A little light music

Thursday, August 07
LENOX — One of the Boston Symphony's most enduring traditions goes back to 1940, when BSO music director and Tanglewood founder Serge Koussevitzky staged a war-relief concert to aid Britain and France against the Nazi onslaught. By 1950, Tanglewood on Parade was well-established as an annual showcase not only for the BSO and the Pops but also for the advanced students of the Berkshire Music Center (as it was then called) and, starting in 1965, the high-school age musicians of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI).

TOP was graced by one of this summer's rare rain-free interludes on Tuesday, and a crowd of about 13,000 gathered for the evening's gala concert — although many arrived at mid-afternoon for family-friendly activities at the Theatre-Concert Hall, chamber-music performances by BUTI students at Ozawa Hall and a combined BUTI orchestral-choral concert in the Shed that featured a finger-snapping performance of Bernstein's "West Side Story" Symphonic Dances conducted by Benjamin Shwartz.

The BUTI Young Artists Chorus, led by Scott Allen Jarrett, was impressive in a selection of brief works by Mendelssohn, Hanson, Honegger and Thompson.

Young listeners also were entranced by BSO principal tuba Michael Roylance's performance of the 1945 Paul Tripp-George Kleinsinger classic "Tubby the Tuba," made famous by Danny Kaye.

Magician Bonaparte strolled the grounds, BSO string players offered a sampling of Celtic fiddling, more than 100 vintage cars from the Antique Auto Club of America were on display — a cornucopia of entertaining offerings for the audiences of the future.

The evening concert featured a parade of five conductors leading the BSO, the Pops, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and the combined BSO-TMC forces.

The Austrian conductor Hans Graf, now ensconced as the long-term music director of the Houston Symphony, led a luminous account of Respighi's "Fountains of Rome." The four fountains depicted in the one-day dawn-to-dusk tour came to vivid life under Graf's graceful interpretation; the BSO's wind players offered delicately phrased solos and the entire orchestra was in top form.

Sir Andrew Davis conjured up the majesty, and the danger, of stormy ocean waters as he inspired the TMC players to an especially perceptive account of the Four Sea Interludes from Britten's "Peter Grimes."

Under Keith Lockhart's always-energetic leadership, the Boston Pops sauntered through a jazzy, rollicking account of Bernstein's Three Dance Episodes from "On the Town." Crafted from his 1944 "Fancy Free" ballet, the tale of three wartime sailors on 24-hour leave leave in Manhattan arouses waves of nostalgia; once again, fine playing from the BSO-as-Pops heightened the impact.

  • John Williams' gently soaring, intensely personal Elegy for Cello and Orchestra — adapted from his score for the film "Seven Years in Tibet" as a memorial for a friend's fallen children — inspired Pops principal cellist Martha Babcock and the orchestra to a highly committed, passionate performance.

    With the Beijing action just days away, Williams also conducted Leo Arnaud's "Bugler's Fanfare" and his own Olympic Fanfare and Theme, composed for the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles and revised for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

  • FInally, a frail-looking André Previn, nearing 80, was led to the podium for Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture. Nothing reticent about this performance; he stirred the pot to a fast boil.

    At the risk of being run out of town, might we suggest a break from the "1812" next summer? Heresy! Besides, for our 5-year-old, hearing the "Fireworks Song" live in the Shed was a highlight of his summer. Let it be.


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