Tanglewood – 75 Years Old and Still Surprising
by Larry Murray
Lenox-Stockbridge, MA- At 7:30 when the gates opened to the grounds, a jubilant crowd of well wishers and celebrants toting picnic baskets and lawn blankets streamed onto the Tanglewood grounds for a very special event. They were about to break the record for the most revenues for a single performance’s ticket sales, too.
The celebrants were 16,831 strong, from all walks of life, a diverse cross section of America’s classical music community. They arrived by every means imaginable, flying, walking, driving into the Tanglewood Music Center grounds to wish the place a happy 75th birthday. RV’s sat side by side with Ford LTD’s and motorcycles, and coveted spots on the expansive lawns of the Tanglewood Shed and Ozawa Hall were quickly claimed and festive goodies laid out for families and friends to enjoy during the massive concerts that were to follow.
“All of us at the BSO are deeply gratified by the incredible public enthusiasm for the Tanglewood 75th anniversary celebration concert this past Saturday night. That enthusiasm is not only reflected in the over-all attendance number of 16,831, but also in the fact that this special fund raising concert brought in $1.42 million for the BSO and its many activities—the largest amount raised for a single concert in Tanglewood’s 75-year history. We are immensely grateful to our Trustees, Overseers, and loyal Tanglewood patrons for joining us for this magnificent celebration of the BSO’s beloved summer music festival. This is a spectacular way to begin what we hope will be a wonderful season for Tanglewood fans near and far.” – Mark Volpe, BSO Managing Director
Highlights of the evening’s celebrations are captured on this wonderful video footage, narrated by Conductor Keith Lockhart and made available to us by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The 75th Anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Festival took only minutes to be in full swing. And when one looks back on history, it is only an accident of fate that the place ended up being the summer home of the Boston Symphony, in the early days the New York Philharmonic played there too. Back in the days before air conditioning the Berkshires were the antidote for the heat of the big cities during the summer.
Serge Koussevitzy was truly a visionary. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 until 1949.
Early on he returned to Paris each summer to conduct the Concerts Koussevitzky until 1929, and returned to the less formal summer format he enjoyed in Europe with the founding of Tanglewood in the decade following. He was a champion of new music, and had close ties to Maurice Ravel and Paul Hindemith. He was a mentor to Leonard Bernstein and Sarah Caldwell. He loved his adopted city, orchestra and summer home, and maintained close ties with the orchestra until his passing, in Boston, in 1951.
A Splendid Evening for a Birthday
The weather was on the warm side, but tolerable, and for such a special occasion the musicians turned out in formal attire, with the exception of James Taylor. But even he looked swell in jacket and tie rather than denim and workboots. For this was a series of concerts, not just one to mark the 75th.
It seems most of the luminaries of the classical music world were there including Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, John Williams, Keith Lockhart, Emanuel Ax, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Peter Serkin, Andris Nelsons, and David Zinman. One by one they took the stage to celebrate Tanglewood’s 75th anniversary season with a gala program that illuminated the festivals’ three major orchestral forces—the Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, and the Tanglewood Music Center orchestras, as well as the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
The program opened with works by two artists closely associated with the festival during its early history; Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, followed by Three Dance Episodes from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town.
The Tanglewood 75th Celebration Gala Concert, which brought together some of the festival’s most distinguished and longtime guest artists and patrons, was a treat, featuring works by Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Ravel, and performances by vocal fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s prestigious summer music academy. A full program listing appears at the end of this report.
A highlight of the gala evening was the presentation by John Williams of the first-ever Tanglewood Medal to Seiji Ozawa (in absentia). Yo-Yo Ma read a response from Mr. Ozawa who was not only too ill to travel, but also unable to complete the video presentation that was originally planned to be shown from the stage. In addition to his myriad contributions to the BSO’s performance, touring, and recording activities during his 29-year tenure as BSO music director, Seiji Ozawa has also played a major role in nurturing Tanglewood’s artistic life and expanding its profile as an international festival of the first rank. Seiji was at the podium during the time I was also with the BSO doing promotion and marketing with colleague Peter Gelb. His total commitment to expanding the campus (including the purchase of Seranac) and school was sincere, and be made sure that conducting students had the direct influence of Leonard Bernstein, and string players that of Joseph Silverstein, who was the BSO’s gifted concertmaster at the time.
Of course the BSO survives and prospers thanks to the contributions of time and talent by a coterie of successful members of the community, far and wide. For those special few, there were celebratory events of a refined nature that also marked the occasion. The décor for the pre-concert Tanglewood 75th Gala Dinner was a reflection of the Art Deco style, a period of design that was quite fashionable in 1937, the year of the founding of Tanglewood.
Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Gala Celebration Concert Program Details
COPLAND Fanfare for the Common Man (07); (Boston Pops Orchestra brass/Keith Lockhart)
BERNSTEIN Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (11); (BPO/Lockhart)
Selections from the GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK, (arr. Gil Goldstein)
ARLEN & HARBURG “Over the Rainbow” (03)
RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN “Shall We Dance?” (03)
KERN & HAMMERSTEIN “Ol’ Man River” (03)
(James Taylor/BPO/John Williams)
HAYDN Piano Concerto in D, 2nd and 3rd movements (10)
(Emanuel Ax/Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra/Stefan Asbury)
TCHAIKOVSKY Andante cantabile, for cello and strings (08); (Yo-Yo Ma/TMCO)
SARASATE Carmen Fantasy, for violin and orchestra (12) (Anne-Sophie Mutter/TMCO/Andris Nelsons)
20 minute intermission
RAVEL La Valse, Choreographic poem (14); (BSO/Andris Nelsons)
First-ever Tanglewood Medal presented by John Williams to Seiji Ozawa in absentia; Yo-Yo Ma to read a response from Mr. Ozawa from the stage at approximately 10:30 p.m.
BEETHOVEN Fantasia in C minor for piano, chorus, and orchestra, Op. 80 (19)
(Peter Serkin/BSO/TFC/TMC Vocal Fellows/David Zinman)