Even Tuning Up Gets Applause as Tanglewood Reopens

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LENOX, Mass. — There was a time last summer when you could still return to Tanglewood, America’s idyllic summer home, if you were brave enough. Boston Symphony Orchestra Request. There were ordinary local teenagers directing you to your parking lot, pointing the way every few meters; usual state cops, patrol cars idle, a hat there to tip; the usual flowers line the path through the pristine white doors.

But the familiarity stopped there. Even in the absence of demonstrations, walking the grounds, keeping it open and well-groomed, the solitude was overwhelming. No volunteers, eager to help. No ice cream. There are no parents who wonder how far from the stage it will be set up, or when the time comes, they put their babies in a safe place. Nothing to see, Koussevitzky Music House closed, consolation; No music to hear, just birds.

Well, the music is coming home.

Boston Symphony opens its abridged, miraculous little post season here with a concert Saturday nightThe orchestra’s first face-to-face performance and first performance with the music director since the dark, fearful nights of March 2020, Andris Nelsons, since January.

The program was made to please and it did please, but the atmosphere would have been festive regardless. He gave a standing ovation to the orchestra, a standing ovation to the conductor, and a standing ovation to the orchestra. Mark Volpe, the newly retired president and chief executive officer of the orchestra. The normally unsentimental players stomp their feet when their leader, Tamara Smirnova, found the right key to invite them to tune on the piano.

Authorities had set turnout to half the normal, but the rolling fields were buzzing with chatter, the lawn chairs were crammed; The front rows of the hut felt full, whether they were three feet apart or not. Although the concert lasted about two hours, there would be no interruption; There would be no “Ode to Joy” when singing was still prohibited. I saw one mask among thousands of faces.

By Sunday afternoonwhen a second concert took place, everything felt strangely normal: Students enter and exit the Club, listen to a piece, and then rehearse or not; the bystanders, who rushed to hide while it was raining, gave up their defenses against insects; Despite the bright green tarpaulins offered at the door and the dimness that protected some from the mud and some from the rain, the place shone brightly. Priorities.

The front of the program book read “Reconnect, Restore, Rejoice”. The Nelsons talked nonstop, seriously, about the stage of what the pandemic was like – apparently in the past tense, even as the world counts again. four million lives lost it – reminding us “how much we need art, how much we need culture” and music “soothes our souls”.

There would be no revolution here, no monuments, just the restoration of history. old regime: an orchestra that has been playing for a long time and plays quite well. There must be Beethoven, and so is the Fifth Symphony – the indomitable Beethoven of the human spirit, of victory over disaster.

Close enough, at least. Even at this quality, it will of course take time for the players to form a collective again, to fill their voices, to find the offense and draw that determines the best ensembles. On Sunday, an improvement from Saturday night could already be heard in the peppy flow of Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony.

Before that, there were languid moments in Beethoven, bars where balances are thrown aside in pursuit of pure enthusiasm, passages where he’s been allowed to be dragged along by a seemingly more stoic conductor as an interpreter since his arrival in Boston in 2014.

But the effect was still strong, surprisingly released not for the effect of the whole, but for the shine of the actors: William R. Hudgins’ clarinet, so soft, such a balm; Elizabeth Rowe’s flute is very unusual with its woodiness; Thomas Rolfs’ trumpet is electrifying in all its might.

The same subtlety was noticeable in the works of the presented soloists, neither of them was ostentatious. Emanuel Ax is not the idea of ​​a pianist who gets everyone’s attention, preferring to share it or give it wholesale, but what a pleasure it was to hear such discretion in the “Emperor” Concerto – so much care was taken in voicing a chord, in reaction to such Orchestra’s right hand phrases. as sensitivity. Baiba Skride took almost the same approach to the Sibelius Violin Concerto; an impressive account of a deep, even desolate introspection, many played inward, towards the violas to his left.

Indeed, comfort for the soul.

However, even as salaries recover from 37 percent cuts and more than $50 million in revenue loss casts a shadow over the budget, the question remains whether this orchestra will decide to try more. He brought in a new president and general manager, gail samuel, The ambitious Los Angeles Philharmonic; an encouraging amount of his energy flowing over the past year has been spent exploring music he had long ignored; and Symphony Hall season will present new works by Julia Adolphe, Kaija Saariaho, and Unsuk Chin.

This season, however, looks bleak compared to what is offered similarly by tradition. orchestras in another place. The limited time devoted to anything contemporary speaks volumes here. by Carlos SimonFate Conquers Now”, marked by his short response to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, throbbing with frenzied energy as he appeared to be running at the scene.

The Boston Symphony then returns and just keeps fitting.

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