonsense of “Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to you!

Near the beginning of the printed program, there is this special message from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin:

“Winston Churchill once said to Franklin Roosevelt: ‘It is fun to live in the same decade with you.’ I know I speak for many when I paraphrase the British leader and say: ‘It has been great fun, John Williams, to live in the same half century with you.”

Your music has captured spectacular moments of triumph, beauty, and magic. You have created enduring memories in our cultural lives. You are lodged forever in our hearts.

HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY!

A-men.

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THE ARTS ETC

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PREVIN - ELGAR - SHOSTAKOVICH
Saturday, 11 August, 8:30 pm

PREVIN and MUSIC FOR BOSTON world premier

 

REVIEW & COMMENTARY

SEE BELOW

 Reviewed by Donna Bailey-Thompson

Dark clouds filled to the brim with water overflowed. The rat-a-tat beat on the scattered roofs at Tanglewood had to be the envy of percussionists.


As concertgoers on soggy grounds approached the Koussevitzky Music Shed, the last of the heavenly noisemakers remembered their good manners. The bell signalled the concert was ready to begin.

Guest artist, Conductor Stephane Deneve entered the stage to the applause of BSO musicians and a welcoming audience. “A graduate of and prizewinner at the Paris Conservatoire, Stephane Deneve began his career as Sir Georg Solti’s assistant with the Orchestre de Paris and Paris National Opera, also assisting Georges Pretre and Seiji Ozawa.” The following abbreviated biography of Andre Previn appears more than a dozen times on the Internet (it may have originated with G. Schirmer Inc,):

 

Born 1929, of Russian Jewish origin. A child protégée. Composer, conductor, and pianist. André Previn left his native Germany in 1938 to live in Paris and to subsequently settle in Los Angeles in 1940. His early career of orchestrating film scores at MGM led quickly to conducting engagements of symphonic repertoire and on to an international career as Music Director of such orchestras as London, Los Angeles, Oslo and Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, he concentrated increasingly on compositions for the concert hall and opera. His own richly lyrical style underscores his love of the late Romantic and early 20th-century masterpieces of which his interpretations as conductor are internationally renowned. His versatility is outstanding.

This world premiere of Previn’s MUSIC FOR BOSTON was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra “through the generous support of the New Works Fund established by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.” In a recent interview, Previn spoke of his latest work.

“To fully absorb that my conducting debut at Tanglewood was 35 years ago this month is both breathtaking and quite heartwarming. I have always embraced Tanglewood with great esteem, and I am equally grateful for the many musical memories I share with the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. My initial introduction to Seiji Ozawa was at Tanglewood — and since that meeting, he has become a lifelong friend.

“It was with great love and humility that I accepted the writing of this commission, MUSIC FOR BOSTON, in honor of Tanglewood’s 75th Anniversary Season. Along with this new work, I send my warm congratulations on your first 75 years –-- anticipating much, much more to follow!”


His visible instructions about the playing of MUSIC FOR BOSTON were refreshingly to the point:

  I. Tempo

II. Slow
III. Fast

My notes were also brief. Somewhat disconcerting was swapping the orchestra’s positions: the basses were at the audience’s left, not right.

A single tone (suggesting the warning bell?) was answered by basses and violins, gliding into a strong blend of conversation, somewhat atonal, but as if after reconsidering, the atonal harbored a sweetness. And sadness.

Conflict opened to beauty, mellowed pace morphed into bustling energy — busy as bees. Most of my notes (scribbled in the dark) are beyond deciphering but this sentence to myself is clear; “Some composers you just plain like.” It made no difference to me how many and what kind of tangents Andre Previn explored, if the piece were a hymn of appreciation to the BSO or a recounting of losing luggage while trekking across Siberia. I was confident the piece would hang together. And indeed it did. There were full-bodied, rich chords. Love faded in and out.

The applause was enthusiastic but somewhat guarded, as if not knowing how to respond to music of twists, turns, languor, vigor, and unabashed affection. I would have enjoyed and benefitted from an immediate replay.

For me, one word summed up the 17 minutes of performance: Sad. There were moments of feeling swamped by an underlying sadness. When I shared my one-word synopsis “sad” with a stranger, he exclaimed, “Yes, sad! Even lachrymose.” Yes, I had been moved to the brink of tears. Was the sadness because of the arthritis afflicting Andre Previn so badly that he can no longer play the piano? Adjusting to such an emotional loss cannot be easy.

At the end of the evening, lines baby-stepping free of the Shed, I passed a seated Previn surrounded by a multi-age group of friends and admirers. He was smiling, laughing. My sadness took a holiday'

 

ELGAR and YO-YO MA

 

Sir Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor’s first Tanglewood performance was on August 3, 1969, with Daniel Barenboim conducting, and a soloist’s name familiar to many — Jacqueline Du Pre. Perhaps even better known is that Elgar composed the Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches — yes, the processional played at most high school graduations. Not until the horrors of the Great War were known, did war begin to lose some of its glamor. From Hugh Macdonald’s program notes, we learn, “On September 26, 1918, with the war still on, Elgar’s wife’s diary recorded ‘wonderful new music, real wood sounds & other lament wh. shd. be in a war symphony.’”


Yo-Yo Ma and his mello cello were greeted with palpable affection — from the audience and the musicians. With no wasted motion, Ma sat, positioned the cello, signaled his readiness to conductor Deneve, and the four movement cello concerto began. Almost immediately there was transitory sadness. Several times I marveled at Ma’s techniques and especially ones that required repeated nonstop action. Are cellists subjected to injuries similar to carpel tunnel?

Ma’s love of the music comes through his pores. He and his cello are bonded. When there’s a beautiful melody, the steadiness of his bowing extracts its full beauty. He injects every note with emotion. Is this a love quest? From nothingness to musical seduction?

There were three curtain calls. Yes, Yo-Yo Ma is loved, revered. He appears to be a contented man.

 

SHOSTAKOVICH

SYMPHONY NO. 5 IN D MINOR

 

First Tanglewood performance, August 2, 1941, Serge Koussevitzky conducting.

Most recent Tanglewood performance, August 14,2009, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.

Harlow Robinson’s program notes (borrowed here) are particularly informative and witty.

I like saying, “Dimitri Shostakovich,” how easily his name rolls off the tongue and I like his music – its power, sensitivity. Harlow Robinson’s knowledge deserves to be harkened, so here comes his insight. “Yet the Fifth Symphony is clearly more ‘accessible’ in certain ways, adhering relatively closely to classical symphonic form and built on a base of tonal harmony. It is spiritually indebted to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. There is the same contrast between two emotional worlds drawn in Tchaikovsky the implacable world of fate in conflict with the subjective world of human experience and limitation. Like Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Fifth symphonies, Shostakovich ‘s Fifth concludes after a long passages of soul-searching and doubt with an upbeat, even militaristic finale. A kinship with Beethoven appears in the Fifth Symphony’s opening bars, in the ‘motto’ theme that jumps portentously from D to B-flat and down to A. What these opening bars bring most obviously to mind are the opening bars of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and (to a lesser extent) the opening motto theme of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5. And Beethoven was a musical and political model long admired both by Shostakovich and by the keepers of Soviet culture.”

The agony created during Stalin’s regime threatened Shostakovich’s survival.The slaughter of millions (that is not a typo) caused incomprehensible suffering – for those spirited away, lost forever, as well as those left behind to wonder and mourn. In this climate, Shostakovich chose his musical notes carefully. At times he deliberately confused impressions so that sensitive survivors could discern that a particular passage was a musical substitute for validating survivors’ psychic pain but not a musical code the secret police might consider suspicious.

During the first movement the trumpets blared; rhythms – moderate to strenuous – the first violins latched on to a melody. When the movement ended, I wondered if anyone else beside me wondered, “What just happened?”

The second movement had surprising lightness. And horns. Waltz-like opportunities. Imaginary scenes of innocent little children dancing when and where they shouldn’t.

Noted within the third movement were violin songs, beautiful melodies, woodwinds, contrasting somber thoughts. The Soviet mind games had to have been horrific.

With the final movement, bombastic marching music taunted the KGB (or its equivalent) who dared not to challenge the composer because the maestro seemed to be behaving himself. Was the military music designed to cover anger? That Shostakovich survived is a testement to his intelligence as a person and as a composer.

 

A REVERIE

Within this one concert, three profound musical treatises – PREVIN, ELGAR & SHOSTAKOVICH -- became enjoined with the millions of combinations loosed within the Shed. So many emotions pulled a’sunder!

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Commentary on Saturday evening, August 11, 2012 at Tanglewood

The Jean Thaxter Brett Memorial Concert


    by Kristine Crimmins



Stephane Deneve gave an outstanding performance on an evening filled with intermittent rain, distant fireworks and humidity, a challenge for anyone under those circumstances. His hair, though much curlier, was consistent with mine -- quite fluffy and out of control.


Maestro Deneve presented Andre Previn's world premiere of MUSIC FOR BOSTON with eloquence. The spotlight on Mr. Previn at the end of the piece demonstrated the appreciation of not only the audience but of Mr. Previn.

Yo-Yo Ma's rendition of Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, Opus 85 proved that he and Maestro Deneve can endure distractions in the background (distant fireworks) and still perform an excellent program. Mr. Ma's concentration never left the music; his swaying and rhythm were engrossing. It's like he is making love to the music.

Nothing could end the program better than Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Opus 47. Maestro was at his most dramatic. His hair flared and curled even more with each jolt when he glanced at the score. He was excellent. His vibrating left hand attested to his total involvement in each and every held note. t. At the end, the audience cheered. And, the exit timing was perfect: no downpours.

Though the grounds were soggy and most of the lawn attendance was non-existent, the program was well worth enduring storms. Umbrellas and galoshes became the uniform of die-hard fans. I don't hesitate about taking a chance circumstances may force the need to cancel an event. Tanglewood is worth the trip.


THE ARTS ETC

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

CHARLES DUTOIT conducting

Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor

EMANUEL AX

TCHAIKOVSKY

Symphony No. 5 in  E Minor

 

REVIEWED by DONNA BAILEY-THOMPSON

The clouds did their best to look like harbingers of more rain but wiser winds prevailed. Gradually, the overcast faded and by mid-concert, Tanglewood had bragging rights for another fine day in its musical paradise.

The stage in the Koussevitzky Shed was filled with a sea of summer whites whereas the audience was a mix of casual – from dressy to, “You’re wearing that?” Music was the unifier.

Welcoming applause greeted BSO guest conductor Charles Dutoit and soloist Emanuel Ax. Both are sturdy men with enough accolades to choke a horse. If one or the other hasn’t received a particular honor, then it seems to me its status is questionable, and would be superfluous.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Opus 37, in three movements (Allegro con brio, Largo, Rondo Allegro), pays homage to “one of his favorite works” Mozart’s C minor concerto. Beethoven takes his time establishing an appropriate climate for this work during which Conductor Dutoit’s directions were subtle, no fancy flourishes, but instead just enough movement to disclose that underneath his brilliant white jacket was a long-sleeved tailored black shirt – a nod to the understatement of French style.

When Ax made contact with the keyboard, his credentials were established. He, too, relies on subtlety to make a point – or a crescendo of points. The variances in moods within the score were appropriately modulated. He was a master of his domain, honoring the composer, cooperating with the conductor. His control of fortissimo was as bold as his gentle pianissimo. The audience didn’t want to let him go. For an encore he chose a piece by Schumann that suggested, to me, possible variations of folk songs. The simplicity was delightful – a collection of Ahhh moments.

Following intermission when Conductor Dutoit returned to the stage, the applause was stronger than it was before the Beethoven. The orchestra had shed their jackets but white shirts were still in place. However (you’ve guessed it), the maestro’s white jacket was history and his black shirt was a fashion statement.

Tchaikovsky’s revered Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Opus 64 is a spellbinder in four movements: Andante – Allegro con anima; Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza; Valse: Allegro moderato; Finale: Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace – Moderato assai e molto maestoso. And a lone percussionist who at times was busier than a one-armed paperhanger.

There are actually music lovers who don’t like Tchaikovsky. They make fun of his attachment to four beats. They ridicule his sentimentality. I am not one of them.

Last week I listened to an old BSO recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and its sound was dated. Subtle changes manifested, playing tricks with my ears. But nothing like this 2012 Tanglewood ending of the first movement: there was a deep underground sound unlike anything I’d heard before. I should have counted the basses. With the second movement, the beautiful “moonglow melodies,” the longing, the swells of passion, the psychic pain Tchaikovsky fought and endured, brought me to the edge of tears.

With the third movement, the air Tchaikovsky was breathing had cleared. Implied was a sense of emotional security. “Allyallyenfree.” The percussionist underscored the drama. Shifting to the fourth movement was too brief to be noticed but the building towards the finale was crystal clear. The strings whirlwind spun unceasingly. Any second we could be swirled into deep space. What was driving Tchaikovsky? The percussionist was busier than ever. Just when one could absorb no more, this confounding, bedeviling, astonishing symphony completed its journey – 1, 2, 3, 4.

 

THE ARTS ETC

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TANGLEWOOD -- SUMMER 2012 

 

Saturday, July 21, 8:30pm

ASHER FISCH CONDUCTING

ALL-WAGNER PROGRAM

REVIEWED by DONNA BAILEY THOMPSON

Funny, how when the pupil is ready, a teacher does appear.

My exposure to Wagner was limited. In fact, I could feel intimidated when hearing his name. But when I learned a friend was terribly disappointed that collapsed plans would keep her away from the ALL-WAGNER PROGRAM, I heard myself saying I could get her there. I had no inkling I was about to fall in love with Wagner.

In honor of Tanglewood’s 75th Anniversary, the 2012 All-Wagner Program duplicated the August 1937 program as well as the notes written by BSO John N. Burk. Not revisited were the capricious downpours that soaked the tent: “...people kept shifting to different seats to escape the water, which dripped through the joints in the tent and through the holes around the great upright poles. Nobody could leave–the downpour was too heavy.” Tapping into yesteryear’s mystique reveals today’s movers and shakers are as besotted and determined music lovers as those who moved earth (and perhaps heaven too) to build the famed Koussevitzky Shed.

Guest Artist, Maestro ASHER FISCH, about to make his BSO and Tanglewood debuts, was highly recommended by ushers in the know (like nurses in the OR). The program stated “Israeli-born conductor Asher Fisch is particularly noted for the core German repertoire from Beethoven through Berg, including virtually the entire canon of Wagner and Strauss.” I was struck by the Maestro’s economy of movement and when appropriate, the energy of his left arm making large whirling circles, urging the orchestra on. I was also impressed by his acknowledgment of musicians who had solos, the warmth behind his good manners. I’m pleased that the over-the-top impresarios have gone the way of dinosaurs, although the seven league striding in combination with great fur coats implied that pomposity was legal.

The concert opened with the overture to RIENZI, fledgling Wagner’s audacious five-act opera that against tremendous odds launched his career. From writing to performance took four years. With today’s electronic magic, such womb to tomb rivals our warp speed. Those thoughts weren’t on my mind as I became accustomed, measure by measure to Wagnerian sounds – muscular, assertive, sweet. The trumpets’ guarded calls – not shrill but plaintive as if the significance of the call to arms, its inevitable bloodletting registered. During the applause, I quipped to my friend, who was clapping her brains out, “This composer has a future.”

A SIEGFRIED IDYL oozes tranquility. The composer is in love with Cosima and their son. He has freedom to write, his creative juices are unleashed. There’s an enchanting story included in the 1937 notes that is too romantic to skip. “The ‘Siegfried Idyl,’ a birthday gift to Cosima in the first year of their marriage, was composed in November of 1870, and performed as a surprise to her on
Christmas day, at half-past seven in the morning. There were elaborate secret preparations–the copying of the parts, the engaging of musicians from Zurich, rehearsals in the foyer of the old theatre and at the Hotel du Lac in Lucerne. Christmas morning at Tribschen the musicians tuned in the kitchen, and assembled quietly on the stairs. There were fifteen players. Hans Richter taking both viola and trumpet, having practiced in seclusion upon the latter unaccustomed instrument. Wagner conducted from the top of the stairs what turned out to be, in the testimony of Richter, a faultless performance.”

Clearly, Wagner’s Christmas gift to his wife underscored his love for her. The music shimmered. A few times, I was reminded, fleetingly, of the theme for Gone With The Wind. The melodies were simply beautiful. But, not saccharine. Let your ears imagine this: the piece is scored for flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, trumpet, two horns, and strings. Is that not an ode to tranquility?

PRELUDE AND LOVE-DEATH FROM “TRISTAN UND ISOLDE”

I sigh. This incomparable paean to love and death is recognizable from the opening chords – so distinctive that familiarity with the implied pain can sweep the imagination through its agony to its ecstacy . The banked passion stimulates. The emotions rise to a crescendo that defy gravity. Ever present is music in all its artistic complexities combined with the brilliance of Wagner’s soul-filled artistry. This masterpiece both drains and exalts.

I n t e r m i s s i o n

RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES FROM “DIE WALKURE”

With the distinctive score charging through my head, I tried to serve two masters – Wagner and Coppola.

Valkyries (“choosers of the slain”), are beautiful handmaidens on foot or horseback who scurry or gallop across abandoned battlefields choosing the bravest slain heroes to be honored in Valhalla (Odin’s hall). Simultaneously, supercharged Robert Duvall (“Apocalypse Now”) in an attack helicopter cranks up the volume of the mounted loud speakers to increase the terror of the innocent Vietnamese on the ground who are about to be killed. The common denominator included Wagner’s incessant pursuit of the vanquished. What came across from the orchestra was the vertical slashing of swords and spears, realistic sound effects designed by Wagner.

BONUS ASIDE       

The Valkyries are also Odin's messengers and when they ride forth on their errands,

their armor causes the strange flickering light that is called "Aurora Borealis" (Northern Lights).

-- Micha F. Lindemans

 

FOREST MURMURS FROM “SIEGFRIED”

This bucolic interlude is from the second act of “Siegfried,” a welcome change of mood but adjusting to it is not spontaneous, not unless the admonition to “sleep fast” is a command familiar to your body. Wagner’s ability to push one’s buttons is evident in the stillness of leafy glades. “But the voice of nature reveals the world’s secrets to him – reveals also his destiny.”

PRELUDE TO ACT ONE OF “PARSIFAL”

The first time I was transported back to the church choir, I brushed off what I thought I’d heard. But when it happened twice more, my appreciation of Wagner’s musical dexterity and the unknown person(s) who adapted the phrases, plucking them out of a sea of notes, gave me permission to think in terms of a personal link with the composer. “The theme of ‘Love’ is the mystic music of the Eucharist, repeated over extended arpeggios. It is linked with the liturgic ‘Dresden Amen,’ a cadence of ascending sixths.” The choir's long ago call to prayer!

The Prelude was among my favorite selections because of its tempo – slow, like deep water in no hurry – and the chord progression, each one richer than the one before. I derived more solace, even more surprises, from the Prelude. I could appreciate why it was placed next to last in the program. There was a lot of meat on that bone.

OVERTURE TO “TANNHAUSER”

A soulful but not lugubrious beginning. Measured, contemplative. The theme repeated, and repeated again. Suddenly a lively creature arrives – flirty, flitterly. Is this Venus? Spritely, lightly, like a female; but a male intercedes and a march takes over. The Overture is offering tastes of the full score. A lone violin. A reed instrument. Wagner’s orchestration flows through a troubled period but the crisis passes. Triumphant! The score returns to the earlier theme; strings swirling high.

The introduction to Wagner’s brilliance, indeed his genius, has won a new admirer. Complementing Conductor Asher Fisch’s debut is the mighty Boston Symphony Orchestra. Overseeing this lovefest is the beauty of Tanglewood.

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THE ARTS ETC

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Tanglewood 75th Celebration

SATURDAY, JULY 14, 2012, 8:30PM

 

REVIEWED by KRISTINE CRIMMINS

 

Mingling with the sea of picnickers on the grounds of Tanglewood, the sunset was subtle compared to the reveling masses.  Tables and blankets spread wide, wine glasses clinked, the wafting of home made chicken and store bought lo mein filled the air.  Female fans wandered about dressed in fancy tops, men in shorts or dress pants, the crowd a mix of everything America.  Once the bell clanged, people settled, giant screens lit up, and a hush followed by loud applause welcomed Keith Lockhart as he walked on stage to welcome our anticipation.

 

Maestro Lockhart and the Boston Pops opened Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man with thunderous drums, crashing vibrations along with riveting horns. There was jubilant applause.  This lead to Bernstein’s Three Dances Episodes from Our Town in which Great Lover was jovial and lively.  Lonely Town-Pas de deux was a mellow combination of winds and violins -- serene, soft and poignant.  Times Square, 1944, however, aroused nearby children to move about with its lively, loud marching beat and sassy clarinets. 

 

John Williams and James Taylor took the American Songbook path with the Boston Pops Orchestra to Over the Rainbow.  Mr. Taylor started the set with a beautiful, yet mellow rendition as he stood in a suit and grey tie.  Shall We Dance was noted by the pop singer as a song his father lovingly yet teasingly sang to him and his siblings.  His smile throughout told a story of love and joy.  Ol' Man River was a moving rendition that began with the singer playing his guitar but as it continued, he let the words take the stage. 

 

The sky held no stars this night, so the program saluted Music under the Moon with a video story of the 75 year history of Tanglewood started by the Tappan Family and the insistence for a “shed” by Serge Koussevitzky.  Maestros Seiji Ozawa, John Williams, Leonard Bernstein and many others were saluted with great applause. 

 

Stefan Asbury and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra took the stage to present Haydn’s Concerto in DThe Adagio was a sweet, soft, precious delicacy.  The Rondo all “Ungherese: Allegro assai”offered contrasting vibrancy and beauty.  This was followed by Yo Yo Ma and Tchaikovsky’s Andante, cantabile for cello and strings.  Hauntingly beautiful, Mr. Ma’s expressions  of serene pleasure followed every note. 

 

Just before intermission, Anne-Sophie Mutter entered with Andris Nelsons and played Carmen Fantasy with the Tanglewood Center Orchestra.  Ms. Mutter’s finger work is unbelievably nimble and exact. It was shear delight listening to the very high, the very low, and the swagger in between.  Every ear was pinned to her fine tuned strings.  The red design on the bottom of her black dress enhanced the fire of her playing.  It was utterly fantastic and the crowd cheered and whistled. 

 

Following intermission, Andris Nelson returned to the stage with the BSO to perform Ravel’s La Valse.  The slow growing crescendo drew cheers of excitement.   It was a fabulous presentation.

 

John Williams presented the Inaugural Tanglewood Medal to Seiji Ozawa.  Unable to attend the celebration, Yo Yo Ma read a sincere and grateful message of thanks from Maestro Ozawa. 

 

David Zinman and pianist Peter Serkin staged with the BSO as well as the Tanglewood Festival Chorus with John Oliver conducting an array of former and current fellows in Beethoven’s Fantasia in C minor for piano, chorus, and orchestra, Opus 80.  This finale was filled to the brim with variations of a musical stew which ended in a lullaby tone to crown the evening with feelings of joy and happiness.  The piano work was the most delicate as witnessed in Mr. Serkin’s every passionate note.  A long applause followed as each performer took a final bow.

 

The evening was capped with fireworks that filled the sky -- an evening to be remembered and to be revisited: it was captured by PBS to be aired as an episode under the title of Great Performances.

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THE ARTS ETC

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TANGLEWOOD 75 SUMMER 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 8pm

Florence Gould Auditorium, Seiji Ozawa Hall

THE CAROLINE AND JAMES TAYLOR CONCERT

ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER, violin 

LAMBERT ORKIS, piano


REVIEWED by DONNA BAILEY-THOMPSON

Late afternoon, walking from the Maple lot parking area, the angled sunlight still generating strong heat, in search of Seiji Ozawa Hall, site of the evening’s concert. Far enough away to mimic heavenly hosts were the wavering notes of choruses practicing in halls hidden among the trees. Beyond a grassy rise, a boxy multi-storied wooden structure came into view which by its design all but shouted, “This is Ozawa Hall!”

No one was about. My friend and I opened a door onto a vast hall surrounded by balconies, all constructed primarily of a burnished wood that beamed reddish brown and golden light. On the stage rehearsing a program of pieces written for violin and piano (in effect, duets), were Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis. Seated at the center of ground level were a man and woman. We did not move. I thought by standing stock still, our intrusion would be lessened. I was stage struck.

Ms. Mutter was even lovelier than her publicity photos. Instead of glamourous haute couture, she was casually dressed in white capris with a touch of a navy and white floral design at the hem. A long over the hip stretch T with a matching navy light-weight sweater and low-heeled slides completed her ensemble. She was crisp, stunning; softly waved blonde hair skimmed her shoulders. She looked 15 years younger than her age (49). Her well-toned figure could compete with sweet young things – and win.

Observing those ten or fifteen minutes of practice was a glowing example of serendipity. To be privy to Ms. Muller’s concentration, the delicacy of her bowing, her precision – the music she unloosed filled me with appreciation. And awe. So much subtle emotion created by an instrument as fragile as her centuries old-1703 Emiliani Stradivarius! And, the renowned recording of Beethoven’s violin concerto (which my repeated playings have not harmed) was created not by a disembodied sorceress but a radiant human being with a violin tucked under her chin, standing only a few feet away, very much alive .

A huge surprise for me was Lambert Orkis’ multi-expressive piano playing. From the first few notes that included chords with the promise (later) of an arpeggio, from pianissimo to fortissimo, with my ear (with its smattering of just enough musical education to be dangerous), I sensed a musician whose inner security complemented Ms. Mutter’s and whose talent enjoyed a mutual depth of understanding. No wonder “since 1988 he has appeared worldwide with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.” Their communication is top-of-the-line synchroniscopy If it were verbal, we’d say they complete one another’s sentences.

The stolen minutes were to be even more appreciated because our tickets did not include site lines to the piano keys. Lambert Orkis hands are not delicate. They are working hands. This makes the gamut of sounds he creates even more astounding – from whispers to shouts, marching to dancing, stringing beads to beating a carpet slung over a clothesline. Add dazzled to stage struck.

During a break in the rehearsal, the couple who were seated center floor headed for an exit, whispering, “This is a closed rehearsal.” We followed their lead. I thought I spied Andre Previn seated about 20 feet away, intently observing the rehearsal. With his multi-musical history, I could only imagine – and poorly at that – the knowledge he has accumulated. At Tanglewood, those of us whose music credentials start and stop within the parameters of savoring the sounds, are immersed in the music-drenched atmosphere created by the students aspiring to
develope their talent as far as it can take them. Mr. Previns’ journey – Sir Andre is knighted – journeys made for seven league boots.

Two hours later, the evening’s program began without fanfare. Ms. Mutter and Mr.Orkis entered Seiji Ozawa Hall in an unassuming manner, no trappings to heighten their international honors and musical triumphs. They were formally attired – Mr. Orkis in a tailored summer jacket and Ms. Mutter in a floor-length gown of material that mimicked a mermaid’s scales and curvy silhouette, from strapless bodice to flaring out at the knee, prepared to slap a wave with a tail. The effect was arresting.

Opening the program was Mozart’s Sonata No.27 in G for violin and piano, K.379(373a): Adagio—Allegro; Theme and Variations (Andantino cantabile). Mozart created this composition within a single day because he could and because the famous Italian violinist Antonio Brunetti was in town and wanted more Mozart. Mozart described his latest work as “a sonata with violin accompaniment.” No longer would the keyboard need to dominate; instead the violinist would have an equal role. This suits Ms. Mutter and Mr.Orkis. They are a team. After acknowledging the audience’s applause, they left the auditorium for a few minutes to return briefly for more applause, and this time they turned to face the audience seated at their back. A roar of appreciation came from those dedicated listeners.

When they returned to play again, there was more applause. If we know a child who is just learning how to play an instrument, we smile at the mistakes. When one of those children becomes a world class musician, the difference between back then and now borders upon the indescribable. And so it was throughout the concert. Franz Schubert’s “Fantasie” in C for violin and piano, D.934 (Andante molto; Allegretto; Andantino; Allegro vivace – Allegretto – Presto) thrilled the audience on all sides of the tailored hall – lines adapted from Japanese construction in recognition of Seiji Ozawa’s heritage. Schubert’s “Fantasie” presented one opportunity after another for welcoming one’s own creative illusions. Of course with Schubert, one needs to have flexible thoughts and a sense of humor. Rather than paraphrase Robert Kirzinger, here are his fine notes in reference to the second movement: “... Schubert playfully sends the instrumentalists chasing after one another, each taking turns initiating short phrases for the other to imitate.” Maybe this piece wasn’t appreciated by the fun-loving Viennese but Tanglewoods multi-cultural gathering loved the demands embedded in the taunting catch-me-if-you-can..

We were alerted the previous afternoon of a change in the program.

Please note that due to illness, Anne-Sophie Mutter was unable to perform the scheduled world premiere of Andre Previn’s Violin Sonata No. 2 on July 2 last week at Germany’s Klavier-Festival Ruhr, which had co-commissioned the work with Ms. Mutter. Since the world premiere, intended for the commissioning festival, had to be postponed, it also became necessary to postpone the American premiere that was scheduled for Tanglewood this evening. Therefore, following the intermision of tonight’s concert, Anne-Sophie Mutter will perform Lutoslawski’s Paritita for violin and piano in place of Mr. Previn’s Violin Sonata No. 2.

A few words about Andre Previn (b. 1929)


Lifted from Robert Kirzinger’s Program Notes

In the course of his career, conductor-composer-pianist, Andre Previn has been acclaimed for his work in the realms of orchestral music, chamber music, film music, musical theater, and jazz. As a conductor, he has held chief artistic posts with the Houston Symphony, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NHK Symphony, Pittsburg Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, and Royal Philharmonic. ...

Previn’s first Violin Concerto – commissioned by the BSO, composed for Anne-Sophie Mutter, and later subtitled Anne-Sophie – was premiered and recorded by the orchestra in 2002. ...
~~~~~~~

His latest Boston Symphony commission, Music for Boston was scheduled to give its world premiere performance this summer at Tanglewood on August 11, with Stephane Deneve conducting. No further information as this is posted on the web. 7/19/2012

On this program’s first page, this announcement: “Please note that Andre Previn is not performing in tonight’s concert due to a continuing arthritic condition that prevents him from playing the piano.” Yes, but the man I saw at the rehearsal and again at the performance in the same location was the Maestro whom I had seen once before, at Smith College, when he was the conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. That was in the early 70s. The college girls were all atwitter.


WITOLD LUTOSLAWSKI (1913-1994)
Partita for violin and piano

Five movements: Allegro giusto; Ad libitum; Largo; Ad libitum; Presto.

In 1988, Lutoslawski made a new version of the Partita for violin and orchestra especially for Anne-Sophie Mutter. Where I read this, I do not know, but in reference to Lutoslawski I jotted down, “Greatest violin virtuosos of our time.”

CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Opus 75

“Though today only a few of his pieces remain part of the standard repertoire, he was a giant in his own time, known not only for his vast catalogue of compositions, but for his many other achievements (in addition to being probably the world’s greatest organist, he was an author, mathematician, scientist, philosopher, and overall genius) ...” – Jay Goodwin

When the concert ended, the audience did not want to let these remarkable musicians leave. The applause level remained high – hopeful, respectfully insistent. During the evening, they had walked across the stage about 16 times. Their walk was relaxed; they were comfortable. They smiled. Performing around the world, they had made stages their own. Finally, when they returned with a purpose to their step, Mr. Orkis sat at the piano and Ms Mutter announced the encore would be Gershwin’s “Summertime.” A sigh trailed across the room.

Has “Summertime” ever been played more tenderly? I doubt it.

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THE ARTS ETC

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TANGLEWOOd 75

Boston Symphony Orchestra
131st season, 2011-2012

Saturday, July 7, 8:30pm
THE EVELYN AND SAMUEL LOURIE MEMORIAL CONCERT

MICHAEL STERN, conducting

BARBER Overture to “The School for Scandal,” Opus 5

RAVEL “Tzigane,” Concert Rhapsody for violin and orchestra

JOSHUA BELL

MEYER Double Concerto for Violin, Double Bass, and Orchestra
(world premier)

(In three movements)

JOSHUA BELL
EDGAR MEYER

{ I N T E R M I S S I O N }

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Opus 36 (*75)
Andante sostenuto – Moderato con anima
Andantino in modo di canzona
Scherzo (Pizzicato ostinato): Allegro
Finale: Allegro con fuoco

(*75) Performed during the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s first
Tanglewood season, on August 7, 1937

 

REVIEWED by DONNA BAILEY-THOMPSON

 

2012. Hot. Heat waves assaulted much of the country. In the wake of fierce storms hitting the Mid-Atlantic, the absence of electricity prompted opening cooling shelters and theorization about global warning. Seventy-five years ago, 1937, Edward R. Murrow was stationed in Europe where speculation about the likelihood of war dominated conversation. Not one of this evening’s featured performers had yet to be born. Their artistry provided the attentive audience a respite from conventional stress triggers. Lifted were their spirits. Music swirled throughout the mighty Koussevitzky Shed. New memories were created.

Barber’s overture to “The School for Scandal” provided light touches with serious statements. The well-written Notes on the Program by Marc Mandel said it this way: “Intended from the start for concert performance rather than in conjunction with a theatrical production of the play, Barber’s music evokes the sly wit and humor of Sheridan’s comedy. As the composer put it, he intended it ‘as a musical reflection of the play’s spirit.’” After a lively description about themes and meter, Mandel writes: “In its eight-minute span, Barber’s initial orchestral opus bears out the evaluation by George Boyle, his first piano teacher at Curtis: ‘Astonishingly musical insight and a very extraordinary gift for composition.’”

The combination of composer Maurice Ravel and violinist Joshua Bell filled me with positive expectations. I was not familiar with “Tzigane” (Concert Rhapsody for violin and orchestra). If I had read Marc Mandel’s Program Notes before Mr. Bell began playing, I probably would have derived even greater pleasure (if that were possible) from his achingly beautiful tones, soaring passages that abruptly plummeted into deep melancholy followed by cheerful birdlike climbing to twigs too fragile to support a visitor who weighed next to nothing, thereby setting the stage for this amazing violinest’s ability to sustain a note in the highest registers until it slowly fades into nothingness. Yet this same outstanding musician, magician-like can – and does – become triple forte assertive. I’ve left out the best part: the orchestra was still. The violinist was playing, only the violinist, passage after passage, emptying his heart, creating a personal link with every one in the audience. In a way, it was as if we’d become voyeurs but in another way, it was as if the violinist was entrusting his soul with his confessor. When the orchestra under the direction of guest artist Michael Stern (music director of the Kansas City Symphony with an impressive resume) joined the violinist, an expanded dialog modified the dynamics. However, Ravel’s score preordained Mr. Bell’s artistry would triumph. From beginning to end, he embodied the gypsy, Tzigane.

 

The enthusiastic applause that greeted the musicians responsible for the next performance suggested a majority were there for the world premiere of Edgar Meyer’s Double Concerto for Violin, Double Bass, and Orchestra. The presentation was fascinating. Thanks to the Program Notes prepared by composer-annotator Robert Kirzinger, I can pass along that “Meyer composed the violin part ...specifically for Joshua Bell. ...The idea of dance permeates the music, which features light orchestration supporting the buoyant, virtuosic interplay – both cooperative and contrasting – between the soloists.” They met when Joshua Bell was 12 and Meyer was seeking a degree in music. Mr. Meyer had become obsessed with his father’s double bass. “His father’s eclectic tastes were a big influence, too, in part explaing Meyer’s boundary-free approach that encompasses classical, jazz, country, folk, and bluegrass....In his concertos, a restrained, classical use of the orchestra combines with exuberant, often dancing solo parts demonstrating the joy of performance.” My sight lines were impaired by a tall man with broad shoulders. Occasionally I could make out Mr. Meyer’s head bending forward while off to the side, Mr.Bell swayed into an exchange of music talk. Because the limited visualization was what it was, I could dismiss the inconvenience because I was fortified by Tzigane. The initial roar drowned out the applause but whetted appetites for four or five energetic curtain calls.

Following intermission, how does one capitalize on the earlier roar of the crowd? Elementary, my dear Watson: shock the audience with the opening salvos – extreme enough to wake the dead – of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor.. Confuse a relative handful with the ending of the first movement: does one clap or sit on his/her hands? No doubts are raised about the second and third movements; the latter is everything pizzicato. With the grand finale – Allegro con fuoco – the audience clapped and cheered.

Conductor Michael Stern deserves applause especially for him. He made his Tanglewood debut, triumphing with Barber, Ravel and Joshua Bell, Meyer’s world premiere, and the exhilarated Tchaikovsky, poised to next write his Symphony
No 5. Not too shabby for a debut.

 

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THE ARTS ETC

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SUMMER - 2011

Tanglewood

SMETANA, MOZART, TCHAIKOVSKY

CONDUCTOR, LIONEL BRINGUIER

SOLOIST, EMANUEL AX

AUGUST 7, 2011

OPEN REHEARSAL

PROKOFIEV, SCHUMANN, BRAHMS

CONDUCTOR, CHRISTOPH VON DOHNANYI

SOLOIST, YO-YO- MA

AUGUST 13, 2011


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