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Previewing the 2024 Tanglewood Season

By Alkis Karmpaliotis

 

The annual Tanglewood Festival, situated in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is the summer home of the dynamic Boston Symphony Orchestra and one of the world's most exciting classical music festivals. In a newly expanded role as Head of Conducting at Tanglewood, BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will make many appearances at this year's festival, and his presence is sure to create a particularly vibrant and energetic atmosphere.


This article provides a taste of Tanglewood's season, highlighting the concerts that I find most exciting. Remember that there are many more amazing concerts throughout the summer that are not listed in the article, so be sure to check out the Tanglewood calendar for more information.

Andris Nelsons conducting the BSO
Andris Nelsons conducting the BSO

The week leading up to Opening Night contains many intriguing concerts, with artists like Jon Batiste, Brandi Carlile, and the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) String Quartet.


The season also features a myriad of open rehearsals and masterclasses for music fans to get an inside glimpse of the creative process. The one that stands out the most is Nelsons' "Art of Conducting" workshop with the TMC Vocal Fellows on July 15.


Opening Night on July 5 will feature an all-Beethoven program conducted by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, including the iconic Violin Concerto and Eroica Symphony. Violinist Hilary Hahn, who was originally scheduled to perform in the concert, regrettably had to step down due to illness and will be replaced by Gil Shaham.


Other opening weekend concerts include the Boston Pops performing modern Broadway favorites and Renée Fleming in an all-Strauss program with Andris Nelsons and the BSO.


The following weekend, Nelsons and the BSO return for a couple more action-packed concerts. On Saturday, July 13, the program opens with a piece for string orchestra by the young composer Carlos Simon, before bringing out superstar pianist Yuja Wang to perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The concert concludes with two pieces by the great Duke Ellington. Sunday's concert opens with Sarah Kirkland Snider's Forward into Light, an orchestral piece that was composed as part of the New York Philharmonic's "Project 19", which commissioned 19 female composers to write works celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The remainder of the program features two masterpieces in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, performed by Grammy-winner Augustin Hadelich, and Dvořák's Symphony No. 7.


These concerts stand out in their incorporation of contemporary music, a recent trend across the Big Five American orchestras, and their deeply creative and diverse programming. Promoting modern composers is a core component of Tanglewood dating back to its founder, Serge Koussevitzky, and pairing new works with classical masterpieces is a fantastic way of doing just that.


Wang returns on Wednesday, July 17, for a recital in Ozawa Hall.


In my opinion, the highlight of the season is the concert performance of Act III of Götterdämerung on July 20, with a superstar cast comprising Christine Goerke, Amanda Majeski, Morris Robinson, and Michael Weinius. Appreciate Opera is, after all, an opera-first website, so I couldn't go through this entire article without spotlighting Tanglewood's main operatic offering! The next day, the virtuosic pianist Emmanuel Ax joins Nelsons and the BSO in a similarly exciting concert, with pieces by Charles Ives, Beethoven, and Richard Strauss. Ives's picturesque Three Pieces in New England is particularly meaningful to Tanglewood, as it was inspired by the nature and history of the region where the festival occurs.


On July 27, the program moves to Eastern Europe, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet playing Khachaturian's colorful Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky's magical Pathétique Symphony. The concert is dedicated to the powerful legacy of Koussevitzky, for whom the Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood's main outdoor concert space, is named. In honor of his relentless passion for promoting contemporary music, the concert also features Tania León's Pulitzer-prize-winning piece, Stride.


On Wednesday, July 31, pianist Kirill Gerstein, violinist Joshua Bell (a longtime Tanglewood resident), and cellist Steven Isserlis will perform an elegant all-French program featuring music by Debussy, Ravel, and Fauré.


The excitement continues into August, with two John Williams Film Nights on August 2 and 3 and an all-Beethoven program conducted by Alan Gilbert on August 4. The latter contains Beethoven's Triple Concerto and Symphony No. 4, accompanied by the trio of Gerstein, Bell, and Isserlis.


Other highlights of the season include Gustavo Dudamel conducting the National Children's Symphony of Venezuela on August 8, a recital with Leonidas Kavakos and Daniil Trifonov on August 21, and a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with conductor Hannu Lintu on August 25.


All in all, this is one of the most exciting Tanglewood seasons in recent memory, and I encourage anyone close by — especially fellow teens! — to make the trip.

 

My name is Alkis Karmpaliotis, and I'm a Junior at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York. I hope you enjoyed this article. You can support my work by becoming a member and reading some of my other articles!

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