Tanglewood is back. It’s a phrase that is music to the ears of Berkshire music lovers, and it rings all the more sonorously this year.
Last weekend’s concert was not just a sweet sound but a sight for sore eyes as well. Concertgoers returned to the Koussevitzky Shed and the surrounding lawn for a free Boston Pops July 4th Spectacular show celebrating both Independence Day and the thunderous return of music to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home.
It was a refrain of rejoice long deferred and realized once again nearly two years after the venue’s last in-person concert. When the coronavirus pandemic struck last year, it quieted much of the musical world. Tanglewood was not spared, canceling all live performances for the first time since World War II. That deafening silence was defeated Sunday, however, with a patriotic program concluding with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” complete with live cannons. It was a booming crescendo marking a celebration of musical homecoming that will sustain throughout the summer.
Tanglewood’s season is among the highly anticipated signs of a return to relative normality this summer as we strive to heal from a once-in-a-century public health crisis. Yes, it is a shorter season, with caps on capacity, concert length and orchestra size. These minor precautions notwithstanding, we can once again gather in-person to take in the uniquely sublime combination of world-class music and community atmosphere on offer at those gorgeous grounds tucked between Lenox and Stockbridge.
Throughout its history, Tanglewood has always been the crown jewel of the Berkshire summer experience. Now, it is a gem we can and should treasure all the more after having to sacrifice it last year.
After the Boston Pops helped Tanglewood trumpet its triumphant resurgence, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will begin its summer season this weekend. Saturday’s all-Beethoven program will be conducted by orchestra director Andris Nelsons and feature pianist Emanuel Ax, a Tanglewood favorite, as a soloist.
The BSO’s return to The Shed stage will be the orchestra’s first performance before a live audience in 16 months. Musicians and concertgoers alike will be able to revel in harmonious relief of the cruel tension wrought by COVID-19 after a year that saw many of life’s joys, like live music and shared cultural experience, torn from us.
For all of the emotional complexity and weight of BSO’s return to Tanglewood, Beethoven was certainly a good choice. And while the program won’t feature the composer’s Ninth Symphony movement “Ode to Joy,” the occasion certainly will be one anyway.
Once again, the Berkshire hills are alive with the sound of music, and the return of performances at Tanglewood sounds a hopeful overture on the region’s road to recovery. If you can, take in a concert from the lawn this summer. It will likely be the perfect tonal tonic to a year of being cooped up.