Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 18, 2020

REVIEW: Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, Week Seven

Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival
August 10-16, 2020
by Michael J. Moran

The seventh week of Tanglewood’s virtual 2020 season offered video streams of four educational programs and five concerts, as well as a concert audio stream.

For the third and final Monday afternoon program in the Tanglewood Learning Institute’s “Roaring Twenties” series, Dean of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts Dr. Harvey Young reviewed the 1920s roots of such new theatrical forms as vaudeville and variety shows. In Wednesday’s panel discussion, moderated by TLI Director Sue Elliott, Young was joined by previous series presenters, Dr. Nadine Hubbs from the University of Michigan, and Dr. Christi Jay Wells of Arizona State University, for a lively conversation on how race, religion, and new media helped shape the arts of the decade.   

Malcom Lowe
In TLI’s Wednesday afternoon masterclass, retired Boston Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Malcolm Lowe coached three accomplished 2020 Tanglewood Music Center violin fellows in solo passages for concertmaster from standard repertory works by six composers, including Rimsky-Korsakov (“Scheherazade”) and Tchaikovsky (“Swan Lake”). He also shared valuable insights from his 35-year BSO career into the many other leadership roles of the typical orchestra concertmaster.

Thursday’s “TLI ShopTalks” installment found Elliott interviewing BSO President and CEO Mark Volpe on his 23 years in that position and his plans to retire next year. While missing live music at Tanglewood this summer, he values the BSO’s strong artistic profile and financial security via “multiple brands” and “relationships,” including the growing international audience which this year’s online festival is reaching. He foresees a productively blended future of live performance and new media activity for the BSO.

On Monday evening’s TMC orchestra concert, BSO artistic partner Thomas Ades led a powerful 2019 account of his own “Asyla” and a stunning 2018 rendition of Lutoslawski’s third symphony, both in Ozawa Hall. In an intermission Zoom interview with TMC Conducting Program Head Stefan Asbury, Ades noted that by playing such recent works during Tanglewood’s annual Festival of Contemporary Music, these young musicians learn that “nothing is impossible” to perform compellingly. 

Like the Lowe masterclass and the Volpe interview, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evening concerts were all recorded this summer without audience in Studio E of the Linde Center for Music and Learning at Tanglewood. Surrounded by trios of Poulenc and Brahms, the centerpiece of Wednesday’s program by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players was Allison Loggins-Hull’s haunting 2017 “Homeland,” in a riveting solo by principal flute Elizabeth Rowe.

Conrad Tao
Friday’s concert began with three BSO string players in an exuberant Beethoven string trio in G and ended with a selection of lower brass pieces, culminating in a riotous world premiere of Kevin Day’s “Ignition” and a soulful arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday.” On Saturday charismatic American pianist Conrad Tao played a sensational program that framed a protean Beethoven “Tempest” sonata with challenging newer rarities by Ruth Crawford Seeger, Tania Leon, and, most memorably, Felipe Lara’s 2017 “Injust Intonations,” which the Brazilian composer calls “a modest gesture in support of #BlackLivesMatter.”

In Sunday morning’s final audio stream of 2016-2019 TMC chamber music concerts before live audiences in Ozawa Hall, a mellow Brahms Piano Trio in C and an exhilarating Beethoven third “Razumovsky” quartet bookended three 21st-century pieces, of which the standout was the “Introit” movement from 2015 TMC composition fellow Nathan Shields’s “funny and terrifying” (in the apt description of co-host TMC Associate Director Michael Nock) brass and percussion tour-de-force “Vigil.” 

Sunday afternoon’s video stream presented one of Volpe’s most beloved BSO “brands,” the Boston Pops, in excerpts from two of their annual Tanglewood concerts, featuring film music (2013) and a tribute to jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman (2009). Highlights included: an electrifyingly brassy John Williams “Summon the Heroes;” BSO associate principal clarinet Thomas Martin in a ravishing first movement of Copland’s clarinet concerto, written for Goodman; and a rousing traditional Pops closer, Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”  

These programs, mostly free, will stay online at for at least a week after the above dates.