Tanglewood Online Festival: Saying goodbye to Ozawa - again

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LENOX —The Shed stage is jammed. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, vocal soloists and Tanglewood Music Center students are crammed on with Seiji Ozawa and pianist Peter Serkin. The concert ends with a peaceful amen. A surge of affection rises from audience to stage, from stage to audience and back to stage again.

A new video in Tanglewood's "Online Festival" recalls the momentous 2002 farewell concert when Ozawa departed the BSO after 29 sometimes tumultuous years as its music director. The audio and video quality on the release is not up to the precision standard of others in the summer's streaming series. Even more, then, this feels like one of those grainy historic movies from a distant age.

The program begins with Ozawa taking the podium but standing in silent meditation for a long moment. He is 67. His hair is gray. The score sits unopened on the desk in front of him. He will conduct from memory as usual.

Out in front on the sunny afternoon, the audience overflows the Shed onto much of the lawn.

The first two works are Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" and Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, old BSO party pieces, here with Serkin as the piano soloist in Beethoven. They receive typical Ozawa performances: tightly controlled, photographically accurate. It's not until the finale, Randall Thompson's "Alleluia," the Music Center's identifying work for all of its 80 years, that fires are lit.

Ozawa invites the audience to sing the a cappella work along with the BSO, chorus, vocal soloists and students. If you can't sing, he says, "try."

Leaving the musicians to follow him from behind, he leads the audience in the hymn.

The music rises, falls and spreads a benediction with its tranquil amen. Amid the ensuing ovation, Ozawa makes a round of hugs for Serkin and the front-row BSO players. Then, still lithe and athletic, he dashes offstage. But of course he is called back, again and again. He turns to face the cheering audience and a gang of greedy cameras. He says a heartfelt thank-you and goodbye.

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"I'll never forget my life, [at] Tanglewood," he says.

The cheering resumes. On the stage, more hugs for anyone within reach. He waves to the chorus, arrayed at the back of the stage, and blows kisses to the audience. Everyone leaves. The era ends.

Next video, please.

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When the Danish String Quartet made its Tanglewood debut four years ago, it was greeted by one of the Berkshires' soggiest, most sauna-like evenings. Men and instruments wilted. It was impossible to know what the much-praised ensemble could do.

The Danes (three plus one Norwegian) were due back this summer but the virus intervened. Instead, they are the subject of a video recorded in Copenhagen for the Tanglewood series.

It's an odd program: Shostakovich's Quartet No. 10 and the players' arrangements of Scandinavian folk songs. The sound is full-bodied and the playing makes a powerful testament of Shostakovich's anguish and obsessions in the face of Stalinist terror.

The folk songs, running longer than the Shostakovich, have an ancient, even medieval quality. There are country fiddling, bagpipe drones and foot-stomping dances. Still, they seem an easy out. A few would provide nice contrast in a standard program but what can this group do in Mozart or Beethoven?

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The cameras wobble as if hand-held, and daylight from a window switches haphazardly between noon and dusk. Maybe it's the effect of that Scandinavian partying.

American folk song, both traditional and freshly minted, is the business of a video newly recorded in the Linde Center by eight BSO players. Violinist Bonnie Bewick, the organizer, explains that crossover playing is "an amazing outlet for creativity" and "genres are fairly fluid these days."

A set of short pieces is played by a string trio and another by a solo cello (Mickey Katz). Bewick herself is the author of three pieces: "Cindy" and "Snowblower," jigs "dedicated to Rossini (maybe his `Cinderella'?) and "New England Winters" (a "first shake for them"), and "Mt. Greylock Waltz" (a misty day). Katz plays a suite of six miniatures written for him. Otherwise, there are arrangements of traditional tunes, some familiar, some not.

A wind quintet finishes the program with a longer selection with a Latin flavor, excerpts from Paquito D'Rivera's "Aires Tropicales." The players' grim expressions belie the fun of the program.

On another new Linde video, pianist Daniil Trifonov attains monumentality in "The Art of Fugue," Bach's end-of-life compendium of the myriad possibilities of canon and fugue.

"The Art of Fugue," more than an hour long, can seem forbidding, especially in comparison with Bach's more gracious "Goldberg" Variations. But the Russian-born Trifonov, who made his name with the big virtuoso pieces of romanticism, delineates Bach's varieties of counterpoint with arresting contrasts of volume, tempo, rhythm and color, all enriched by moments of startling beauty.                                                                                     

His colorful socks are an added attraction.

His colorful socks are an added attraction.


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