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5 August brought an emotionally wrought, powerful performance of Gustav Mahler's moving Symphony No 2 (Resurrection). Former BSO Music Director Seiji Ozawa returned to his old podium for the first time since leaving in 2002. Although Ozawa has been ill recently, he directed an unforgettable performance that plumbed the agony and the ecstasy of Mahler's musical rhetoric. Playing the slides between the notes and phrases of the second movement, the Boston strings sounded like those of the Vienna Philharmonic. (In his recent work at the Vienna State Opera, Ozawa has been imbued with that musical tradition.) The deep, golden voiced contralto of Nathalie Stutzmann, radiant soprano of Heidi Grant Murphy, and exquisite soft singing of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus contributed to a reading that was, at once, majestic, bracing, and imbued with terror. This performance was the work of one of the world's great Mahler conductors!

Elliot Carter's surrealist What Next was the featured work on an operatic triple bill on 27 July. Carter, the grand old man of American music at age 97, ingenuously mixes atonality and lyricism in an engrossing, allegorical one-acter. With James Levine providing mastery on the podium, standouts in the student cast included Kiera Duffy (a brilliant coloratura soprano), Chad Sloan (a big, buoyant baritone), Lawrence Jones (a strong Mahlerian tenor), and Jamie Van Eyck (the ultimate mezzo earth mother). Tanglewood conducting fellow Kazem Abdullah led a snappy, jazzy staging of Hindemith's experimental There and Back. The light, airy soprano of Chanel Marie Wood and fine grained lyric tenor Anthony P McGlaun commanded the stage. Tenor Brendan Daly was wonderfully acrobatic in the Baroque stanzas of the Bearded Sage. Stravinsky's rhythmic, proto-Russian Mavra featured the clear, gleaming soprano of Emily Albrink and the firm, show stopping tenor voice of Randall Umstead. Nicolas Fink's conducting was overloud and missed some of the Petrouchka-like rhythmic and harmonic ironies of the score. All three works were given bright, energetic staging by Doug Fitch who also designed the modernist sets.

Sibelius's rarely heard Luonnotar riveted attention at a concert of the student Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra on 6 August. With high, awesome vocal writing wedded to a haunting, spare orchestral part, the score is unlike any other by this composer. Soprano Dawn Upshaw was simply magnificent. Silvery of timbre, passionate of utterance, Upshaw's voice is a national treasure. (She is a fearless exponent of difficult contemporary repertoire and counts John Harbison, John Adams, and Osvaldo Golijov among the composers who have written works for her.) Conductor Stefan Asbury gave her eloquent support and led a glistening performance of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe Suite No 2 marked by sensuous strings and sparkling winds. Abdullah again impressed with a vigorous rendition of Dvorák's Carnival Overture. Soprano Jo Ellen Miller, a Tanglewood Fellow, elegantly scaled the high vocal line of Milton Babbitt's bristling From the Psalter, capably conducted by Tomasz Golka.

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Copyright © 28 August 2006 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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