Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 29, 2020

REVIEW: Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, Week Four

Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival
July 20-26, 2020
by Michael J. Moran

During the fourth week of its virtual 2020 season, Tanglewood offered exciting video streams of three educational programs and six concerts, as well as a wide-ranging concert audio stream.

Tuesday’s “Tanglewood Learning Institute Celebrates Beethoven” episode featured Nicholas Kitchen, first violinist of the Boston-based Borromeo String Quartet. In an absorbing recorded lecture, which included performances by the Quartet of two Beethoven quartet movements, and a recent Zoom chat with TLI Director Sue Elliott, he used score-writer software to illustrate the remarkable variety and subtlety of the expressive markings in Beethoven’s late quartets. 

Astrid Schween
TLI’s Wednesday masterclass presented Juilliard String Quartet cellist (and Tanglewood Music Center faculty member) Astrid Schween coaching three TMC cello fellows in Bach cello suite movements as recorded earlier this month without audience in Studio E of the Linde Center for Music and Learning at Tanglewood. Schween was warm and insightful with the students and in a subsequent Zoom conversation with TMC Associate Director Michael Nock.

Thursday’s “TLI ShopTalks” program found Elliott jointly Zoom-interviewing two young star singers: African-American soprano Nicole Cabell; and Asian-American tenor Nicholas Phan. In responding also to live-chat audience questions, they recounted their musical beginnings, addressed the different vocal demands of opera performance and recital singing, and expressed lively opinions about how to increase diversity in the classical music field.

Monday evening’s TMC orchestra concert showcased 2016 performances which had “irresistible energy” and “edge-of-the-seat” intensity of the Brahms first piano concerto (with English pianist Paul Lewis and Boston Symphony Music Director Andris Nelsons) and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite #2 (under Stephane Deneve). In an intermission Zoom chat with TMC Conducting Head Stefan Asbury, Lewis described this youthful orchestra with the quoted words above.  
Recorded last week in Studio E without audience for Wednesday evening’s “Recitals from the World Stage” concert, the adventurous string quartet Brooklyn Rider were edgy in new music by Caroline Shaw, Matana Roberts, and Philip Glass, and cooler in Beethoven’s “Holy Song of Thanksgiving for a Convalescent” than the Borromeo on Monday. Spoken introductions by three of the musicians added a welcome personal touch.  

Thursday evening’s “virtual gala” tribute to Ukrainian-born violinist Isaac Stern on his 100th birthday anniversary comprised performance excerpts and personal reminiscences. Highlights included: Stern rehearsing in Russian with Music Director Serge Koussevitzky at his 1948 BSO debut; tutoring young violin students during a 1978 visit to China; and a hilarious tale of a Stern concert mishap gleefully told by bandmates cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax.

Augustin Hadelich
On Friday evening, BSO string section members were magisterial in Bach’s Chaconne (Victor Romanul, violin) and heartwarming in less familiar fare by African-American composers William Grant Still and Florence Price. Saturday’s “Great Performers” concert, recorded audience-free in Studio E, like Friday’s, offered young German violinist Augustin Hadelich and rising American pianist Orion Weiss in riveting accounts of sonatas by Debussy and Brahms and John Adams’s delightful suite “Road Movies.”

In Sunday morning’s audio stream of TMC chamber music concerts, recorded before live audiences in 2015 and 2018, TMC piano fellows played music by six composers, including a sterling Beethoven “Archduke” Piano Trio, a luxuriant Amy Beach piano quintet, and a playful “I prefer living in color” (featuring muted piano strings) by TMC 2018 composition fellow Sarah Gibson.

Sunday afternoon’s video stream brought frequent guest conductor Andre Previn to the podium in a 2007 BSO program that moved from a relaxed Mozart Symphony #29 to an incandescent Haydn first cello concerto, with charismatic German cellist Daniel Muller-Schott, a sultry Ravel “Scheherazade,” with plush-voiced American mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, and a sumptuous Ravel “Mother Goose” ballet. Host Jamie Bernstein’s father, Leonard Bernstein, led the BSO at Tanglewood in an impassioned 1974 encore of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony.   

Don’t miss out on these mostly free programs, which will stay online at for a week after the above dates.