Tanglewood going digital with ambitious online festival of audio, video streams

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LENOX — Call it a Tanglewood season in translation.

With the regular season canceled because of COVID-19, the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Monday announced details of an ambitious "Online Festival" featuring many of the artists originally scheduled to appear in person, plus other notables, archival concerts and programs recorded abroad.

The festival will run from July 3 to Aug. 23 and consist of both audio and video streams, some free.

The content, some of which had been previously announced, is arranged in six series. They range from archival BSO concerts to recitals to be newly recorded in Tanglewood's Linde Center especially for the festival. The players range from Tanglewood favorites like pianists Emanuel Ax and Garrick Ohlsson — both retained from the original programming — to debut artists.

Other programming will present BSO members and past Tanglewood Music Center students in concert. Educational programs in a Tanglewood Learning Center series will include a Beethoven celebration for the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Anticipating 2021, BSO director Andris Nelsons said in the announcement: "I promise to keep my dear Tanglewood family in my heart and look forward to an extraordinary reunion when we will celebrate in a whole new way our deep appreciation for the music and physical beauty that the Tanglewood experience brings to all our lives. My prayers continue to be with those who are suffering, those who are caring for them, and the workers holding our communities together."

Tanglewood director and BSO artistic administrator Anthony Fogg said his impression is that Tanglewood's digital offerings "are far more varied and more generous in scope" than those of other summer music festivals such as Aspen.

In an email, Fogg added, "The essence of our online schedule is the mix of new (bespoke) material which is soon to be recorded, plus never-before-seen/heard archival material, as well as all of the spoken-word programs of the Tanglewood Learning Institute." The programming maintains "as many aspects of the planned in-person 2020 festival as possible," he said.

In addition to many of the summer's scheduled artists appearing, he said, concerts have been scheduled at roughly the same period as they would have been heard live. Complete BSO concerts, for example, are at 2:30 on Sundays.

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"We want to try to connect with our audiences at the times they would be typically coming to Tanglewood for a concert or TLI session or to hear the [TMC] fellows," Fogg said.

The season is the first in Tanglewood's 83-year history without live concerts. (Contrary to a previous announcement, documents show that 1945, the last wartime year, was not dark but enjoyed a six-concert season that attracted audiences totaling 16,400).

Berkshire favorite James Taylor will host and perform in "The Best of Tanglewood on Parade," a re-creation of the annual gala featuring the BSO, Pops and TMC Orchestra (date to be announced). Scrims on the Shed's side panels will list the names of 1,072 Berkshire area high school graduates from 2020, many of whom would have celebrated graduation in the Tanglewood Shed.

Three newly recorded series, all in video streaming, are:

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- "Great Performers in Recital at Tanglewood" (Saturday evenings): recorded at the Linde Center, presenting artists who were to have appeared in the Shed and additional guests.

- "Recitals from The World Stage" (Wednesday evenings): newly recorded programs taped at other concert venues in the U.S. and Europe, also featuring artists scheduled for this summer, such as pianist Paul Lewis, Silkroad and the Danish String Quartet.

- "BSO Musicians in Recital" (Friday evenings): 40 orchestra members in programs to be taped at the Linde Center.

Three retrospective series are:

- "BSO Encore Performances" (Sunday afternoons): video streams of performances led by Nelsons, former BSO director Seiji Ozawa and other leading conductors.

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- "Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra Encore Performances" (Monday evenings): audio streams, including the Tanglewood Family Concert, by the student orchestra.

- "Sunday Morning Chamber Music Concerts": audio streams from a popular TMC series.

A "Tanglewood Virtual Gala" on July 23 will celebrate the centennial of American violinist Isaac Stern, who had a 50-year association with the BSO. On Aug. 7, the annual Family Fun Fest will go digital.

In a separate series, video streams from the Learning Institute, both newly created and retrospective, will include master classes taught by Nelsons, Paul Lewis, violinist Midori and others; a "TLI Openforum" exploration of the Roaring 20s and the romantic spirit; and the anniversary exploration of Beethoven's work.                         

Prices begin at $5 to $12 for a single stream, ranging to $8 to $90 for multiple stream packages. In general, according to a BSO spokesperson, newly produced content (the three new recital series) is behind a paywall, while retrospective concerts (BSO Sunday Encores, TMC Chamber concerts, TMCO concerts) are free. Learning Institute programming is behind a paywall. Advance sales begin today[MONDAY, JUNE 15].                         

The BSO anticipates that all festival programming will remain online for seven days after the release date, the spokesperson said.                                                                                                                                            

The Tanglewood grounds will be open during limited hours on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Advance registration at tanglewood.org is required for a visit, and limits will be placed on the number of visitors. Masks are required and rest rooms will be closed.                                                                                                    

Further information and detailed programs are available on the website.


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