Tanglewood on Parade fulfills mission

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LENOX -- Tanglewood loves its traditions, as do its audiences, and the annual tasting menu of the Boston Symphony's summer offerings showcased the BSO, the Boston Pops and the TMC Orchestra of advanced young professionals to great effect for about 12,000 listeners on Tuesday night.

Since 1940, except for a four-season hiatus during World War Two, Tanglewood on Parade has attracted one of the season's larger crowds for a nine-hour sampling that includes student performances by members of the TMC, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (high-school age players), an instrument playground for youngsters, elaborate picnics and a general feeling of good cheer.

Among the night's greatest pleasures was guest conductor Stéphane Denève's stylish, swaggering romp through Gershwin's "An American in Paris," arguably among the composer's most popular orchestral works. As a Parisian in America, Denève was especially ebullient on the podium as he reveled in the taxi-horn cacophony depicting the street life of the French capital in the 1920s.

He was equally at home in the bluesy, highly syncopated portrait of an American visitor's longing for home amid the frenzied re-creation of Paris as experienced by a stroll through the heart of the city. The BSO responded to the conductor's enthusiasm with a crisp, well-honed performance that brought out the Gallic spirit mixed with Tin Pan Alley that Gershwin sought to convey.

Denève has turned in consistently fine performances here over the past two summers -- since he has expressed a desire to spend more time in the U.S., frequent and extended re-engagements would be appreciated by his many admirers.

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An equally welcome regular is the Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit, who first appeared at Tanglewood in 1982 and, at 76, seems just as energetic and committed as ever.

Leading the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances" from the opera "Prince Igor," Dutoit, especially skilled in colorful French and Russian scores, inspired the young players to a level of virtuosity required by the vigorous and sensuous ballet sequences that some of us recall were adapted for the 1953 musical "Kismet," notably in the pop song "Stranger in Paradise," based on "The Gliding Dance of the Maidens."

The TMC players delivered outstanding clarinet, oboe and English horn solos and the lively percussion section captured the galloping spirit of the "Wild Dance of the Men."

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Leading the Boston Pops in the Love Theme and Finale from Leonard Bernstein's inspired score for the classic 1954 film "On the Waterfront," Keith Lockhart made a strong case for those who consider this some of the composer's finest orchestral music.

Lockhart introduced the four BSO cellists who formed the Boston Cello Quartet in 2010 to demonstrate their instrument's potential not only in classical music but also contemporary works, jazz, tango, film music and the like.

"License to Trill," created for the Pops by Chris Walden as a "concertino" for orchestra and cello quartet, is a pastiche of recognizable themes from several James Bond films, including the signature original Bond motif and "Goldfinger." Although the orchestra swamped the cellists at times, Blaise Dejardin, Adam Esbensen, Mihail Jojatu and Alexandre Lecarme had their moments in the spotlight, sharing an infectious enthusiasm for the medley.

To no one's surprise, John Williams was accorded the usual hero's welcome as he led the Pops in the overture he fashioned from his Coplandesque score for "The Cowboys," the 1972 film starring John Wayne that marked the beginning of the end for big-screen Westerns. Williams captured the era's high-spirited frontier cattle-drive atmospherics with his typical panache and insight into the genre.

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No "Parade" would be complete without the annual traversal of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" (the one year it was omitted there was a predictable hue and cry from members of the public). By adopting a more stately pace, Williams injected some grandeur amid the the overall bombast. The simulated cannon sound effects and an especially colorful fireworks show brought the evening to a typically festive conclusion.

Best of all, the box-office take goes directly to help fund the Tanglewood Music Center, which offers free tuition, room and board to more than 150 creme de la creme young musicians each summer. And that's worth celebrating.

To contact Clarence Fanto: cfanto@yahoo.com


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