By Dave Read, Lenox, MA, July 23, 2023 performance – The bright highlight of this program is the composition and playing of Jeff Midkiff, whose Mandolin Concerto, From the Blue Ridge, fully displayed the versatility of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the sure baton of Thomas Wilkins, Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and the BSO’s Artistic Advisor. Although it wasn’t a full house, the ovation that greeted the composer and his colleagues afterward was as full-throated as I’ve heard in a long time. (see views of Tanglewood LawNation)
It’s commonplace to consider Jazz as the only musical genre made in America, but, that’s only true if you overlook Bluegrass. With the mandolin at its core, Bluegrass emerged as a distinct genre in 1940s Appalachia, taking the name of Bill Monroe’s band, the mandolin virtuoso who got the Bluegrass ball rolling. Taken together with Friday’s performance of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, this has been a hoedown weekend in the Koussevitsky Music Shed, lacking only a few bales of hay.
It being a quintessentially beautiful July afternoon in the Berkshires, at intermission, we swapped Shed seats for room on the lawn, which proved to be the ideal way to consume a big helping of Duke Ellington, with Maestro Wilkins and his charges giving an energetic and captivating reading to Ellington’s Suite from The River.
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Wilkins, conductor
Jeff Midkiff, mandolin
COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Ballade in A minor
Jeff MIDKIFF Mandolin Concerto, From the Blue Ridge
ELLINGTON Suite from The River