Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
by Michael J. Moran
As already noted in previous installments of this series, Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, presents a wider range of programming and features a greater variety of performers than most other summer music festivals around the world.
The Emerson String Quartet, for example, has long been regular visitors to Tanglewood, and their concert this year in Ozawa Hall offered typically eclectic fare. The four short movements of Charles Ives’ first quartet, subtitled “From the Salvation Army,” mixes quotes from several popular hymns with futuristic original material in a uniquely Ivesian stew exuberantly served up in this performance. Completing the American first half of the program was Lowell Liebermann’s fifth quartet, commissioned and introduced just last year by the Emersons, who played this inviting post-Romantic score with brilliant sheen and warm affection.
Intermission was followed by a stirring account of Beethoven’s sixteenth and final quartet, the last work he completed, only months before his death. The musicians brought a solemn radiance to the “Lento” third movement and a compelling urgency to the enigmatic finale.
Making only their second appearance at Tanglewood, on the other hand, were the Knights, a Brooklyn-based “orchestral collective…defying boundaries with programs that showcase the players’…passion for musical discovery,” according to the program notes. Co-founded several years ago by brothers Eric and Colin Jacobsen, who also serve as conductor (or cellist) and concertmaster respectively, their program this year was even more varied than the Emersons’.
Commemorating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” the centerpiece was Manuel DeFalla’s rarely heard “Master Peter’s Puppet Show,” in which an innkeeper (Master Peter) is presenting a puppet show with a boy narrator that keeps getting interrupted by Don Quixote. Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelson was a hilarious and poignant Don, tenor Nicholas Phan an amusingly exasperated Peter, and soprano Awet Andemicael a touchingly sweet narrator. Visual artist Kevork Mourad provided stunning live puppet drawings which were projected on a screen behind the stage of Ozawa Hall. Ketelson also shone in Ravel’s delightful song cycle “Don Quixote to Dulcinea.”
Concerts in both Ozawa Hall and the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood continue through August 23 and should be part of every New England music lover’s summer.