Jeremy Yudkin is a professor of music at Boston University. He gives preconcert talks for Tanglewood weekends every Friday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. at Lenox Town Hall.

7.30.21 All Beethoven Program, Violinist Leonidas Kavakos, Pianist Emanuel Ax & Cellist Yo-Yo Ma Perform,_2(Hilary Scott).jpeg

Violinist Leonidas Kavakos, seen here with pianist Emanuel Ax and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, during the 2021 all Beethoven program at Tanglewood, will perform several times this weekend at Tanglewood. On Friday, he'll team up with Ax and Ma and Antoine Tamestit for the third and final concert of the Ax-curated Pathways from Prague series. On Saturday night, he'll join the BSO again to perform Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.

LENOX — In 1910, Maurice Ravel wrote five pieces for two pianos based on the “Mother Goose” stories for the two children of friends. The youngsters must have been gifted, if, at the ages of 6 and 7, they were able to play Ravel’s enchanting score. The following year, Ravel orchestrated the piece and it will be in its orchestral version that it will be played on Saturday evening at Tanglewood.

The five movements are: “The Pavane for Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Tom Thumb,” “Ugly Little Girl, Empress of the Pagodas,” “Conversations between Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Fairy Garden.” The music traverses the elegance of the first movement to the playfulness of the second, the deliberate exoticism of the third, a love duet in the fourth, and the happy-ever-after of the fifth.

The Ravel composition is the final piece on the concert, which begins with the “Métaboles” of the French composer Henri Dutilleux, a modernist whose refined style and perfectionism are showcased in the small number of works he allowed to be published.

Dutilleux, who twice served as composer in residence at Tanglewood, died in 2013. He was a man of immense charm, elegance and kindness. “Métaboles” was composed in 1965 and is in five movements, the first four of which showcase different sections of the orchestra, while the final movement combines them all. Within each movement an idea is exposed that is then subjected to infinitesimal changes, so that by the end the music is transformed. (Metabolites are small molecules produced from larger substances by a process of transformation.)

To fill out the prevailingly French nature of the program, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the Russian composer Dima Slobodeniouk, who lives in Finland, will perform the deservedly popular tone poem of Debussy, “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.” Note the spelling of the last word. This is not a baby deer, but a mythical creature, half man, half goat, with a tendency toward laziness and lust. Another word for a faun is satyr, though an expert could tell the difference.

The work is based on an 1876 poem of the same title by the Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarmé, which captures the slumbrous fantasies of the faun, who is also a flute-player. (The poem was published with illustrations by the impressionist painter Edouard Manet.) A highly evocative flute solo opens the work, which blossoms into erotic dreams. The music feels so natural that it is hard to believe how revolutionary it was for its time, with its whole-tone scales, prominent tritones, harmonic shifts, and vacillating meters. It has been called the starting point of modern music. The premiere in 1894 was such a success that the audience demanded an immediate repetition.

Not French but equally elegant and refined is Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, which will be performed on this program by the suave and brilliantly talented Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos. This work, one of the outstanding violin concertos of the Romantic era, was completed in 1845 and was a success at its premiere and thereafter. It has been named a “jewel” of the repertoire. Its innovations include the immediate entrance of the soloist at the outset of the work, the appearance of the composed cadenza in the middle of the first movement instead of toward the end, and the joining of the three movements into an unbroken whole. But its most notable feature is the characteristic elegance, expression, and free-flowing invention of its composer, whose music is like the conversation of a great orator, moving effortlessly from topic to topic while keeping you completely engaged.


A look at Tanglewood concerts at the Koussevitzky Music Shed this week ...

8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 12: Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, Antoine Tamestit, and Yo-Yo Ma

Featuring three Tanglewood favorites and the Tanglewood debut of French violist Antoine Tamestit, this final concert of the Emanuel Ax-curated Pathways from Prague series explores chamber music by three Czech composers. 

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Ticket includes admission to the 6 p.m. prelude concert.

10: 30 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 13: Rehearsal: Cristian Măcelaru conducts Anna Clyne, Elgar, Debussy, and Enescu featuring Yo-Yo Ma, cello

Gates open at 10:30 a.m.

8 p.m, Saturday, Aug. 13: Dima Slobodeniouk conducts Dutilleux, Mendelssohn, Debussy, and Ravel featuring Leonidas Kavakos, violin

The Serge and Olga Koussevitzky Memorial Concert. Finland-based Russian conductor Dima Slobodeniouk returns to Tanglewood and is joined by violinist Leonidas Kavakos in Felix Mendelssohn’s buoyant Violin Concerto, one of the most popular works in the genre.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Ticket includes the 6 p.m. prelude concert.

2:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 14: Cristian Măcelaru conducts Anna Clyne, Elgar, Debussy, and Enescu featuring Yo-Yo Ma, cello

Romanian conductor Cristian Măcelaru, a 2010 Tanglewood Music Center Fellow, makes his BSO debut. Masquerade, by the U.S.-based English composer Anna Clyne, evokes the unique milieu of mid-18th-century London promenade concerts; this is the BSO’s first performance of Clyne’s music. Tanglewood favorite Yo-Yo Ma joins for Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

Gates open at noon.

8 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 14: Stefan Asbury and TMC Conducting Fellows conduct Price, Bartók, and Rachmaninoff

Stefan Asbury and Tanglewood Music Center Conducting Fellows lead the TMC Orchestra in this eclectic program. Program includes Florence Price's "Ethiopia's Shadow in America," Béla Bartók's suite from "The Miraculous Mandarin," and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Ticket includes the 6 p.m. prelude concert.

More information and tickets: 888-266-1200,

Jeremy Yudkin is a professor of music at Boston University.  His gives preconcert talks for Tanglewood weekends every Friday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. at Lenox Town Hall.