Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 27, 2023

REVIEW: "Tanglewood's Exceptional Work - Not Just 1, but 4 Concerts"

Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
August 6, 9, 16 & 22, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Every summer Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall hosts world-class artists in many genres from across the globe. Four August concerts showcased the remarkable range of these attractions. 

The centerpiece of pianist Aaron Diehl’s August 6 program, with drummer Aaron Kimmel and bassist David Wong, was a sensitive reading of the first 12 in jazz pianist-composer Sir Roland Hanna’s rarely heard 1976 cycle of 24 Preludes. Diehl’s arrangements for trio of these expansive miniatures were faithful to their mixed classical and jazz roots, reflecting Debussy, bebop, and Rachmaninoff in equal measure. A dreamy account of Diehl’s own “Polaris,” a gently swinging take on his “Stella’s Groove,” honoring his mother, and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” in tango rhythm were other highlights of this imaginative show.   

Alisa Weilerstein photo by Hilary Scott 

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s hour-long August 9 program, entitled “Fragments 2,” defied tradition by mixing excerpts from newly commissioned multi-movement works with selections from Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello, playing them without pauses, and identifying them only after the performance. Varied lighting against a background of scenic elements, according to director Elkhanah Pulitzer, aimed to focus listeners on “the primacy of varying musical voices in dialogue.” Most affecting among the 18 pieces Weilerstein played with conviction and virtuosity, were seven by Bach and three each by Ana Sokolovic and Caroline Shaw, one of whose “Microfictions” included a touching vocalise by the cellist.    
O'Hara & Lipton photo by Hilary Scott
Pianist Bruce Liu’s concert a week later followed a more conventional format, though his repertoire was highly eclectic. First Prize winner at the 2021 Chopin International Piano Competition with Canadian, French, and Chinese roots, he moved fluidly through: an elegant selection of Rameau harpsichord pieces; a dramatic Beethoven “Waldstein” sonata; three glowing Chopin “Nouvelles Etudes;” a visceral Chopin “Funeral March” sonata; and a jazzy set of Variations, Opus 41, by Ukrainian Nikolai Kapustin. He capped the evening with a ravishing encore, Chopin’s posthumously published Nocturne #20 in C-sharp minor. 
On August 22, classically trained soprano, Broadway star, and Metropolitan Opera diva Kelli
O’Hara sang songs, some from shows she starred in, and shared memories from her career with engaging charisma. Her clear, radiant voice and expressive acting skills, backed by Dan Lipton’s agile piano, delivered gems like: an ebullient “What More Do I Need?,” from Sondheim’s “Saturday Night;” an ecstatic title song from Adam Guettel’s “Light in the Piazza;” a winning “Sun Went Out,” by her husband, Greg Naughton, with sweet vocal harmony from Lipton; a stirring “To Build a House,” from Jason Robert Brown’s “Bridges of Madison County;” and a vibrant “La Vie en Rose,” by Edith Piaf, in idiomatic French.   

Her jubilant encore, “I Could Have Danced All Night,” from Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” brought this far-reaching Ozawa Hall season to a festive close.