Article updated August 15, 2019 by Dave Read
Yo-Yo Ma performed Bach’s Six Cello Suites Aug. 11 at Tanglewood, one of 36 venues on six continents during his Bach Project, an initiative designed to “…bind us together as one world, and guide us to political and economic decisions that benefit the entire species.” When we reached the center of Lenox, two miles from Tanglewood and twenty minutes ahead of show time, we knew we were bound to be late.
We were not alone, though, another eighteen and a half thousands attended the approximately two hour concert that was delayed half an hour. To nobody’s surprise, former cello student and local favorite James Taylor popped up for an encore – Suite Baby James, to bring about a synthesis of pop music stardom and musical artistry.
Yo-Yo Ma is far and away the brightest star in the firmament of classical music, and perhaps the world’s most important artist as well. How generous of him to devise such an ambitious enterprise, built around music composed three hundred years ago, music he recorded during the Reagan administration, music he began playing as a child in the 1950s.
With a home in Tyringham and nearly annual performances at Tanglewood, Ma is a familiar presence in the Berkshires. This is where in 1998 he began another trans-national project, the Silkroad Ensemble. Today, “Silkroad seeks and practices radical cultural collaboration in many forms, cultivating unexpected connections and fostering empathy and trust to create a more hopeful world.”
As we learned a couple weeks ago by attending the master class Mr. Ma conducted, with three Tanglewood Music Center fellows and an Ozawa Hall audience of one thousand, these compositions by Bach invite the musician to examine the full range of human emotion. While attending their performance by Yo-Yo Ma, the auditor can enter a mental realm that may be analogous to a fragrant hot bath – it alters one’s perception of their own mass, while arousing in the mind a broad smile.
So we pinched ourself at regular intervals tonight to keep alert to the performance, especially to marvel at Ma’s own expressive countenance, as varied, and with segues as imperceptable, as those in Bach’s suites. By his very nature, the artist is as restless as any citizen. With a body of work and accomplishments as broad and deep as his, Yo-Yo Ma must be a very restless fellow. Even so, we’ve never seen anybody look as contented and happy as he does, playing the cello.
Hotels in the Berkshires
Find hotels near Tanglewood with user reviews, check amenities, nearby attractions, availability and then book your room reservations at these lodging establishments through our partner, International Hotel Solutions (IHS), the leading provider of secure online hotel reservations.
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.