August 19, 2002 performance, reviewed by Dave Conlin Read
The Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, which made its debut only five weeks earlier with conductor Seiji Ozawa and soloist Mstislav Rostropovich, gave its valedictory performance under the artful guidance of guest conductor James Conlon to a rapt audience that drew a large audience to Ozawa Hall and to the gentle slope outside.
The program began with conducting fellow Scott Parkman leading the orchestra in a ringing and melodious performance of Hindemith’s Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Opus 50, which was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1931.
After intermission, the youthful but cosmopolitan James Conlon, a native New Yorker, principal conductor of the Paris Opera and general music director of the City of Cologne, ascended the podium to conduct Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G major.
Whereas no debut could have been more auspicious than this orchestra’s, their farewell performance couldn’t have been more august, as they wrung every dollop of emotion from the symphony in which Mahler imposes his faith in a glorious afterlife onto the gloom of ineluctable death.
Conlon was a delight to watch on the podium, drawing nuances from sections of the orchestra with balletic precision; making it look like one fluid movement, he would alternately extend and curl his hand, little finger pointing separately, rotate the wrist and elbow, and raise, lower, and sweep his arm side-to-side from the shoulder, all the while indicating tempo with the baton and the other arm.
The synergy between orchestra and conductor was especially evident as the first three movements of the symphony came to quiet closes and when they ended the performance, and the life of this wonderful orchestra, with the most resonant silence imaginable.
Standing still next to the podium, with a child-like expression that seemed to say “Was that okay?,” Soprano Cynthia Haymon had finished singing:
There is just no music on earth that can compare to ours.
The angelic voices Gladden our senses, So that all for very joy awake.
while Conlon, who was turned away from her toward the double bass whence the last note came, slowly bent over from the waist, his left armed extended upward, and held that strange pose until a perfect quiet filled the hall.
The moment over, straightening up and turning to face the audience, Conlon first blew a kiss to Haymon and she finally smiled brightly as the audience burst into applause.
Afterward, the atmosphere in the grand yet intimate Ozawa Hall was ineffably warm. There was no rush to exit as the audience lingered to savor the moment and re-new their applause and shouts of bravo! while Conlon called upon individuals and orchestral sections to take their bows. Godspeed to them as they go out from the Berkshires to populate great orchestras and share their very special gifts with a world that needs them.
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2019 Tanglewood schedule
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has released the schedule for the 2019 season at Tanglewood, which will be remembered for the opening of the Tanglewood Learning Institute, the four buildings overlooking Seiji Ozawa Hall on the Leonard Bernstein camopus.
Music director Andris Nelsons will be present for the month of July, conducting 13 programs, including the world premiere of a new work by Kevin Puts, The Brightness of Light, based on letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz on July 20, and a concert performance of Wagner’s complete Die Walküre on july 27 and 28. Details of programs in the Tanglewood Learning Institute will be announced on Feb. 7, 2019.