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Review: Boston Symphony Orchestra Opens 2017 Tanglewood Season with Drama

By Mark McLaren, Editor in Chief, July 8, 2017

The 2017 Tanglewood season opened last night with stormy drama on and off the stage as Andris Nelsons settles into the longest Berkshire residency since his appointment as BSO music director and the Boston Symphony begins its summer.

A respectable-sized crowd enjoyed Tanglewood’s opening night assets with picnics on its lawns under a moody sky in the eighty-degree evening air. At seven forty-five, clouds darkened and by eight a heavy rain set in that would last for much of the night. For those in the shed, including lawn-sitters who filled empty rear sections, the sound provided appropriate atmospheric counterpoint to Mahler’s sprawling Symphony No. 2 in C Minor.

Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons; photo: ZEALnyc.

The topic is heroism, death and resurrection, and its choice gently references the Boston Symphony under Nelsons. His third season with the BSO continues to build its focused polish after some turbulent years, an enhanced quality that was apparent this season at Carnegie on February 28, March 1 and March 2. Boston made a very smart move in Nelsons, one of a small band of younger conductor talent including Nézet-Séguin with Philadelphia and van Sweden with New York. His expanded Tanglewood presence is welcome. Beyond quality assurance, a cult of personality, not seen since Ozawa, isn’t bad for Tanglewood business.

Nelsons reception last night suggests that such a cult is in the works, and the season’s opening was solid with sure pacing, dynamic playing and a respectable ensemble as the band adjusts to its outdoor home. Brass, here and there, may need a moment more to adjust, but the orchestra playing was fine and much of it exceptional in this work full of solo moments. Nelsons is a storyteller and drama is a payoff. This ‘Resurrection’ is alive with sharp, sensible contrasts strung along an intelligent arc. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus (James Burton) is remarkable – sublime as the fourth movement hymn begins with the softest of perfectly-tuned softs. Soprano Malin Christensson’s well-intentioned delight in text brings some odd shading, too often concealing an instrument that is clearly sound. Mezzo Bernarda Fink’s vocal depth and simplicity, last night, was a highlight.

Sopranos Bernarda Fink and Malin Christensson with Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood; photo: ZEALnyc.

Tanglewood is music, yes.  More precisely, it is an experience – dining under an often beautiful night sky on the grounds of an elegant estate nestled in mountains and nostalgic New England towns. And, of course, music. While weather may sometimes disappoint, the experience rarely will. And Nelsons expanded Tanglewood presence suggests that music never will.

On the lawn of Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; photo: ZEALnyc

The weekend continues on Sunday with Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with soprano superstar Kristine Opolais, paired with Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 at 2:30.

The exciting Daniil Trifonov plays Mozart on Friday the 14th. If you have time for just one concert next weekend, it will be Wagner’s Das Rheingold on Saturday evening, a season highlight.

Click here for our complete overview of the 2017 Tanglewood season.





Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood playing Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, “Resurrection,” July 8, 2017 with Andris Nelsons conducting and with Malin Christensson (soprano), Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano) and Tanglewood Festival Chorus (James Burton, conductor).

Cover Photo: Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus at Tanglewood; photo: ZEALnyc.


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