Report of August 1, 2010 perfromance by Dave Conlin Read.
The composition of a Tanglewood program itself sometimes enhances the enjoyment of the various compositions that comprise a program; a transcending element to go along with the enjoyment of the program as performed by the musicians. On paper, this program at Tanglewood was sure to attact a large audience because of the presence on the bill of cellist Yo Yo Ma and the inclusion of the broadly popular Pictures At An Exhibition (the Maurice Ravel orchestration of Mussogorsky’s composition), under the direction of conductor Charles Dutoit, who has been a frequest guest here and in Boston for nearly 30 years.
And, with the cooperation of the iffy Berkshires weather, the Koussevitsky Music Shed was full and a few thousand more patrons and picnicers populated the lawn. But it was the opening item on the program that we found most remarkable; Jean Sibelius’ “Karelia” Suite, Opus 11, which had never been performed at Tanglewood, and only once by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Not only would we like to hear it again here, but we wonder why it hasn’t made it onto the regular rotation (if there is such?); it felt like a paean to this place – particularly the immediate Tanglewood environs as well as the greater Berkshires.
Which comports with the composition’s origin as a commission on the history of Karelia, the densely wooded region in northern Europe. Besides a delightful variety of sounds from the percussion section, the piece has an overall deeply sonorous feel. Gazing outside the Shed, the surrounding trees seemed to be as attentive to the music as the paying audience was.
When Yo Yo Ma settles onto the soloists chair near the podium, as he did to perform the Cello Concerto in E Minor, Opus 85, by Edward Elgar, holding cello and bow, it’s as if a new entity comes into being. Well, a pedestrain witness does himself no favor trying to describe artistry at this level. Berkshires resident Ma, who by all accounts is a friendly and humble gentleman, makes music at a level that could inspire composers, as a profound event or dazzling landscape would.
On the other hand, having such a popular soloist, or widely familiar piece on the program, always attracts patrons who are unfamiliar with symphony audience protocal; they’re like new parents who applaud every movement.