PITTSFIELD — I went to every performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Music Festival Orchestra in the Koussevitzky shed this summer, and attended almost all performances at Seiji Ozawa Hall. Tanglewood is indeed a local treasure that brings over 300,000 tourists per year to the area; and the $100 season’s pass for Berkshire residents is the greatest local steal.
In last year’s column, “Making Tanglewood Even Better,” I proposed putting Yo-Yo Ma on at night, so that he could be watched on the movie screens. This past August 9, he performed as a duo with pianist Emanuel Ax in an all-Beethoven program. Despite the fact that the BSO played earlier in the afternoon, the duo completely filled the shed and the lawn for a Sunday night performance. I was pleased to see Yo-Yo Ma perform four times this year; given that he lives in Tyringham, it is hoped that he continues to play at least four times per summer.
Every year, Yo-Yo Ma has one delightful, out-of-the-ordinary concert that features music other than pure classical. Ma’s August 13 concert was extraordinary, with eight cello players and a percussionist on stage playing a wide gamut of music. Question: With people showing up three hours before the gates open, and the lawn flooded two hours before the concert, just after the doors open, is Ma too big for Ozawa Hall? Should he always be in the shed?
Also, in last year’s column, I suggested that an additional piece be added before the season’s perennial finale, Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” The BSO added Copland’s “Symphonic Ode,” played by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. I think having the TMC Orchestra perform a piece before the Ninth is a great idea, and I hope it continues. And thank you, John Oliver, for your 45 years of leading the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The Berkshires salute you.
There was a serious snafu this year, but it was not the fault of Tanglewood. During the concert on July 18, with world-renowned mezzo-soprano Sarah Connelly flown in from England, her majestic performance of a Mozart aria was interrupted by fireworks from a wedding party at Under Mountain Road. Everyone I spoke with at Tanglewood was livid. I have talked to the Lenox town manager and Berkshire Fireworks, and they have assured me it will not happen again. My suggestion: Coordinate such 15-20 minute firework displays with Tanglewood’s intermission.
MORE FILM NIGHT FILMS
As for the Boston Pops, the Cirque de la Symphonie was a smashing success. Friends have said they like this array of “aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers, and strongmen” even more than Film Night. We wondered if this, too, could be a recurring event, provided there is some change in the acts.
And as for the unforgettable Film Night, which is justifiably a massively popular concert, I offer one small suggestion — more actual film footage. It is what the crowds come for and love.
As for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, my most cherished night was Mahler’s 8th Symphony, “The Symphony of a Thousand.” Mahler is known for his giant symphonies requiring massive staging — the antithesis of the small chamber orchestra. Between the soloists, Tanglewood Festival Choir and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 320 souls were on the stage, complete with an angelic female soloist singing from, literally, the ceiling. My only small critique: I wish the translated words w ould appear on-screen.
The jazz performances were at house capacity and well marketed. At Ozawa Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and Audra McDonald, were both sell-out successes and memorable evenings. And, I hope to keep seeing the Mark Morris Dance Group in the future.
One of the critiques I shared with a young man who is a frequent attendee is that we wish the Tanglewood Music Festival Orchestra played a little bit more often as a complete orchestra. It features a talented pool of select young musicians, and we wished they would perform three or four more times as a whole.
It should be added that the Monday night Tanglewood Brass Spectacular, featuring champion drum and bugle corps, was another brilliant moment of thinking outside the box. Like Cirque de la Symphonie, this is another prime candidate for an annual repeat performance.
But bravo to our young conductor, Andris Nelsons. Everyone raves about his enthusiasm. He becomes utterly transported to another realm when he conducts. He is peerless, pure joy and passion. His position as music director was extended to the 2021-2022 season, which ensures a bright future for the Boston Symphony.
Live on Tanglewood!