Young players from TMC and Swiss Academy realize Ozawa's dream, without Ozawa, at Tanglewood


LENOX — Seiji Ozawa probably dreamed of this moment for a long time: a teaming of his students from the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland with Tanglewood Music Center students for study and performance.

The dream finally happened, but without the dreamer in it. While the Boston Symphony's director laureate was convalescing from various afflictions in Tokyo, 47 students from the two institutions climaxed 10 days of collaboration with a joint concert Tuesday night in what seemed the only possible venue, Seiji Ozawa Hall.

The program: long. The performances: impressive. The young talent: amazing.

Ozawa sent regrets. In a note in the program book, he wrote: "Please know that I am thinking of you all in Japan and look forward to returning to Tanglewood." He'll be sent an audio recording of the proceedings.

The subject was strings, and especially the string quartet. The participants were roughly the same in age, mostly in their 20s, and mostly international in origin.

The 24 guests had the first half of the program to themselves, dividing into six quartets and playing mostly quartet movements. Twenty-three TMC students then shared the stage in a spectacular second half devoted to large ensembles. The many listeners who melted into the night at intermission, by which time a full-length concert had already taken place, missed a terrific show.

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The TMC and Swiss teaching programs had a common origin in a string quartet seminar that Ozawa and Robert Mann, the founding first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet, initiated at Tanglewood in 1997. After leaving the BSO in 2002, Ozawa replicated the program near Geneva in 2004. Both projects emphasize the string quartet as the basis of ensemble playing. Tanglewood string players concluded their seminar with a quartet marathon that ended Saturday.

The joint concert's post-intermission half began with two knockout performances.

First came TMC alumnus Osvaldo Golijov's "Ausencia," a kind of Bach-meets-Piazzola showpiece for solo cello and string orchestra. Cellist Norman Fischer, head of the TMC chamber music program, dazzled both technically and musically in a long opening cadenza, then merged with the antiphonally divided ensemble in a darkly, richly scored orchestral meditation.

Next (can anybody top this?) came the first movement of Mendelssohn's Octet played by the full Swiss contingent — in effect, three times eight. The idea seemed like a stunt but the brilliant performance, with the enriched textures nevertheless remaining vividly transparent, turned into a tour de force. There was no conductor. Concertmaster Suyeon Kim proved a dynamic leader.

For the finale, the two groups banded together for a somewhat swollen yet lively performance of four movements from Grieg's facsimile of an olden style, his "Holberg" Suite. TMC fellow Christian Reif substituted for Ozawa on the podium.

In the end, which came toward 11 p.m., this unusual evening proved more than a concert. With 43 young players joining to keep great music alive, it was one of those special events that leave you with a glow the next morning.


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