Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra: Nature has its say at Ozawa Hall


LENOX -- Nature supplied the storm in the afternoon, Beethoven supplied it at night.

The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate. With rainwater still sloshing down roadways and through parking lots, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra went on with the "Pastoral" Symphony on Monday night. The storm onstage, vividly played, provided some compensation for the weather that had wreaked devastation outside a few hours before.

Returning from its exertions in the Festival of Contemporary Music, the student orchestra sounded in fine shape under three conductors on the soggy night.


Though Beethoven was the evening’s main order of business, the program also featured three little-known songs by Sibelius. Two of them did a little nature-painting of their own, culminating in the creation of the world from the cracking of an egg.

Replacing the late Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos in the "Pastoral," the Boston Symphony’s associate conductor, Marcelo Lehninger, cherished every phrase and detail, almost seeming to get the players to caress each. Beethoven needs respect without frills in this symphony, and respect is what he got. The sound was full but textures remained clear and blended.

The "Scene at the Brook" was especially attractive in its easy flow, with the woodwinds’ bird calls evocative at the end. After the fury of the storm, the performance found fulfillment in the peaceful "Shepherd’s Song."


Conducting fellow Karina Canellakis and two vocal fellows, soprano Laura Strickling and mezzo-soprano Loralee Songer, performed the Sibelius songs. The rustling orchestral writing sometimes recalled the Sibelius of the more familiar symphonies but the vocal lines showed a different side of the composer, still lonely and melancholic but also gentle and affectionate.

"The Jewish Girl’s Song," for mezzo-soprano, enshrines a captive’s longing to see Jerusalem again. "Autrefois" ("Once Upon a Time"), a duet, is a pastoral with a shepherdess calling to her beloved. "Luonnotar," a tone poem for soprano, recounts a virgin’s wanderings until a teal guides her to giving birth to the earth and heavens. The texts are in Swedish or Finnish.

All three songs were beguiling in performance. In its longing, "The Jewish Girl’s Song" recalled Dvorak’s "Song to the Moon" in "Rusalka."

To open the program, conducting fellow Daniel Cohen led a high-powered performance of Beethoven’s "Leonore" Overture No. 3.


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