Former BSO leader Seiji Ozawa to return to Tanglewood
LENOX — For the first time in 10 years, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's former music director, Seiji Ozawa, will return to Tanglewood this summer for two public performances.
Ozawa, 80, has limited conducting appearances in recent years because of health issues, but has worked with professional and student musicians in Japan, and at his summertime International Music Academy in Switzerland.
At Tanglewood, he will conduct Beethoven's Egmont Overture to start the BSO's concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 9, followed by Carl Orff's popular choral work, "Carmina Burana," to be led as scheduled by guest conductor Jacques Lacombe.
As part of his two- to three-week visit to the Berkshires, Ozawa will also lead a chamber music program at Ozawa Hall at 8 p.m., Tuesday, July 5, leading members of his Swiss Academy String Quartet Ensemble and students of the Tanglewood Music Center in selections by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. He also will work with TMC conducting students.
The announcement was included in an updated season schedule announced by the BSO on Tuesday prior to the start of ticket sales to the general public at 10 a.m. Sunday.
"There are very few places that have had such a profound impact on me as Tanglewood, where I studied as a Fellow in 1960, and started my professional work with the BSO in 1970," Ozawa stated.
"My memories of Tanglewood go back to so many important milestones in my musical life, as well as personal recollections of wonderful times spent with my beloved family and friends," his statement continued. "I still have such fond memories of my children growing up there — running, laughing and playing on Tanglewood's great expanse of lawn."
Ozawa, who continues to hold the title of Boston Symphony Laureate Conductor, appeared in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6 as an honoree at the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. Violinist Itzhak Perlman and soprano Renee Fleming, both longtime collaborators, offered tributes, John Williams narrated a biographical film and Ozawa was saluted in a performance by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Tanglewood Music Center.
BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe said the idea for the residency was hatched ahead of the Kennedy Center event over Thanksgiving dinner at his house in West Newton, attended by Ozawa, Williams and BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons.
"We've been talking about this for a few years," Volpe said in an interview, "but he had serious health issues to attend to and he was out of commission for a while. It was clear that he wanted to have another experience at Tanglewood, although not a full concert. He has to be very careful about his energy and preserving his health."
As Volpe pointed out, "he's had a very big life for many years, and now he's at a different pace. He'll work with the students without the pressure of leading an entire 90-minute or two-hour concert. His spirit remains quite special and he's a unique guy."
As an ebullient musician and passionate sports fan devoted to the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, Ozawa has been and remains a popular figure in the Berkshires and continues to own the home in West Stockbridge where he spent summers with his family during his BSO tenure.
In 1960, he had arrived on a bus from Boston for summertime conducting studies at the TMC, then the Berkshire Music Center.
Reviewing one of his first public performances there, a New York Times reviewer wrote that "with his talent, exotic good looks, flair and choreographic ability, Mr. Ozawa is a young man who will go far." That summer, Ozawa won Tanglewood's Koussevitzky Prize as outstanding young conductor.
He was named BSO music director in 1973 after leading the orchestra in Boston as a guest conductor, starting in 1964, and serving as Tanglewood's artistic director from 1970-73. He had also been music director of the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and of the Toronto and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras.
While in Boston, his devotion to the Red Sox was so fervent that he would often be driven to nearby Fenway Park before and after an evening Symphony Hall concert to catch the first and final innings of a game, Volpe recalled.
After 29 years as the BSO's longest-serving music director, he stepped down in 2002 to take over the Vienna State Opera until illness forced him to resign in 2010. He last conducted the BSO at Symphony Hall in the fall of 2008. Among his many legacies at Tanglewood is Seiji Ozawa Hall, which opened in 1994.
Keenly anticipating his return to Tanglewood, Ozawa stated: "It is an honor for me to return to this fantastic place and to my beloved Boston Symphony Orchestra, with whom I spent the most significant part of my musical life as a conductor. I feel Boston and Tanglewood are my other homes. Words cannot express the joy I feel about returning to Tanglewood this summer."
During the eight-week BSO residency from July 8 to Aug. 28, Nelsons will lead five performances — including one with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra — during two separate weeks in late July and mid-August.
If you go ...
What: Tanglewood summer season
When: June 19 - Sept. 1; in response to popular demand, all BSO Shed concerts will begin a half-hour earlier, at 8 p.m.
Tickets: Visit www.tanglewood.org or call 1-888-266-1200 beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday
Cost: $11 to $124.
Lawn seating is still available for James Taylor's concerts on July 3 and 4, but as of Tuesday, only side bench seats were listed for the Shed.
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