July 6, 2015 Article by Dave Read
The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 Tanglewood season got underway with an all-American program of works by John Harbison, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Duke Ellington. While BSO music director Andris Nelsons was conducting in Germany, the orchestra was led tonight by French conductor Jacques Lacombe, who made his Tanglewood debut last year.
The program opened with John Harbison’s Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra), a delightful eight minute piece from his opera The Great Gatsby, which was performed by the orchestra and chorus of Emmanuel Music in Ozawa Hall in 2013. Mr. Harbison came to the podium afterwards to take a bow with the orchestra.
Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, with Kirill Gerstein
It took a couple minutes to prepare the stage for the next piece, to modify the podium, make room for several additional musicians, and to set up the piano center stage. Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, featuring Russian-born pianist Kirill Gerstein, was the highlight of the program, eliciting roars of applause from the audience. Both orchestra and soloist have plenty of starring opportunities in this piece, but Gerstein may have stolen the show tonight. His performance was so fluid and luminous that it commanded your full attention; but then listening intently to the piano parts only served to burnish the brilliance of the orchestra’s playing!
Gerstein, who has played twice before at Tanglewood, has quite a varied and impressive resume. While a youngster receiving classical training, he taught himself jazz and after coming to the attention of vibraphonist, composer, and jazz educator Gary Burton during a trip to the Soviet Union, he moved to Boston to study jazz piano, becoming at 14, the youngest student ever at Berklee College of Music, and spent two summers at the BU Tanglewood Institute. Today he is artist-in-residence at Berklee and member of the piano and chamber music faculty at the Boston Conservatory.
Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, Ellington’s Harlem
- Boston Symphony orchestra – July 3, 2015 program
- Jacques Lacombe, conductor
- Kirill Gerstein, piano
- John Douglas Thompson, speaker
- HARBISON – Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra)
- GERSHWIN – Piano Concerto in F
- COPLAND – Lincoln Portrait
- ELLINGTON – Harlem
- Box Office: 617-266-1200; 888-266-1200
- Website: tanglewood.org
Sad to say, but the exuberance elicited by the first portion of tonight’s program made it difficult to attend with an appropriate seriousness to Aaron Copland‘s elegaic Licnoln Portrait, in the second – especially given the recent murders in Charlestown, SC, which deepened the sadness of how we have failed to attain the quality of nationhood envisioned by Lincoln. John Douglas Thompson, the actor who has performed frequently with Shakespeare & Co., was eloquent and powerful in the spoken part.