Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 16, 2019

REVIEW: Tanglewood, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 15, 2019
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. “Young professional-level musicians of exceptional ability…on full fellowships” perform music ranging from the standard classical repertoire to rarely heard material to world premieres. This concert in Ozawa Hall featured one piece from each category.

The seldom-heard work, which opened the evening, was Respighi’s 1927 “Botticelli Triptych,” three musical impressions of paintings by Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. “Spring” was bright and ecstatic; “The Adoration of the Magi” was haunting, with radiant solos by bassoonist Jordan Brokken and oboist Andrew van der Paardt in quotes from the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel;” and “The Birth of Venus” was warm and heartfelt. Australian-born conducting fellow Nathan Aspinall led a polished performance.

Helen Grime
The first half of the concert closed with the world premiere of a joint TMC/Boston Symphony commission, Helen Grime’s “Limina,” a thirteen-minute depiction of “thresholds” between various expressive states. The densely orchestrated score for large ensemble produced a range of sonorities, from forbidding to caressing, but these fearless musicians met its awesome technical demands with aplomb. Irish conducting fellow Killian Farrell directed a stunningly virtuosic performance. A TMC composition fellow in 2008, the Scottish composer expressed her appreciation to them all in a curtain call.

The program’s established masterpiece, which followed intermission, was Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, which he himself nicknamed the “Pathetique” after its first performance just a week before his sudden death in 1893. From a deeply felt opening “Adagio-Allegro non troppo,” to a delicate “Allegro con grazia,” a scintillating “Allegro molto vivace,” and a devastating “Adagio lamentoso” finale, TMC conducting faculty head Stefan Asbury inspired playing of technical finesse and passionate conviction from his young musicians. Outstanding solo performers were bassoonist Morgan Davison and clarinetist Kelsi Landon Doolittle.

Several upcoming TMCO concerts this summer look especially enticing. BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will lead them in a complete three-concert production of Wagner’s opera “Die Walkure” in the Koussevitzky Music Shed (July 27-28); and BSO “artistic partner” and composer Thomas Ades and TMC conducting fellows will direct them in the closing program of the annual Festival of Contemporary Music, this year honoring the late Oliver Knussen, in Ozawa Hall (August 12).