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Ensemble

Artistry and ambience

Exhilarating music making at Tanglewood,
reported by LAWRENCE BUDMEN

 

Lenox, Massachusetts, USA -- In 1936 Mary Aspinwall Tappan deeded her family estate Tanglewood to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a dream was born. The renowned Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky conceived an American music festival to rival the great summer musicales of the European continent. Set in the glorious Berkshire mountains, Tanglewood is an oasis of tranquility and beauty that beckons artists and music lovers from around the globe. In 1940 the Berkshire Music Center was created as an advanced music education center for gifted young artists. The combination of talented youth and distinguished masters makes Tanglewood one of the world's great artistic resources. A weekend at this cultural mecca produced some exhilarating music making.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra perform together in the Koussevitzky Music Shed during the annual 'Tanglewood on Parade' celebration. Photo © 2004 Stu Rosner
The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra perform together in the Koussevitzky Music Shed during the annual 'Tanglewood on Parade' celebration. Photo © 2004 Stu Rosner

The Spanish conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos was a commanding figure on the Tanglewood campus. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra (on 17 July 2004) in a virile, taut realization of Beethoven's Symphony No 8 in F, Op 93 that really captured the rhythmic pulse that is the central focus of the score. Bolstered by superbly rich string playing and admirably precise winds, the conductor highlighted wonderful subtleties -- with a full range of instrumental dynamics -- in the Allegro vivace finale. This splendid Beethoven performance was only a prelude to the evening's true event -- an hour of excerpts (both vocal and orchestral) from Richard Wagner's operatic masterpiece Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Fruhbeck de Burgos has conducted this score many times at the Deutsche Opera, Berlin and is the absolute master of Wagner's expansive musical vistas. He brought magisterial eloquence to the Prelude to Act 3 (with mellow, golden toned playing from the BSO brass). He found real musical character in the Dance of the Apprentices which too often is played as a light trifle. The vociferous, full voiced singing of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (who performed without scores under their distinguished director John Oliver) made the opening and closing chorale perorations memorable. The Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel sang three of Hans Sachs' monologues with a depth of dramatic penetration that was awesome. The dark, velvet lava of Terfel's voice resounded in the admirably warm and clear acoustics of the Koussevitzky Music Shed. (Hans Sachs will surely be a great future role for Terfel in the opera house.) A great performance and an unforgettable concert!

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Copyright © 30 July 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

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