Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 2, 2017


Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 29-30, 2017
by Michael J. Moran

Regular guest conductors always bring a special excitement to Tanglewood, especially when they’re accompanied by world-class vocal and instrumental soloists. All this and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus made for two memorable concerts over the past weekend.

On Saturday evening suave Swiss-born maestro Charles Dutoit opened his program with Stravinsky’s early “Chant Funebre,” written in memory of his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, after the latter’s death in 1908, then lost until rediscovered only in 2015. The BSO and Dutoit presented a somber, intense performance of this dark-hued twelve-minute elegy.

A virtuosic rendition of Ravel’s “Piano Concerto for the Left Hand,” commissioned in 1930 by Viennese pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in World War I, showcased the protean technical and interpretive skills of French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

The Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the Choral Arts Society of Washington Youth Choir, tenor Paul Groves, and organist James David Christie joined the orchestra and conductor on a very full stage for a riveting account of Berlioz’s massive “Te Deum.” The six movements of this fifty-minute ceremonial hymn of praise alternate between grand and hushed tones. Groves sang the quiet fifth movement with lyrical plangency, and Dutoit led the assembled forces with power, color, and precision.

On Sunday afternoon jovial Canadian maestro Bramwell Tovey was joined by soloist Pinchas Zukerman in a relaxed yet bracing presentation of Beethoven’s mighty violin concerto. Clearly at home with the piece and at ease with the musicians, Zukerman brought warmth to the long opening “Allegro,” tenderness to the central “Larghetto,” and romping high spirits to the closing “Rondo.” Tovey’s rapport with the BSO elicited playing of deep emotion and finesse.
Ryan Speedo Green

Perhaps the most astonishing performance of the entire weekend was that of rising African-American bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green as the blazing soloist in Walton’s dramatic oratorio “Belshazzar’s Feast.” For such a young singer (he’s 31), Green has exemplary breath control, and the stunning power of his sound must be heard in person to be believed. Tovey, along with the orchestra, chorus, and soloist, made this gripping score sound as fresh as if it had been written yesterday.