Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 26, 2018

REVIEW: Tanglewood, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 23, 2018
by Michael J. Moran

Except for a few veterans who may return for a second or third season, the TMCO is a new orchestra every summer, when it comes together for eight weeks. Advanced students at the start of their musical careers present professional-level performances of music ranging from the standard classical repertoire to rarely heard material to world premieres. This concert featured one piece from each category.

Programmed as part of Tanglewood’s “Bernstein Centennial Summer,” the seldom heard item which opened the evening was Leonard Bernstein’s “choreographic essay” based on his 1946 ballet “Facsimile.” The scenario depicts the attempts of a woman and two men to connect with each other, and the sharply contrasting moods of the Coplandesque score were dramatically rendered by the musicians under the dynamic leadership of Taiwanese conducting fellow Yu An Chang.

Gemma New
The first half of the concert closed with the world premiere of a TMC commission, Michael Gandolfi’s stunning cantata, “In America.” Asked to follow the model of Leonard Bernstein’s “Songfest” (on the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s August 4 program), Gandolfi set a variety of American texts for six vocal fellows and orchestra in a colorful, eclectic style. The whole ensemble was animated in the hilarious “In America We Coin a Phrase,” while soprano Elena Villalon was particularly affecting in Robert Kennedy’s “Even in Our Sleep,” and bass-baritone William Socolof delivered a poignant “My Friends,” by Cesar Chavez. New Zealand-born conducting fellow Gemma New led a riveting account.

The program’s established masterpiece, which followed intermission, was Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony, commissioned in 1944 for the BSO by their conductor Serge Koussevitsky and completed in 1946. Despite moments of deep solemnity, its four movements capture the spacious feeling of optimism exuded by this “dean of American composers” in his prime, even incorporating his famous “Fanfare for the Common Man” to open the finale. TMC conducting faculty head Stefan Asbury inspired playing of technical finesse and passionate conviction from his young musicians.

Two more upcoming TMCO concerts this summer look equally enticing. Both in Ozawa Hall, they feature: music of Ruder, Ades, Barry, and Lutoslawski, led by TMC conducting fellows and BSO “artistic partner” and composer Thomas Ades (July 30); and music of Schreker, Haydn, and Lutoslawski, led by fellows and BSO music director Andris Nelsons (August 13).