July 26, 2005 Article by Dave Read
The 2005 Tanglewood on Parade may be remebered as the Five Conductors show for the parade of maestros to the podium in the Serge Kousevitsky Music Shed during the gala concert that culminated the all-day musical celebration for the benefit of the Tanglewood Music Center, now 65 years old. By nightfall, an audience of 12,345 had massed at the Shed after an afternoon of recitals, concerts, and demonstrations throughout the campus by students of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center.
First to the podium was Music Director James Levine to lead the B.S.O. in Berlioz’ Roman Carnival Overture. Wearing a tuxedo on a very hot day, the ruddy-faced maestro wrung a rousing performance from his casually clad players. So swept up was he in the final measure that it looked like he was twirling a lariat, about to rope a brace of basses. Smart programming that, forcing the audiences attention back to the delights of music and away from the joy of the fancy picnic.
Up next was Boston Pops principal guest conductor Bruce Hangen to lead the Pops in the Symphonic Dances from T.M.C. alumnus Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. This was a bravura performance that showcased both the brilliance of the orchestra and the genius of the composer. There were moments when you could’ve mistook Hangen and the Pops for Benny Goodman and his Big Band, so swell did they swing!
Then Pops conductor emeritus John Williams took over, and delighted the audience that had so warmly welcomed him by conducting the Pops in two passages from his own Star Wars score. Maestro Levine came back onstage after intermission, straddling a chair backwards like a kibitzer at a card table, to invoke the spirit of Serge Koussevitsky, express his feelings about being at Tangelwood, and to introduce his predecessor, “colleague and friend” Seiji Ozawa.
The beaming Ozawa sprinted to center stage, hugged Levine, glanced at the adoring audience, clasped hands with four or five T.M.C. players and got right to work leading the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in a thrilling performance of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3.
They simply blew the roof off the joint, these young musicians who didn’t know each other until last month and who weren’t even born until Seiji Ozawa was into the second decade of his Tanglewood tenure. The nimble Ozawa, whose contract with the Vienna State Opera was recently extended through the 2009-10 season, was lithe as ever on the podium – a whole body conducting manner that’s both commanding and eloquent.
Frequent Tanglewood guest conductor Hans Graf was the right choice to lead the combined orchestras in the grand finale, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Wearing a white tunic and projecting a stately demeanor, he conducted a fine aural war, satisfying our appetites for the lush and romantic as well as the savage and martial.
(There were 4 conductors on the Tanglewood on Parade program in 2001, Seiji Ozawa’s last as B.S.O. Music Director, including Andre Previn. A new composition by Chris Brubeck was given its Tanglewood debut, and Ozawa was given an authentic Civil War cannon.)