2013 Tanglewood Season: Maestro in the making?


LENOX -- If you want to guess who the Boston Symphony Orches tra's new music director will be, the 2013 Tanglewood season invites a bit of speculation.

The schedule is notable for many things, including a Verdi-Wagner bicentennial celebration, a return of opera and an unprecedented five Pops concerts. But after three years without an active music director, attention inevitably focuses on who will guide the future of the BSO and its prestigious school, the Tanglewood Music Center.

In the just-announced schedule, two much talked-about candidates, Andris Nelsons and Stéphane Denève, return for a BSO concert apiece. They are joined by another possible candidate, Vladimir Jurow ski, in his Tanglewood debut.

Other candidates may be under consideration, but the Latvian Nel sons and the French Denève have been getting repeated opportunities in Boston, and last summer at Tanglewood. The Russian Jurowski has also received close attention.

Nelsons' assignment will be the Verdi Requiem, which should suit the fiery temperament he showed last summer. The more refined Denève will do a mixed French and German program consisting of Poulenc's Stabat Mater and works by Beetho ven and Strauss -- possibly to rebut criticism that he is too French in orientation. He'll also lead an all-Debussy program with the student TMC Orchestra.

Most of the summer's other conductors would seem ineligible. They are either newcomers or senior figures like Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Christoph von Dohnányi, who have multiple assignments each.

Although managing director Mark Volpe has changed his tune from time to time, he said last summer that a new maestro would be in place before the 2013 Tanglewood season. Has the 2013 schedule has been drawn to showcase the new leader?

We shall see.

After the galas and hoopla of last year's 75th-anniversary celebrations, the 2013 programming returns to a generally traditional template. Eight weeks of classical concerts are flanked by popular weekends, details of which remain to be fleshed out.

In a time of economic uncertainty and shrinking audiences, the programming balances newcomers with stars -- look for both crossover and classical programs by Yo-Yo Ma -- and less familiar works with old favorites. The BSO's major projects include the Verdi and Wagner commemorations, recalling the composers' birth in 1813.

Wagner will be represented by Act III of "Die Walküre," a James Levine calling card early in his tenure. Lothar Koenigs will be on the podium, with a cast headed by Bryn Terfel, Katarina Dalay man and Amber Wagner.

Though given in concert form, "Die Walküre" also heralds a return to opera, largely absent since Levine's departure. Staged opera returns to the music center, where choreographer Mark Morris will direct performances of an English double bill, Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" and Britten's "Curlew River."

Two contemporary operas by composers with long Tanglewood associations are also on the docket, both in concert form. Emmanuel Music, from Boston, will perform John Harbison's "The Great Gatsby" in honor of his 75th birthday. TMC students will give the U.S. premiere of George Benjamin's "Written on Skin."

Nor has the BSO neglected another 2013 landmark, the 100th anniversary of the riot-torn premiere of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." Charles Dutoit will preside.

On the popular side, the BSO, under film composer David Newman, will serve as the pit band for a screening of the classic film of the Leonard Bernstein musical "West Side Story." The dip into Broadway follows a concert performance of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" two summers ago.

Other popular events include Yo-Yo Ma and three friends in a program based on their crossover recording "The Goat Rodeo Sessions." The Pops' record number of concerts features such stars as Steve Martin and Michael Feinstein. And, of course, John Williams will be back for his beloved Film Night with Audra McDonald as special guest.

As surely as mosquitoes bite, pop lovers will cry, too much classical! And classical lovers will reply, too much pop!

It's true that most BSO programs, from the opening night's all-Tchaikovsky outing (with Joshua Bell as a starry soloist) to the closing Beetho ven Ninth, dangle goodies with broad audience appeal. But in a year when James Taylor -- good for 55,000 listeners last year -- is missing from the announced lineup, Tanglewood still has to pay the bills. Two more Pops concerts than usual will help.

One casualty of the trends is the annual Ozawa Hall cycle of a single composer's solo or duo repertoire. Though rewarding artistically, last summer's survey of Brahms' complete solo piano music, played by Gerhard Oppitz in four programs, drew meager audiences. A serious loss.

To help to introduce audiences to the riches of the classical repertoire, the BSO has initiated a variety of educational programs. New this year will be a "BSO 101" music appreciation series and an "Underscore Friday" series of pre-concert talks from the stage. Ticket discount packages also encourage attendance.

For adventurous concerts, you can go to the music center, which is relatively free of the BSO's constraints of rehearsal time and audience expectations. Its Festival of Contemporary Music will be directed by French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. In lively student performances, the new can sound new, but so can the old.


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