Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra recalls fallen heroes at season-opening concert


LENOX — The tradition goes on. On Sunday night, in its first concert of the season, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra memorialized two longtime TMC faculty members who died during the past year: violinist Joseph Silverstein and conductor Gustav Meier.

The program itself opened with two American works with Boston Symphony Orchestra and TMC associations: Three Dance Episodes from Leonard Bernstein's "On the Town" and William Schuman's Symphony No. 3. And it introduced this year's conducting fellows, Nuno Coelho and Christian Reif, who follow in the long-ago footsteps of Bernstein, a conducting fellow in the TMC founding year, 1940.

There was more: The orchestra's playing maintained a standard of excellence that belied the reality that, with only a week of rehearsal, these were students coming together for the first time. Ensemble was tight and responsive to different conducting styles. Solos — there were many of them — were precise, burnished and eloquent.

From 1962 to 1984, Silverstein wore many hats at the BSO: concertmaster, assistant conductor, co-founder of the Chamber Players and TMC coach. He went on to direct the Utah Symphony, retiring in 1998, but continued to introduce Tanglewood students to the ways of chamber music.

Meier, a less public figure, served as coordinator of the student conducting program from 1980 to 1996. In the program book, Stefan Asbury, a student of Meier's then and now the head of the conducting program, recalled that Meier's clear, insightful "manner of teaching was very helpful, given that as student conductors, we were still trying to work out what a conductor actually does."

Which brings us back to Sunday's concert, prepared under Asbury's overall supervision, and its many excellences.

Coelho and Reif shared the podium with Jacques Lacombe, who had just come off two weekend concerts with the BSO. Coelho, who is Portuguese, led the Bernstein dance suite and Rimsky-Korsakov's boisterous "Capriccio espagnol." The German Reif had the weightiest assignment: the Schuman symphony.

Schuman's 1941 work, commissioned and premiered by Koussevitzky with the BSO, is something of a neglected masterpiece. In two large movements, it occasionally recalls Copland's Third, its counterpart, but is denser and darker in its outlook and polyphony. The performance demonstrated its continuing vitality.

The post-intermission half of the concert traveled to Russia for the Rimsky-Korsakov piece and Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" Overture. Lacombe pushed Tchaikovsky's Shakespearean drama to the limit, and maybe a little beyond.


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