LENOX

Revered founder Serge Koussevitzky, whose name will be invoked at every turn this summer, would hardly recognize his Tangle wood as it turns 75.More buildings. More acreage. More cars. More amenities. More galas. More people in informal attire. And more concerts -- many more, including Popst!

Revered founder Serge Koussevitzky, whose name will be invoked at every turn this summer, would hardly recognize his Tangle wood as it turns 75.More buildings. More acreage. More cars. More amenities. More galas. More people in informal attire. And more concerts -- many more, including Popst!

"Vot happen to mine orkester? I know. Too much Popst!" Koussevitzky would wail in his Russified English at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's first rehearsal of the Tanglewood season, following the Pops season in Boston.

Look at it this way: If Koussevitzky hated what the Pops did to his players' discipline and morale, Tanglewood now hosts three Pops concerts every summer (four this year, for the anniversary).

Not only that, but John Williams, the esteemed Pops laureate conductor, and James Taylor, whose Tanglewood folk-rock programs are the most heavily attended events of the summer, are in the pantheon along with the former music director.

Add jazz and popular artists to the mix, and you have a democratized festival far beyond the founder's dreams.


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Koussevitzky, who brought the BSO to the Berkshires at the invitation of a committee headed by Gertrude Robinson Smith, was a full-time music director, a breed that no longer exists. Ironically, the BSO heads into the landmark season without a music director of any kind. This, in fact, is the BSO's third season in a row without the ailing James Levine, who formally resigned last year. (A successor hasn't been named.)

Borrowing from the French saying, I used to claim that the more Tanglewood changed, the more it stayed the same. Having witnessed and chronicled half of the 74-year history, I see how wrong I was.

Some changes are obvious:

From two weekends of BSO concerts in 1937, the season has grown to eight BSO weeks, plus mid-week chamber music and pre- and post-BSO weeks of popular fare. One campus has expanded to three (Seranak and Highwood with the original) totaling more than 500 camera-ready acres.

The Theater and Ozawa Hall have joined the Shed as concert venues. And instead of bring-your-own refreshments, several spots -- two cafeterias, the upscale Highwood Supper Club, food and beverage stands and the traditional picnics -- offer succor to the hungry and thirsty. Change began soon after the founding, with the opening of the Shed in 1938 and the Tanglewood Music Center -- the BSO's world-renowned academy for advanced study -- and the Theater in 1940.

The Theater and Ozawa Hall have joined the Shed as concert venues. And instead of bring-your-own refreshments, several spots -- two cafeterias, the upscale Highwood Supper Club, food and beverage stands and the traditional picnics -- offer succor to the hungry and thirsty. Change began soon after the founding, with the opening of the Shed in 1938 and the Tanglewood Music Center -- the BSO's world-renowned academy for advanced study -- and the Theater in 1940.

But change accelerated during my time, which began in 1975. That was the third summer during Seiji Ozawa's record-breaking 29-year reign as Koussevitzky's heir.

Ozawa was an agent of change, supplying star power. People loved his graceful, athletic choreography of the music. But the bigger source of change was the one gripping America at large.

The rise of popular culture, celebrity worship, boomer lifestyles and, finally, the digital revolution put pressure on classical music and its presenters to break out of the mold. In earlier times, all an orchestra such as the BSO had to do was post a season and wait for ticket buyers to come.

Hence arose Tanglewood's proliferation of popular events, audience amenities, tie-ins with other cultural institutions, marketing enticements and digital offerings, the last culminating in the streaming of concert highlights from the past. Even so, classical attendance has slipped.

As in the beginning, the standard repertoire, roughly from Mozart to Mahler, is the backbone of the BSO's programming. Ozawa carried on this tradition.

Arriving at Tanglewood in 2005, Levine opened programming vistas with new and unusual works, including generous amounts of opera. More than that, he was a force on campus, giving and attending master classes and generally reinvigorating an orchestra and festival that had slipped into routine during Ozawa's last years.

There was an element of tragedy in each conductor's decline and departure.

At the end of Ozawa's tenure, he seemed distracted by allegiances in Japan and a wish to leave a legacy. Those twin drives led to hit-or-miss performances and a 1997 upheaval in which he needlessly dismissed the music center's four leaders (the ousted director said he had been kneecapped). Ozawa resigned two years later, though he hung on for three more years.

Like Ozawa, Levine was a jet-age conductor with other podiums to tend. This isn't necessarily bad. It allows for a showcasing of other conductors, both newcomers and veterans. But amid his health issues, Levine's energy and promise fizzled out, leaving the BSO leaderless for a second multiyear interregnum in a decade. A parade of guest conductors fills in.

Meanwhile, the death of Leonard Bernstein in 1990 ended an era reaching back to Koussevitzky. Tanglewood lost a great conductor, audience favorite, source of magnetic energy and link to the past.

In the beginning, Tanglewood enjoyed the company of Jacob's Pillow and the Berkshire Theater Festival as performing-arts lures. Today, other musical and theatrical stages, having risen in Tanglewood's shadow, vie for audiences and financial support. Meanwhile, television and a host of online attractions offer cheap, easy entertainment and bite into attention spans.

In the cities, new music, often influenced by pop, attracts a younger crowd. Though Koussevitzky surrounded himself with leading composers -- most notably Aaron Copland -- new music at Tanglewood today takes place primarily at the school.

The BSO performs a balancing act, upholding the symphonic tradition while presenting new works and tailoring its festival to the needs of the times. Even as change takes place on the grounds that Koussevitzky sanctified, classical music remains the foundation he built upon.