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Yale 62

A Letter from Tanglewood
By John Stewart

Nestled in the verdant rolling Berkshire hills. Tanglewood is the 500-acre park-like summer home of the Boston Symphony. There is a large amphitheater and when it’s not raining, before the concerts there are many hundreds of visitors picnicking on the grass around it, or around the Ozawa theater, with its perfect acoustics. Since we moved east in 2011 we’ve attended at least a half dozen concerts every summer (except 2020) frequently in the company of classmates Lew and Melinda Spratlan, Carl and Liz Kaestle and Peter and Margaret Sipple, with a Lenox dinner before. Eli and Carolyn Newberger live 5 minutes away and we met at his house, and had the great joy of sitting near him on the 31st. Here’s a letter I wrote to the Spratlans, who were not able to be there this summer. One amazing evening a couple of years ago, Yo-Yo Ma played brilliantly the 6 unaccompanied Bach cello suites, and at the end James Taylor, whose foundation had underwritten the concert, came onto the stage for a duet with Yo-Yo Ma. Unforgettable!

Dear Lew and Melinda,

A brief Tanglewood report.

July 7: Diary of One who Vanished, Janacek, a spectacular performance by tenor Paul Appleby, Emmanuel Aks at the Steinway and great women. We were in the front row. He sang and acted this very difficult piece brilliantly.

July 17: Brahms Requiem. BSO and Nelsons, lovely, good soprano and ok baritone, chorus wonderful in piano but I would have liked a little more heft in forte. Jolly likes this piece better than I do and loved the performance. I mean I sang and conducted the Fauré and the Mozart and sang the Verdi, giving me a greater love of those three.

July 23: Berlioz The Death of Cléopatre, with the marvelous Christine Goeke. We did not know or even know of this fascinating tour de force.  Mahler 5, Nelsons and the really exciting Tanglewood Fellows Orchestra. What fun to watch these talented young players go to town! The first trumpeter played brilliantly in the opening solo, a woman!

July 31: in Ozawa Hall, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra – even younger kids, still brilliant in a fascinating program: Debussy Printemps, an orchestrated piano piece, second drawer, Stravinsky Agon well conducted by Thomas Adès, a very difficult piece by Ollie Wilson which needed more hearings, and one of my all-time favorites. Metamorphoses on a Theme of Weber, Hindemith, which I have memorized from recordings but never heard live. What an orchestrator. And hearing it live I was able to notice all the stuff going on all the time, lots of countermelodies and other details.

August 7: Mozart Symphonie Concertante with a great violinist and brilliant violist Antoine Tamestit who’d studied at Yale. (Yay) Adés again om Pult. Plus The Planets. Invisible women in Neptune. Very striking. Audience went bananas.

August 8: Lessons in Love and Violence, conducted by the composer George Benjamin, his third opera. Fascinating – very, very challenging for the singers. Rather atonal, very dramatic use of the orchestra. Rather grand guignol, all in all.

But a great summer! Wished you could have been there.


We welcome your comments below.

3 comments to A Letter from Tanglewood

  • Cory Christopher T.

    Next summer, we may very well want to come if we can surmount a few obstacles. Maybe my son could drive down from reading, near Boston, and pick us up. 0r we could find someone here to team up with. Will investigate. Could you recommend a decent, reasonable motel or inn? I think I have a couple of classmates who can advise as well. Thanks.

  • Lee Bolman

    A lovely account of Tanglewood 2022, the first full season since the pandemic. Also worth noting, some of the pop stuff that’s interspersed with the classical:

    June 18: Bonnie Raitt. Immense crowd on a cool, rainy night; warm-up act was disappointing, but Bonnie can still deliver.

    July 4: Traditional James Taylor holiday concert (another immense crowd, better weather, satisfying fireworks)

    July 8: BSO & Nelsons, fiery performance of Liszt’s Piano Concerto by Yuja Wang (whose attire, “stripper-wear” as one critic put it, fires up an audience by itself), along with Bernstein’s Requiem and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

    August 12: Final concert in Manny Ax’s Pathways from Prague series: quartet of Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Leonidas Kavakos and Antonine Tamestit playing Dvorak, Kapralova, and Janacek.

    August 20: John Williams 90th birthday celebration: BSO & Ken-David Masur, Ma, Yitzhak Perlman, Branford Marsalis et al. playing works by Williams, who conducted a Star Wars encore to close the evening.

  • John (Jay) Hatch

    Both John’s “letter” adn Lee’s reply make me very home sick as most summers of my youth were spent within a mile of Tanglewood.. Thank, guys!