Verdi delights at Tanglewood July 27, 2014
Article by Dave Read
When I organized my Tanglewood calendar, the chief reason I selected this program was because it featured the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (TFC), which I have come to know and enjoy by way of their annual appearance on the season finale program of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. And so the TFC is associated with the solemn feelings engendered by that work, all that heavy stuff about eternal brotherhood.
But instead of getting a profundity fix today, a giant glowing happy face got slapped on my soul! You would think something called Va, pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) would be doleful, melancholy, yet it had the opposite effect on me. Preceded by the Overture to Nabucco, which includes melodies from it, Va, pensiero was as thoroughly satisfying as any musical performance I’ve attended. Whatever Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was intending to convey, joy was what I felt.
This performance had such an immediate and sustained effect on me that I began to suspect that I had heard it over and over a lifetime ago, as if Joy had been inculcated while these melodies looped – had been embedded in me like treachery had been in the Manchurian candidate!
Triumphal Scene (Act II, scene 2) from Aida
Of course what followed was more of the same, the Triumphal Scene (Act II, scene 2) from Aida which Verdi composed some thirty years later. If I hadn’t just heard Va, pensiero, I may well have had a similarly ecstatic response to these selections from Aida. As it happened, a wonderful afternoon just got even better. Representing less than one-fifth of Aida, the Triumphal Scene nevertheless delivers a full measure of enjoyment, and even in today’s concert setting, was visually appealing, trios of trumpeters flanking the orchestra.
Conductor Jacques Lacombe and pianist Gabriela Montero
Opening the program, which was conducted by Canadian Jacques Lacombe in his BSO and Tanglewood debuts, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriela Montero. Marked by familiar melodies, we listened to it while the strolling the lawn, the better to enjoy the singular Tanglewood experience.