A season of celebration for Tanglewood


View of The Shed across the lawns at Tanglewood – © John Ferrilo

Tanglewood – like the Proms or Bayreuth – is one of those names which needs no elaboration – it’s familiar even to those with only a slight interest in classical music. Claiming a place amongst the world’s most famous and well-loved music festivals, each year it draws some of the greatest musicians, and over 350,000 music lovers to the Tanglewood estate in Stockbridge and Lenox in the Berkshire Hills, for a celebration of all that’s wonderful about classical music.

This is also where the Tanglewood Music Center – home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer academy for advanced musical study – is to be found, along with its two performance stages, the Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed (an unusual name, but there’s a story behind it) and Seiji Ozawa Hall.


Interior of the Ozawa Hall – © Steve Rosenthal

Tanglewood’s history dates back to 1934, when the New York Philharmonic was invited by a group of music lovers to present a series of outdoor concerts at Interlocken, Massachussetts.  In 1936, Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra were invited to perform there, and the concerts took place under a large tent before an audience of nearly 15,000.

Later that year, the grounds of the Tappan family estate, Tanglewood, were offered to Koussevitzky and the Orchestra, and the following summer, the first Tanglewood concert took place. Because the performance was badly disrupted by inclement weather, an appeal was launched for a permanent structure, however the designs submitted by the chosen architect were deemed too expensive. His response to the Trustees was that if they insisted on remaining within their budget, they would end up with “just a shed”.  A local architect was commissioned, his designs were duly accepted, and his building was inaugurated on the 4th of August, 1938. Some modifications took place over the years – including the installation of the Edmund Hawes Talbot Orchestra Canopy (which produced the world famous acoustics) – and in 1988, on the occasion of the building’s 50th anniversary, it was re-dedicated as The Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed. Today it is affectionately referred to simply as The Shed.


Andris Nelsons, Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra – © Marco Borggreve

At the Tanglewood Music Festival this year, two notable anniversaries are to be celebrated – the 75th anniversary of the Music Center, founded in 1940 by Serge Koussevitzky – then Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra – and the inaugural season of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s current Music Director, Andris Nelsons.

The season will celebrate highlights of past accomplishments of the Tanglewood Music Center, as well as its position as one of the foremost establishments in the United States for the creation of new music, and opportunities for performers in the realms of recital, chamber, vocal and orchestral music. The Center is also unique in that it is the only summer academy which operates under the auspices of a major symphony orchestra, whose members – along with other prominent musicians – play an important role in preparing its Fellows for their future in music.

Today it’s believed that some 20 percent of the members of American symphony orchestras, and around 30 percent of all first-chair musicians, studied at Tanglewood, and the Festival will pay tribute to all those who have contributed to the success of the academy over the past 75 years. Included are many of the most illustrious figures in 20th and 21st century classical music who have passed through the Music Center’s programs, as Fellows or as faculty members, since its founding – names such as Claudio Abbado, Emanuel Ax, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Charles Dutoit, Lukas Foss, Lorin Maazel, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Zubin Mehta, Sherrill Milnes, Seiji Ozawa, Leontyne Price, Peter Serkin, Bright Sheng, Michael Tilson Thomas, Dawn Upshaw, Christoph von Dohnányi, John Williams and David Zinman.

This tribute also extends to some of the world’s most eminent conductors who have led concerts by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and worked with the Center’s conducting Fellows. They include Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein,  Charles Dutoit, Erich Leinsdorf, James Levine, Charles Munch, Andris Nelsons, Seiji Ozawa, William Steinberg, Michael Tilson Thomas and Christoph von Dohnányi.


Michael Tilson Thomas will conduct the finale of the Festival of Contemporary Music – Photograph courtesy San Francisco Symphony

The Tanglewood Music Center’s 75th anniversary season opened on June 25th, and runs concurrently with the annual Tanglewood Music Festival. Highlights of the celebratory season include over 30 newly commissioned works from composers with close links to the Center; the annual Festival of Contemporary Music; and the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert, in which Andris Nelsons leads the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s magnificent Symphony No 8 – the Symphony of a Thousand – with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, American Boychoir, BUTI Chorus and a cast of internationally acclaimed soloists which includes sopranos Erin Wall and Christine Goerke, mezzo-sopranos Lioba Braun and Jane Henschel, tenor Klaus Florian Vogt, and baritone Matthias Goerne.

The Festival of Contemporary Music, which runs from July 20th to 27th, is one of the most prestigious activities of the Tanglewood season – and in this anniversary year it will present 15 of the 30 new commissions, as well as works for smaller ensembles, chamber works, string quartets and vocal works. For the finale, Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, leads the TMC Orchestra in a program of music by three composers central to the history of the Music Center – Aaron Copland (the first Director of the Tanglewood Music Center), Leonard Bernstein (a Tanglewood Fellow whose involvement with the Boston Symphony Orchestra spanned more than six decades), and Lukas Foss (a former Composer-in-Residence at the Center) – ending with a work by American composer Charles Ives.  MTT has previously conducted the TMC Orchestra on many occasions, the most recent having been five years ago in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No 3.


Charles Dutoit conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a performance of Berlioz’s ‘Requiem’ in 2011 – © Stu Rosner

The annual Tanglewood Music Festival season opened on June 20th, and includes performances by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the Boston Symphony and the Boston Pops Orchestra, as well as a line-up of illustrious guest artists from the worlds of classics, jazz, American Songbook, Broadway, pop, rock, dance and film.

Luminaries from the world of classical music include Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Gautier and Renaud Capuçon, Vadim Glutzman, Håkan Hardenberg, Leonidas Kavakos, Yo-Yo Ma, Garrick Ohlsson, Kristine Opolais, Sondra Radvanovsky, Bryn Terfel, Christian Tetzlaff, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Pinchas Zukerman.

The list of guest conductors is no less impressive, and includes Stéphane Denève, Charles Dutoit, Keith Lockhart, Sir Neville Marriner, Andris Nelsons, Michael Tilson Thomas, Bramwell Tovey, Christoph von Dohnányi, John Williams and Christian  Zacharias.

The star-studded program also includes Diana Krall, the Mark Morris Dance Company, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Huey Lewis and the News, Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Audra McDonald.


Emanuel Ax – © Lisa Marie Mazzucco


Yo-Yo Ma – © Todd Rosenberg

This year, in a first for the Tanglewood Festival, Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma will each take the newly-created honorary title of Koussevitzky Artist – in recognition of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s appreciation for their performance and teaching commitment to the 2015 Tanglewood season, and for the involvement by each of these artists with the BSO, both at Tanglewood and at Symphony Hall in Boston.

Music lovers all over the world will be able to participate in some of the Tanglewood Music Center’s 75th anniversary performances. There’s a free webcast of the performance of the Mahler symphony, with a supplemental video about the anniversary, and free weekly 75th anniversary music downloads, showcasing some of the best performances of the TMC’s 75-year history. These media projects will be available during the summer at www.tanglewood.org.

For a complete overview of the Tanglewood 2015 season, follow this link.


The lawns at Tanglewood – © Stu Rosner

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