Andris Nelsons Tanglewood program with Joshua Bell Beethoven’s Fifth
Article by Dave Read
The program at Tanglewood on Sunday July 20, 2014, a mix of the new, the rare, and the familiar, with Andris Nelsons conducting the BSO, and guest soloist Joshua Bell, attracted a very big audience to the Koussevitsky Music Shed on a splendid summer afternoon. It was the fourth and final Tanglewood appearance of the season for Nelsons, whose tenure as BSO Music Director begins in September. From this amateur’s perspective, and judging too from the way the audience responded today and last week, this was a good hire by the masters of the BSO.
The program opened with Christopher Rouse’s Rapture, an eleven minute piece described by the composer as depicting “a progression to an ever more blinding ecstasy.” A former composer-in-residence at Tanglewood, Rouse was called onstage by Nelsons after the orchestra’s performance of this thrilling piece, which is highlighted by very cool timpani passages.
Joshua Bell reprises 1989 Tanglewood debut
Next, Indiana native Joshua Bell performed French composer Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, last heard here in 1989, when Bell made his Tanglewood debut. Symphonie espagnole is really a five movement violin concerto (despit it’s whimsical title), and today’s performance manifested the orchestra’s brilliance in the role of accompanist to the violin soloist. Virtuosity across the board: Bell, BSO, and Nelsons.
Today’s concert wasn’t all high-minded seriousness, not that it ever is at Tanglewood – where the demographic is more elastic than at Symphony Hall, with plebs picnicing in close proximity to patricians and many people making their debuts as patrons of an orchestra. They make themselves know by awkward applause at the end of the first movement, before getting schooled by seatmates.
Beethoven Symphony No. 5 at Tanglewood
A soloist of Mr. Bell’s stature and popularity attracts such newcomers to the audience and some of them will become next season’s ssshhhers. Bell and Nelsons themselves were responsible for a bit of fun after the 3rd movement when the violinist paused to tidy his hair and the conductor mimicked him in turn, much to the delight of the throng.
After intermission, the audience’s attention is immediately reclaimed with the four note opening motif of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, probably the most recognizable phrase in the history of art. Maestro Nelsons and the BSO were an organic whole responsible for benefitting the audience with thirty-plus minutes of transcendent beauty. There was not a scintilla of cliche in this performance – it had a freshness and originality that betrayed its age and familiarity. Just as Serge Koussevitsky himself would have expected, having chosen it for the very first program at Tanglewood!