Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 26, 2020

REVIEW: Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, Week Eight

Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival
August 17-23, 2020
by Michael J. Moran

For the eighth and closing week of its virtual 2020 season, Tanglewood scaled back its video streams slightly from the busy prior week to two educational programs and six concerts.

Dawn Upshaw
In the Tanglewood Learning Institute’s Wednesday afternoon masterclass, soprano Dawn Upshaw, Head of the Tanglewood Music Center Vocal Arts Program, helped four soprano members of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus find and give voice to all the “different colors [and] layers of expression” in songs by Beach, Kernis, Strauss, and Debussy. In a follow-up Zoom chat with TLI Director Sue Elliott, Upshaw reiterated the importance of clear diction in all languages and repertoire for TMC vocal students with her trademark warmth and good humor. 

On Thursday’s “TLI ShopTalks” episode, Elliott Zoom-interviewed Keith Lockhart on his 25 years as Boston Pops Conductor and Gus Sebring, Boston Symphony Orchestra assistant principal horn, on his 39 years of experience in the Pops and the BSO. Avowed “musical omnivores,” they agreed on the core Pops mission to reflect tradition and contemporary styles with “no boundaries.” In sharing unforgettable career moments, both recalled a second-balcony “fist fight” that once interrupted a Pops concert in Symphony Hall.

Monday evening’s TMC orchestra concert consisted entirely of a powerful 2019 account of the third and final act of Wagner’s opera “Die Walkure,” led by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons. In a pre-concert interview with BSO artistic administrator Tony Fogg and soprano Christine Goerke, Nelsons stressed the value to these young musicians of this rare opportunity to perform a complete opera (the other two acts were presented in separate concerts) with professional singers. Goerke was magnificent as Brunnhilde, one of her signature roles.

The annual “Tanglewood on Parade” concert presents members of all the festival’s resident ensembles, and Tuesday evening’s video stream featured highlights from several recent “Parades.” Genially hosted by Tanglewood megastar James Taylor, who also sang memorably with the TFC, the program included several delightful excerpts from James Burton’s “The Lost Words,” charmingly sung by the Boston Symphony Children’s Choir under the composer (who also directs the TFC), and ended with the traditional Parade closer, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” with an expanded orchestra stirringly conducted by Nelsons.

On Wednesday evening, frequent Tanglewood guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson played vibrant renditions of two Beethoven piano sonatas in an audience-free hall at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His eloquent spoken introductions clarified how the brief but sparkling 24th and the mammoth 29th (nicknamed the “Hammerklavier”) sonatas fit into the composer’s complete cycle of thirty-two piano sonatas. 

Like Wednesday’s masterclass, the Friday and Saturday evening concerts were recorded this summer without audience in Studio E of the Linde Center for Music and Learning at Tanglewood. Violinist Julianne Lee was the star of Friday’s concert, in which she was joined by other BSO string players in a buoyant Mozart duo and a heartfelt Schubert “Rosamunde” quartet, bookending Lee’s whirlwind reading of Daniel Bernard Roumain’s 2001 “Filter” for solo violin.

Joshua Bell
On Saturday, superstar violinist Joshua Bell (who, according to host Nicole Cabell, holds the record among guest artists for the most consecutive annual appearances at Tanglewood – since 1989) and his longtime recital partner, pianist Jeremy Denk, were electrifying in the two greatest of Beethoven’s ten violin and piano sonatas: the fifth (“Spring”) and ninth (“Kreutzer”) sonatas.

Sunday afternoon’s video stream brought the season-long focus on Beethoven’s 250th birthday anniversary to a climax with 2019’s dramatic performance under frequent BSO guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero of the traditional closer for every Tanglewood season: Beethoven’s ninth symphony. Along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, celebrating their own 50th anniversary this year, the “choral” finale, setting Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” boasted an outstanding quartet of diverse American soloists: soprano Nicole Cabell; mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges; tenor Nicholas Phan; and bass Morris Robinson.   

Most of these programs are free and will stay online at for a week or more after the dates above.