The BSO announcement of the Tanglewood programs for summer 2013, mostly complete, has so far pleased me with its fine mix of Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, chamber, piano, solo voice, choral, and even opera, and a good distribution of summertime warhorses for relatively relaxed listening— many venerable masterworks, and some genuine challenges as well.
There’s a good allotment of the biggest among the orchestral events: Mozart with three piano concerti (K. 271 with Emanuel Ax, 503 with Paul Lewis, and 414 with Christoph Eschenbach, plus the delicious little concert aria K. 505 thrown in with the Jupiter symphony), Beethoven with Symphonies 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 and Piano Concerti 1, 2, 3 and 4. Bach gets somewhat slighted in this topheavy listing; only his E major Violin Concerto and Brandenburg 2 are on one program with two Vivaldi plus a Telemann viola concerto; Zukerman will play and conduct this program, and I’ve said elsewhere he is one of the best viola players in the whole world. And as for Bach, I’ll never forget that summer evening in 1959 when my own teacher, Lukas Foss, played five Bach concerti.
The centennial year of The Rite of Spring is honored with a performance on August 4, to be conducted by Charles Dutoit – a good choice, because his recording is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Stravinsky’s Fireworks is on the same program; pairing these explosive works with Dvořák’s Cello Concerto (with Yo-yo Ma), which has its own explosion in the final measures, is both daring and unusual
Wagner’s and Verdi’s bicentennials are both acknowledged, Verdi with the Manzoni Requiem and Wagner with the Siegfried Idyll, the Meistersinger Prelude (to Act I, we assume), and the entire third act of Walküre.
Mahler is well established with Symphonies 1, 3 and 4, and he is listed as the orchestrator of a special version of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony on July 19. I am curious about this. Everyone knows that Mahler touched up the orchestration of all four of Schumann’s symphonies, and often to their benefit, but whoever thought that Beethoven needed that kind of assistance? Still, I have warm memories of Mahler with the Boston Symphony: I was present in Boston 1962 when the orchestra did the Mahler Third for the first time (with Burgin), and I remember cradling my two-year-old daughter asleep in my lap when Leinsdorf conducted Mahler’s First in the shed in summer 1968, hoping that she wouldn’t wake up with the fff cymbal crash near the end of the finale. (She did, but she didn’t protest, and that was surely because of Mahler’s pacifying effect. I think it was sixteen years later that I heard Mahler’s Third in the Shed, when that same daughter was a student in the Boston University summer program at Tanglewood.)
There’s even an all-Debussy program on July 22, Jeux, the Danses for harp, and La mer with Denève, a year late for the sesquicentennial but welcome at any time.
For opera there will be John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby on July 11, in concert version, with chorus and orchestra of Emmanuel Music and a cast of twelve, picking up from their Boston performance in the spring. In addition, fully staged, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Britten’s Curlew River on July 31 and August 1, “sung in English,” the announcement is careful to note. On July 30 a film will be shown of the 15th-century Japanese play on which Britten’s libretto is based. (I remember seeing this opera staged in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, by the students of Brasenose College, in December 1971. It was glacially cold in that church, and before the performance began somebody in the audience went crazy and had to be carted out.) George Benjamin will conduct his own opera, Written on Skin, in a concert performance on August 12, a United States premiere, wrapping up the Festival of Contemporary Music (which this year will be directed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard; see also the next ¶.)
I’m heartened by some of the unusual repertory choices, like Ravel’s complete Daphnis et Chloé with chorus, and Turina’s seldom-heard Danzas fantásticas, a good work, and Poulenc’s Sinfonietta. Poulenc’s Stabat mater is down for August 2; this recognizes the half-century since his death. I imagine that most of the Tanglewood schedule had already been decided when Elliott Carter died three weeks ago, but his Sound Fields is listed for August 10 with the BSO and Instances for August 8, which is during what I still persist in calling Fromm Week.
There’s a broad spectrum of chamber and piano music available in the smaller halls, but I don’t have all the program details, and the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music has yet to disclose all of its plans. Some fine performers will appear: Garrick Ohlsson on July 25 (Beethoven, Griffes, Schubert, Chopin), Christian Zacharias on August 7 (Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann), Daniil Trifonov on August 22 (Scriabin, Liszt, Chopin); the Borodin Quartet (Brahms, Tchaikovsky) on July 17, the Emerson Quartet (Haydn, Britten, Beethoven op. 59 no.1) on August 14, and a song recital by Bryn Terfel on July 18.
Among so-called special events are the presentation of the newly re-mastered 1961 film “West Side Story,” featuring the Boston Symphony Orchestra performing Leonard Bernstein’s score, while the film is shown on large screens in high definition with the original vocals and dialogue (August 13). Also noteworthy: Yo-Yo Ma will be joined by American string virtuosos Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, and Stuart Duncan, in a program inspired by their recent genre-defying recording, “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” (August 15); Bernard Haitink returns to the Tanglewood podium after a five-year absence for two programs, including the BSO’s season-ending Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on August 25.
All of which offers the summer listener plenty of fruitful opportunity to pick and choose with pleasure but also with enlightenment. If the summer gives us some time to retreat, reassess, and re-evaluate, Tanglewood is a good place to do it.