The Tanglewood Center Music Orchestra took on an enormous challenge in their first outing this summer. The Bruckner 4th Symphony is a magnificent leviathan of a piece which requires everything of its players and its conductor. The young French horn section deserves multiple plaudits. This work is one of the supreme tests of orchestral horn playing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was awfully good. There was a sterling trombone section which spoke as one voice. The strings were just terrific, a clear sweet sound, nothing pushed. Stefan Asbury strove valiantly to keep this monolithic piece moving through time strongly, and he largely succeeded. Karina Canellakis conducted the first work on the program, Paul ‘s Symphonic Metamorphosis, with strength and precision. There were excellent solos from Johanna Geruskin, flute, and passionate expressive tympani playing from Joseph Kelly. The taut energy that is everywhere in the piece was evidence of Ms. Canellakis’s control.
Next for the TMCO came a remarkable performance of music from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in the Shed, conducted by Andris Nelsons. Though not without a couple of rough spots, the playing was of a depth and flexibility I have rarely heard in the concert hall or the opera house. Just one example – the beautifully singing violin solos from concert-mistress Julia Noone in the final trio sung by Angela Denoke, Sophie Bevan, and Isabelle Leonard. This young player was a superb soloist in her own right. Seeing and hearing one so young playing with world-class singers is what Tanglewood is all about. The also-young Isabelle Leonard as Octavian used her clear, individual sound to best advantage in the trio of the opera which finished the performance.
Soprano Marie Marquis was quite spectacular in Kate Soper’s Festival of Contemporary Music piece, Helen Enfettered. Singing stratospherically with incredible ease, she also invested the text with great life and made us hear the sprung-out vocal setting as a true and natural thing. A really remarkable accomplishment.
I loved David Cohen’s Leonore Overture no. 3 – it was adventurous. The outbursts in the music were real outbursts. They stole upon the moment shockingly. His conducting of the overture was an operatic event. Best of all in this concert was a wonderful performance of the Beethoven Symphony no. 6, the Pastoral. Under the gentle, true conducting of Marcelo Lehninger, it was almost like a sinfonia concertante, thanks to the excellence of wind players – Kelly Zimba, flute; Daniel Parrette, clarinet; Corbin Stair, oboe; Rachelle Jenkins, French horn; Thomas English, bassoon. This group repeatedly played sections together and did so with an articulate speech. Daniel Parrette on clarinet deserves special mention. His tone was searingly expressive, but never left the limits of clarity and rhythmic rigor – something like the repose the music demands. He found the perfect middle way. This performance of this Symphony no. 6 is one of my highlights of Summer 2014.
Ansel Norris, trumpet, played an unforgettable solo near the beginning of the Porgy and Bess selections in the Tanglewood on Parade evening concert. This was quite the most singing brass playing I have heard in a long time.
And a Little Bit of Marlboro:
Maybe the best singing I have heard all summer I heard a few days ago at the Marlboro school. Spencer Lang sang the toughest Britten Canticle, tough technically and emotionally, and gave a deeper performance of the piece than I have ever heard. It was a performance that paid homage to the artistry of Peter Pears but did not sound like him. The soft high sounds in the piece are still in my ear. There was something profound in the room after this performance. Go hear him when you can.