Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 12, 2011

Ozawa Hall Concerts

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July & August, 2011
by Michael J. Moran

The largest audiences at Tanglewood attend the weekend programs by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the Koussevitzsky Music Shed. But comparable pleasures await listeners who attend the many smaller-scale concerts presented, usually on weeknights, in the more intimate setting of Seiji Ozawa Hall.

The same world-class soloists who perform on weekends often come early or stay on to present standard repertoire pieces from novel perspectives. July, for example, featured a stellar evening of the Emerson String Quartet playing the last quartets written by Haydn, Bartok, and Schubert. Their technically flawless performances were given added emotional weight by the knowledge that these final statements in this medium were made late in each composer's life.   

The following week, Jean-Yves Thibaudet (the soloist in both Ravel concertos that Sunday) played Ravel's complete music for solo piano over two evenings. Even listeners who caught only one program were treated to insightful performances of such comparative rarities as the complete "Miroirs" suite and the exquisite miniature "A La Maniere de Borodin,"which sounded more like a product of the Russian master himself than Ravel.

Photo Credit:  Steve Rosenthal
A special treat two weeks later was the opening concert of the 2011 Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in which Festival Director Charles Wuorinen led an ensemble of Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) vocal and instrumental students in two of his own works, including the world premiere of "It Happens Like This," a "cantata" setting seven whimsical poems by James Tate. The music was delightful and surprisingly accessible, and the performances expert.
In an August 10 concert by "Stephanie Blythe and Friends," the mezzo-soprano, who started her career as a TMC student, shared the stage with her "friends" John Oliver and his Tanglewood Festival Chorus and several instrumental soloists in two works written for her by Alan Louis Smith, including another world premiere. But perhaps the high point of the evening was her soaring a capella rendition of Lowry's "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

The most heartening aspect of Ozawa Hall concerts may be the large contingent in every audience of TMC students, the future of classical music.