Friday, July 22, 2016

Tanglewood — 2016/07/22-24

This weekend's concerts give us lots of frequently played music (which indicates it's fairly popular), so you can listen without fear.

Friday, July 22.  The (mostly) "warhorse weekend" begins with the program described as follows on the orchestra's program detail page:
English conductor  Sir Andrew Davis-currently music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra-returns to the Shed stage for the first time since 2008. To open the program, he leads the  Boston Symphony Orchestra  in Vaughan Williams's haunting  Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, inspired by a melody by the great English Renaissance composer. Renowned Georgian violinist  Lisa Batiashvili joins the orchestra for Dvořák's Violin Concerto, and Maestro Davis and the BSO close the program with Sibelius's soaring Symphony No. 5, written in 1915 on commission from the Finnish government in celebration of the composer's 50th birthday and subsequently revised in 1916 and 1919.
(Some emphasis added.)
The page also has links to audio previews and program notes, with performer bios available by clicking the thumbnail picture.

The first two pieces are okay, but my personal opinion is that they are played too often. They take up time which could be spent giving us things which may not be quite as good, but which deserve an occasional hearing (the Strauss Clarinet Concerto, to give just one example). On the other hand, Sibelius is one of my current favorites, and I'm really looking forward to hearing his 5th.

Regrettably, management hasn't yet given up on its "UnderScore Friday" project: having a presentable young member of the orchestra give us a couple of minutes of drivel with some factoids about composer or music — all in the hope that it will make the concert more appealing to people who wandered in off the street, and thereby increase audiences in the future. "Wow! This classical music is actually cool! Give me more." And this is one of those UnderScore Fridays. Forewarned is forearmed. But listen anyway.

Saturday, July 23.  Here's the description from the BSO's program detail page:
Spanish maestro  Juanjo Mena, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, begins a two-night stint leading the BSO on Saturday July 23 and Sunday, July 23, at 8 p.m. To begin the concert on July 23, Mr. Mena is joined by American pianist and frequent BSO and Tanglewood guest  Garrick Ohlsson for Tchaikovsky's rhapsodic and beloved Piano Concerto No. 1. Spanish soprano  Raquel Lojendio, making her BSO debut, joins the orchestra for the second half of the program, featuring Falla's complete The Three-cornered Hat, a ballet based on Pedro Antonio comic novella,  El sombrero de tres picos. Falla wrote the score in 1919 for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, the impresario and company that were responsible for commissioning many (sic) of the 20th century's greatest ballet music.
(Some emphasis added.)

The program detail page has the usual links to background information.

Again, the Tchaikovsky is well liked, so you'll probably enjoy listening. IMO, however, this is another of those warhorses that ought to have given place to something that is good but rarely heard. Also, the two pieces are so short that they could and should have given us a curtain raiser as well. After intermission, "The Three-cornered Hat" is innocuous enough, but not my favorite style of music. I'm not sorry that my brother's weekly call from Tokyo will make me miss it. I think reading the program note in advance — always a good idea, especially for narrative works — will really help you enjoy the Ginastera. Despite my semi-negative comments, knowing what was supposed to be happening really helped me enjoy it when I heard the piece several years ago in Symphony Hall.

Sunday, July 24.  On Sunday, we get one of the lesser-known pieces that I've been calling for. The BSO program detail page informs us:
On Sunday, July 24, at 2:30 p.m., 27-year-old German violinist Veronika Eberle makes her BSO and Tanglewood debuts with Maestro Mena and the orchestra in a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4, written 1775, when the composer was just 19 years old. Also on the program is Beethoven's ever-popular Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, and Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera's Variaciones concertantes-a theme and 11 variations in which the composer wrote that all of the instruments are treated "solistically"-performed to mark the 100th anniversary of Ginastera's birth.
(Some emphasis added.)

I don't think I've ever heard the Ginastera work (which will be performed first, despite being mentioned last), so I applaud the conductor for presenting it. The other pieces are excellent and, along with the Sibelius on Friday, will be the highlights of the weekend concerts for me. Even so, if there were something good but unfamiliar instead of one or both, I wouldn't complain.

So overall, I recommend listening to all three concerts. Some of it is really great, and some is good, which is about what you can hope for in a concert program.

The Friday and Saturday concerts can be heard via WCRB radio or web at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, and the Sunday program will be aired and streamed at 7:00, p.m. (not live at 2:30). That home page, in addition to the link to listen over the web, gives information about other special programming which may be of interest. Their BSO page, in addition to listings of the works to be performed, gives the same information about the remaining Tanglewood concert broadcasts and various other interesting items and links, including a list of other stations in the region which broadcast the concerts.

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