Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 25, 2022

ON THE ROAD: Boston Symphony Orchestra, "A Week at Tanglewood"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
August 19-23, 2022
by Shera Cohen

The numbers told the story of a single week enjoying the music of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) at Tanglewood. In the Spotlight sent seven of its reviewers to cover five concerts led by four conductors playing the works of eight composers bringing 28 pieces to life. This list omits the dozen+ pieces for "Remembering Stephen Sondheim" and 14+ selections by John Williams in Tanglewood's prestigious honor for the maestro's 90th Birthday Celebration.

Our head Classical Music Reviewer, Michael Moran, has covered each of the concerts in the Recital Series. Over the years, these music events have displayed the talents of world-renowned soloist or ensembles. Pianist Garrick Ohlsson took the Ozawa Hall stage most of the evenings; each concentrating heavily on Brahms. 

The passing of composer Stephen Sondheim this year has left so many memories, particularly his instantly identified style on Broadway. Sondheim's cadre of groundbreaking, distinct contributions of "Follies" and "Company" and organic perfection of shows like "A Little Night Music" and "Sweeney Todd" celebrated the legacy of a true musical luminary. Boston Pops leader Keith Lockhart, along with four vocalists, took his baton as one Sondheim classic flowed into another. (See full review HERE)

It was my turn at the computer, reviewing Tanglewood's John Williams 90th Birthday Celebration. I have attended many of the John Williams concerts, whether Mr. Williams is conducting his own music and/or music of other composers. This was the first time for me to see this master composure/conductor not lift a finger, that is until the finale of the concert. A beautiful evening for an extraordinary show, was complete with guest video salutes from Steven Spielberg, and others, and a chronological documentary of John Williams life. Every season Tanglewood schedules at least one "must see". This was it. [See full review HERE

Over the decades, I have encouraged several friends and acquaintances who think that they don't like Classical music to have a taste; return if they appreciate the program, decide to occasionally take another bite, or never return. For those in the latter category, so be it. I tried. The best way to sample the experience of Tanglewood, the sounds of dozens of professional musicians at their instruments, and the grandeur of the landscape is to attend a Saturday rehearsal at 10:30am (9:30am to hear the pre-rehearsal talk). Rehearsals are less expensive than the "real concert," whether you sit on the lawn or in the Shed. The musicians are dressed just as casually as the audience members. Oftentimes, the music piece is rehearsed straight through, and only afterward does the conductor point out corrections to perfect. Other times, the conductor starts and stops several times. Remember, this is a rehearsal for the musicians to "get it right". I find the start and stop method extremely educational. Although, I admit that I never hear errors.

Saturday rehearsals prepare the musicians for Sunday afternoon performances. The grounds are also open on Thursday and Friday mornings for rehearsals. Just walk in and sit on the lawn. On these mornings, usually rehearsals of Friday night's 8pm concert takes place. Recommend calling ahead.

Photo Courtesy of Itzhak Perlman Images
Nearly every Saturday evening and/or Sunday afternoon performance features a special guest(s) either at the podium or seated with instrument in hand or both. The glorious sounds from violinist Itzhak Perlman were on the bill. I can't believe that I just now typed that sentence. Perlman's name is synonymous with violin, of course. However, I was not familiar with German conductor Max Bruch. Perlman's interpretation of Bruch's Violin Concerto in G minor was tender and loving. I would have been happy listening for hours.