Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 13, 2021

REVIEW: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Simon/Sibelius/Dvorak

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 11, 2021
by Michael J. Moran

The breathtaking sight of the full BSO unmasked and un-distanced, in their traditional summer white attire, drew a collective roar from an appreciative, near-capacity crowd as their Music Director Andris Nelsons strode onto the stage of the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood Sunday afternoon to lead their second concert (the first was the previous night) before a live audience in sixteen months. 

It opened with rising African-American composer Carlos Simon’s 2020 “Fate Now Conquers,” quoting from an entry in Beethoven’s diary and reflecting the insistent rhythms of the Allegretto movement in Beethoven’s seventh symphony. The visceral account by Nelsons and his musicians brought this energetic five-minute score to vivid and colorful life. The composer took a well-earned bow to enthusiastic applause.

Baiba Skride
Latvian-born (like Nelsons) violinist Baiba Skride was next featured in a powerfully probing rendition of the 1904 violin concerto by Jean Sibelius. Flexible tempos heightened the intensity of the “Allegro moderato” first movement, from the delicate beauty of her opening phrase to the blazing drama of her cadenza. The ravishing “Adagio di molto” was even dreamier than usual, while Skride played the “Allegro, ma non tanto” finale with rollicking high spirits. Orchestra and conductor accompanied the incandescent soloist with polish and flair.      

The concert closed with a radiant performance of Antonin Dvorak’s 1880 sixth symphony. From a bucolic opening “Allegro ma non tanto,” an expansive “Adagio,” an effervescent “Scherzo” in the driving rhythm of the Czech “Furiant” dance, to a jubilant “Allegro con spirito” finale, Nelsons was at his inspired best, raising this seldom heard masterpiece to its rightful place among Dvorak’s finest creations. In an “only-at-Tanglewood” moment that the composer himself might have appreciated, a chorus of voluble birds added their own local color to the “Adagio.”  

In compliance with current CDC Covid-19 guidelines, masks are not required at Tanglewood for fully vaccinated patrons but are encouraged for others. All concerts this summer are approximately 90 minutes long, without intermission, and seating capacity is limited to 50 percent. Many concerts are also livestreamed virtually and available on demand at modest cost through the BSO’s web site.