All-Beethoven artists bow

Violinist Leonidas Kavakos, pianist Emanuel Ax and cellist Yo-Yo Ma take a bow at Friday’s all-Beethoven program in The Shed at Tanglewood.

RICHMOND — The Shed audience was sparse last Friday. The stage was sparser. The first was a matter of observing COVID protocols — social distancing in seating. The second was genius.

Surrounded by empty benches — no flutes, no oboes, no drums, no trombones — a violinist, a cellist and a pianist took their places at center stage. And produced an evening of music that made the audience cheer and laugh, the three major talents obviously enjoying it all themselves.

It was three friends sharing their work with us: Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos playing Beethoven’s Piano Trio No 3 in C minor. It was lovely, with Ax’s fingers creating a grumble, a march, a waterfall — and the violin and cello talking to each other.

But, then, after each gave a small talk about what was about to happen, we heard Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, played the way you’d have heard it in Paris when it made its debut. Without an orchestra and as arranged for piano trio by Beethoven.

Ax and the irrepressible Ma and violinist Kavakos provided an evening that made me forget that a river was running through my vegetable garden, the pumpkin plants were treading water, the beans had drowned, the tomatoes were struggling. In addition, a giant spruce tree — or the top half of it — was lying in the field.

Across the yard, one of three much-loved lindens, planted 50 or so years ago, had twisted off, taking part of another spruce with it; in the front yard, a large center limb was dangling from a sugar maple. All of the tree drama took place when I wasn’t home, so unless neighbors were listening, they made no sound as they twisted, cracked and fell.

These are small matters, of course, compared with what’s happening to farmers who have made agriculture here their career, only to be confronted with puddles between rows, running streams and whole fields made soggy. Plants that provide produce are drowning, and who can predict a good day to mow the hay that feeds the animals?

It’s was a pretty wretched July, weather-wise, with more than one person commenting that it would be nice if we could transfer some of the water to the fiery, drought-plagued parts of the country.

So, it appears that something short and evil came this way last Tuesday. Lenox suffered more than Richmond, apparently, but this town lost trees, asphalt, gravel roads and whatever wind and water could attack successfully.

It would be nice not to encounter anyone in the next few months who wants to insist that climate change is just Mother Nature at work, a hoax invented by Democrats, or nothing to worry about.

But, on Friday, escaping to the 19th century in such a charming and incredible way was even more wonderful than seeing the sun come out. And the audience loved it, especially when Ax, Ma, Kavakos and the page turner came out for a second bow. Just as you were about to think, “Page turner?” they sat. We would have an encore.

And as the three hit DA-DA-DA DUM, the audience roared with laughter, and the unabashedly pleased performers played a movement of the familiar Beethoven’s Fifth. It was a grand evening.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.