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November 27, 2012

Tanglewood 2013 Announced


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 ¶.)

Ozawa Hall interior (Steve-Rosenthal photo)

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.

The full season is listed here.


  1. Thanks for the link to the traditional presentation of the summer’s programs, well hidden on the BSO’s ever-so-hard-to-navigate website.

    What a relief to learn that Jeux won’t be in the shed!

    I look forward to more speculation as to what we can glean from the summer season about the search for a new music director.

    Comment by Will — November 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

  2. Will said: …. BSO’s ever-so-hard-to-navigate website.

    Somebody certainly have to look at the BSO site as it is ridiculously hard to navigate, slow, contra-intuitive, very hard to find anything and buggy like hell. I had countless times when BSO site crashed on me, loosing orders, or just did not do what it to do. There were quite a number of times when after spending time on line, searching the right sit for a give performance and doing over the checkout process the site crashed. There were many times when I got so pissed with BSO site that I decided do NOT go to the concert just because the experience I got from their web site. It might sound ridicules but it is what it is. Stanislavsky use to preach that theater starts from a wardrobe rooms. If the BSO site is some kind gateway for perspective audiences to get into the Symphony Hall then BSO very much shot itself into the food. Nowadays pizza stores and junk yard have more intelligent, more operational and more useful sites then BSO. Shame!

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 28, 2012 at 7:53 am

  3. With the Tchaikovsky Fifth yet again, and Mahler symphonies repeated after the Gustav100 death commemoration two years ago, this may be the single most disappointing season I have ever seen planned for Tanglewood. Yeah, there are always two or three things worth seeing (e. g. Walkure Act 3), but on the whole the BSO now sinks to the level of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s summer seasons with the Philadelphia Orchestra in presenting stale repertory.

    And I wonder how WGBH/WCRB will handle a RADIO broadcast of a FILM like “WSS”. Then again, with two commentators gabbing away on BSO broadcasts, I probably won’t listen anyway.

    Comment by Don Drewecki — November 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

  4. I love Mahler, but I’m not sure Tanglewood is the right venue: if it’s worth hearing, it’s worth hearing well. If it’s a nice day, I might as well go and have a quiet picnic away from the crowds, rather than try to concentrate on hearing Mahler over the din of the crowd. Also, having heard one Frubeck-de Borgos concert with the BSO, I’m not sure I need to hear another. The musicians seem to like him, but I really didn’t like the results.

    Comment by Mark — November 28, 2012 at 11:50 am

  5. About the program: yes it is anticlimactic as it could be. On July 17 the visit of Borodin String Quartet might be a very interesting… but it is on Wednesday. Who could make T-wood trip on Wednesday? On Friday of the same weak Jurowski brings under the shed the Mahler version of Eroica – an interesting event but does it worth to drive for THAT from the city? On August 17 Haitink take BSO with Mahler 4 – I would not go but my Kitty loves M4 and it might be fun to lay in pool and listen a WCRB broadcast. Unfortunately the way how WCRB will broadcast the Mahler with sound like we are underwater. So, instead I probably will to please her with a recording of my chose at the day… when water is warmer. I need to talk with my physiologist about me being more optimistic….

    Comment by Romy The Cat — November 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

  6. The thing that becomes clear is that, just as WCRB/Classical New England has to program music that will hold its audience, the BSO is driven to program music that will put, errm, patrons in the seats. Their “top 40” isn’t the same as a radio station’s top 40 — they have more leeway because they appeal to audiences that are in general more familiar with the product, but it’s still a balance that must be struck between the warhorses and the worthy, the popular and the pedagogic, the familiar and the frightening, the staples and the stretches, the easy and the enriching, the old-hat and the original, the delightful and the dissonant, the attractions and the astringent, the comfortable and the challenging, the usual and the unknown: in a word, the overplayed and the overlooked.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — November 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

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