LENOX, MASS. >> Each summer, for decades now, the hills and valleys of our region replace big cities as one of the best places to hear some of the best music in the world. Top musicians leave be- hind concert halls for the open-air shed at Tanglewood, an old Shaker tannery in the Taconics, or a whitewashed church a stone's throw from the Deerfield River.
The iconic summer festival at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., will treat audiences to its familiar list of big summer events.
Opening weekend, July 2 to 5, celebrates the 400th anniversary of Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote, Part II, on Thursday with "A Night at Bach's Coffee House, invoking Café Zimmermann in 18th century Leipzig where Johann Sebastian Bach and his student orchestra played, with Telemann's "Excerpts from the incidental music to Don Quixote."
On the Friday night, the Boston Symphony Orchestra with conductor Jacques Lacombe, Kirill Gerstein on piano and narrator Jessye Norman will perform an All-American program from Harbison's "Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra)" and Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F to Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" and Ellington's "Harlem."
But woven into the weekly concert schedule, Tanglewood will set off on a season-long celebration of the Tanglewood Music Center, coming to its 75th anniversary. The summer academy for young musicians has become an important training ground for the music world, by its count having hosted about 20 percent of the players in major American orchestras at some point in their career. This summer it will celebrate its past while reinvigorating its ongoing mission.
"It was very clear to us while thinking about our 75-year history that we should go back to our roots," said Ellen Highstein, the Center's executive director.
The Center has commissioned and will premiere 30 original works from a roster of prominent composers, aligning with the original vision of center founder Serge Koussevitsky.
"He was the great commissioner of the 20th century," Highstein said. "He was a fabulous progenitor and collaborator in the creation of new work."
Beginning almost two years ago, Highstein reached out to the school's extensive web of alumni, former teachers and students.
"It is an idea that respects that tradition and continues it," she said. "It's so central to who we are and what we do, we thought wouldn't it be great to have a new work at every concert."
The pieces range across styles and arrangements and pull together various threads of the center's life. A highlight comes on July 5, when they will perform a new work by Ned Rorem — a fellow at the center in 1946 — along with the first piece of his ever played at Tanglewood.
"We wanted to represent everything from as early as we could ... to work from last summer," Highstein said.
As part of the celebration they will also work on a weekly podcast of historic performances from the Center.