Tanglewood offered its fans two rare opportunities this past weekend, two chances to hear André Previn in concerts devoted exclusively to him in Ozawa Hall: one, a recital of his songs at the Prelude Concert on Saturday, August 15, at 6:00 p.m.; the other, on Sunday evening at 8 p.m., a session of great jazz songs, with the maestro on the piano and David Finck on bass.
The purportedly major event of the weekend was not Previn as composer or pianist, but as conductor. At the concert on Saturday night, Mr. Previn conducted Beethoven Symphony #4, Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Ravel La Valse. (This writer wishes to add one comment: For those who may have seen Mr. Previn at the Boston Symphony last spring and were concerned about his frail health, he thankfully seemed in far better condition for this concert.)
Ozawa Hall, designed by William Rawn Associates and completed in 1994, is a gem: its all-over rectilinear, beautiful interior space; elegant window openings; warm Richardson-esque/Japanese/Arts-and-Crafts wood throughout; great acoustics; and just perfect size. Its wall at one end, when fully open, contributes to the airiness and affords views of the rapt audiences on the lawn.
The major concert in the Shed was a joy, but the other two events at Ozawa Hall put the weekend experience right in the stratosphere. The perfect weather undoubtedly contributed to the phenomenal sense of well-being. But that went only partway to explaining the sense of privilege to be present at both these concerts, beautifully performed and held in what is becoming one of this writer’s favorite concert venues.
Five young singers, Layla Claire, Danya Katok, Sarah Davis, Allison Angelo, and Elizabeth Reiter, performed in the recital of Previn’s songs. It was not easy to keep a dry eye during the superbly sung Dickinson poems or The Giraffes Go to Hamburg with its heart-breaking text by Isak Dinensen, or Four Songs to Texts of Toni Morrison, for soprano, cello, and piano. (The emotional break with Miss Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy the Kid, sung pertly by Reiter, was a well-placed relief.) The other pieces were Two Remembrances and Vocalise.
On Sunday evening, Previn began his jazz concert by referring to the “remarkable recital of my songs,” an appropriate tribute to those performers. Then we all mellowed out (quoting the younger generation) on “My Funny Valentine,” “Lady Be Good,” “Laura,” “Embraceable You,” “Nobody Else But Me,” “You Know What it Means To Miss N’ Orleans,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” and, of course, “I Got Rhythm.”
We got heaven.
Note: Shortly, we will be posting a review of two more gems of the latter Tanglewood season held in this superb hall: the final vocal recital by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra on Thursday evening, August 13, and the TMC Chamber Music Concert at 10:00 a.m. on August 16.