August 7, 2015 Article by Dave Read
This year’s Tanglewood on Parade Gala Concert, the Tanglewood Music Center’s main fundraising event, was an especially satisfying evening of music, even if a little sad because John Williams’ health prevented his participation. With the Boston Pops conductor laureate absent, tonight’s audience was made to settle for three conductors, instead of the usual four, but got to witness the Pops debut of Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons.
The program got underway with Nelsons leading the BSO in selections from Berlioz, Ravel, and Shostokovich. Maestro Nelsons didn’t address the audience tonight, but he certainly was communicative, displaying an uncanny vocabulary of conducting gestures. So fluid and captivating as he cajoles and exhorts the orchestra, this successor to Koussevitsky makes you think he may, as well, be a disciple of Balanchine.
In the next segment, popular guest conductor Stephane Deneve led the Fellows of the TMC in three John Williams compositions. Deneve was both funny and eloquent as he talked about his own affection for Williams and in introducing the compositions, including Just down West Street … on the left, Williams’ gift in honor of the TMC’s 75th anniversary. The Violin Concerto, a tribute to his first wife whao had just died, featured longtime Pops concertmaster Tamara Smirnova taking a rare turn as soloist.
Boston Pops pay tribute to Frank Sinatra
The festivities resumed after intermission with Keith Lockhart conducting the Boston Pops in Kabalevsky’s Overture to Colas Breugnon, followed by A Tribute to Frnk Sinatra: “Ole Blue Eyes at 100.” Not only were the Pops’ great jazz chops again in evidence, but so was the clarity of their enunciation, as you could practically hear the lyrics in their renditions of Chicago and New York, New York.
Star Wars and the Cold War
Pops conductor Lockhart then introduced the Pops debut of Maestro Nelsons for the performance of another John Williams selection, Throne Room & finale from Star Wars. During the Reagan Administration, “Star Wars” became the nickname for the Strategic Defense Initiative, one of the closing initiatives of the Cold War, which is notable because Reagan’s Secretary of State, George P. Shultz, a frequent Tanglewood patron, was in the audience tonight.
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture
No matter how exciting the program and how brilliant the performances, everything else is merely prelude to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which always concludes the gala concert, itself the finale to the annual day-long celebration of music at Tanglewood. We heard an unusual rendition of it here last month, performed by the Boston Pops Brass & Percussion section and two world-champion drum and bugle corps, the Blue Devils of California and the Boston Crusaders. While that was great fun, tonight’s rendition, under Nelson’s impassioned direction, was truly breathtaking.
- Tanglewood tickets:
- Box Office: 617-266-1200; 888-266-1200
- Website: tanglewood.org