Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 15, 2020

REVIEW: Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, Week Two

Tanglewood Online Festival
July 6-12, 2020
by Michael J. Moran

For the second week of its virtual 2020 season, Tanglewood offered video streams of one more educational program and two more concerts than in its opening week.

On Tuesday the Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI) showed Steven Maes’s captivating 54-minute documentary “Inside the Hearing Machine,” in which Belgian pianist Tom Beghin explores Beethoven’s pianos and a special resonator built to straddle his last piano which enabled the deaf composer to “hear” musical vibrations. TLI Director Sue Elliott’s subsequent Zoom chat with Beghin dug deeper into how Beethoven may have “heard” his music as he wrote it.

Paul Lewis
A Wednesday masterclass by English pianist and frequent Tanglewood guest Paul Lewis was recorded before a live audience in Studio E of the Linde Center for Music and Learning at Tanglewood last summer. His unfailingly direct but always encouraging comments as three student pianists at the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) in turn played Haydn piano sonatas on a keyboard next to his brought out the best in these talented players.

Elliott’s joint Zoom interview on Thursday with Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra and African-American jazz saxophone player James Carter explored the musical “fluidity” which led Sierra to write a concerto for saxophones (tenor and baritone) and orchestra for Carter almost twenty years ago and their projections of a more “diverse” future for classical music. 

On Monday evening, enlivening TMC orchestra accounts of music by Wagner and Haydn (both led by Boston Symphony Music Director Andris Nelsons) and Ravel (led by TMC Conducting Program Head Stefan Asbury) were video streamed from concerts recorded in 2018 and 2019. In a 2020 Zoom conversation, Nelsons then tells Asbury how much better he believes the “unique” TMC educational program is than his own European training.
Wednesday evening brought Lewis back for the first of three audience-free concerts, this one recorded last month in London’s Wigmore Hall, with a probing rendition of “arguably Beethoven’s greatest piano work,” the Diabelli Variations, and a sensitive Brahms Intermezzo encore.

On Friday evening, BSO Associate Principal Horn Richard Sebring and other BSO musicians, recorded last month in Studio E, presented music by Schumann, Dukas, and Mozart.  Most memorable were two world premier duets by Sebring himself, one for horn and harp (with former TMC fellow Charles Overton), and one for two long alphorns (with BSO third horn Michael Winter), filmed on the Tanglewood lawn.

In a Saturday concert also recorded last month in scenic Studio E, favorite Tanglewood pianist Emanuel Ax played Beethoven’s early second and third piano sonatas and the beloved Bagatelle “Fur Elise” with his customary fervor and polish.

This Sunday morning’s audio stream of TMC chamber music concerts, recorded before live audiences in 2017 and 2018, featured music for woodwinds, brass, and percussion by eight varied composers, including Poulenc, Tomasi, and Hindemith. But the freshest pieces were recent TMC commissions by Scotland’s Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade and TMC composition fellow Theo Chandler.

In Sunday afternoon’s video stream, Nelsons led the BSO in a 2015 program that opened with the French trio of violinist Renaud Capucon, his brother, cellist Gautier Capucon, and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in a scintillating Beethoven “Triple” Concerto and closed with a thrilling Shostakovich tenth symphony.  As host Jamie Bernstein astutely notes, camera angles offer unique perspectives on Nelsons’s conducting techniques not easily seen in a concert hall.   

Most of these programs will stay online for seven days after the dates above. Classical music lovers should waste no time in checking them out.