Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 21, 2020

REVIEW: Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, Week Three

Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival
July 13-19, 2020
by Michael J. Moran

The third week of Tanglewood’s virtual 2020 season offered engaging video streams of three educational programs and five concerts as well as a lively concert audio stream.

In its Tuesday “TLI Celebrates Beethoven” series, the Tanglewood Learning Institute presented Dr. Erica Buurman, Director of the Beethoven Center and Editor of its Beethoven Journal at San Jose State University. In a recorded lecture and a Zoom chat with TLI Director Sue Elliott, the Scottish-born musicologist demonstrated Beethoven’s “genuine interest” in the “Viennese popular style” of dance music, even in several of his late string quartets. 

A Wednesday masterclass found mezzo-soprano (and Tanglewood Music Center faculty member) Stephanie Blythe reviewing performances of musical theater songs by four duos of TMC vocal fellows and pianists recorded last summer before a live audience in Studio E of the Linde Center for Music and Learning at Tanglewood. Her deep knowledge of this repertoire and perceptive advice to these talented students was consistently effective and entertaining.

On Thursday’s “TLI ShopTalks” program, Elliott jointly Zoom-interviewed two Boston Symphony members (Cynthia Meyers, piccolo and flute; and Robert Sheena, English horn and oboe), who also answered live-chat audience questions, sharing much candid history about their musical “origin stories,” playing for different conductors and in various concert halls, and daily life at opposite ends of the same row in the orchestra. 

Monday evening’s TMC orchestra concert featured a glowing conductor-less 2018 performance by a mostly standing orchestra of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” and a gripping 2016 Brahms first symphony under BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons. At intermission TMC Orchestral Studies Head Ed Gazouleas tells TMC Conducting Head Stefan Asbury how he coached the students in the Tchaikovsky piece.  
The Jussens
From Dutch brother pianists Lucas and Arthur Jussen in Wednesday evening’s “Recitals from the World Stage” concert came charisma to spare in piano four-hands music by Mozart, Schubert, and Ravel, recorded two weeks earlier before a masked, widely spaced, but loudly enthusiastic audience in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. The program’s showstopper was Polish composer Hanna Kulenty’s mysterious “VAN,” written for the Jussens in 2014.

On Friday evening, BSO violinist Lucia Lin and cellist Owen Young joined other BSO musicians in sensuous accounts of music, recorded audience-free in Studio E last month, by Ravel, Loeffler, and Gabriela Lena Frank. A Saturday “Great Performers” concert in the same venue, also without audience, presented frequent Tanglewood guest violinist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsyth in stirring performances of Kodaly’s Duo and Beethoven’s curious Duet “with two obbligato eyeglasses.”

Sunday morning’s audio stream of TMC chamber music concerts, recorded before live audiences between 2015 and 2019, featured vocal music by a wide range of composers, from Bach to Britten, and insightful commentary by TMC Vocal Arts Program Head, soprano Dawn Upshaw. Most striking were 2015 TMC commission “Fire and Ice,” Fred Lerdahl’s lush setting of Robert Frost’s poem, and Schoenberg’s transcendent second string quartet, with soprano solo.

In Sunday afternoon’s video stream, beloved BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink led the orchestra in a 2013 program that began with German violinist Isabelle Faust in an elegant Mozart fifth violin concerto and ended with a ravishing Mahler fourth symphony. Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling sang dreamily in the last movement. Host Jamie Bernstein endearingly recalled her father, Leonard Bernstein, reading the Mahler score at her childhood family poolside.   

Classical music fans can catch these programs, most of which are free, online at for seven days after these dates.