Article updated August 1, 2019 by Dave Read
Sometimes life in the Berkshires will feel like an embarrassment of riches, such as when you can attend a master class led by Yo-Yo Ma, as brilliant as any artist at work today, held in Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, a structure and a setting as aesthetically pleasing as J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. The event is part of Tanglewood’s new Tanglewood Learning Institute OpenStudio program.
Ma’s students were three Tanglewood Music Center Fellows – Isaac Bergland from Seattle, WA, Shangwen Liao, from Shenzen, Guangdong, China, and Ethan Brown from NY, NY. Each is nearning the end of intense musical educations and the beginnings of careers as cellists. You can’t help but think that such a class must be at least a little bit like a minor league baseball player getting batting tips from Ted Williams – in front of an audience!
And speaking of audience, when Mr. Ma asked for someone who does Irish dance, a gentleman leapt on stage faster than you can spell shilelagh! Whether or not Ma was expecting someone like the frenetic Michael Flatley, his volunteer performed a brief sample of “old time Irish dancing” while Shangwen Liao played a Bach passage.
The exercise demonstrated some fine point of musicianship that lays beyond my ken, but also revealed something about spontaniety and being available for fun. As wonderful as their playing sounded to these undisciplined ears, each student also manifest aplomb and good humor – even glee, as when Liao grinned a thumbs-up to the audience while Maestro Ma swapped chairs for him!
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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.