Last night I drove to the Berkshires to see the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) Orchestra perform a concert of Stravinsky, Shostikovich and Hayden. A few friends are there as fellows this summer, including former N$V bassist Evan Halloin, and it was great to catch up, and soak in that atmosphere, where I spent two summers in college as an RA for the facility's high school program. For those of you who have never been, Tanglewood is, forgive the cliche, a magical place, nestled just past a small town in the mountains, literally a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. (Rockwell lived a few miles away) For reasons I still don't entirely understand it evokes a kind of reverence in those who go there - performers, students, audiences- unblemished by our age of irony. It's a musical "Field of Dreams". Like that film it welcomes and embraces its ghosts, and they- the founder Koussevistky, Bernstein, Leon Fleischer, and the many remarkable performers who have taught and played there- hover in the air like guardian angels. It sounds a little hokey, and maybe it is, but even ten years removed from my last performance there (I was a saxophone ringer for the orchestra in '96) all the excitement of the place and the music was palpable.
It doesn't hurt that TMC Orchestra, even only three weeks into their season, is one of the best young orchestras in the country, maybe the world. (Before the arrival of New World in Miami, there was no contest) They play with a ferocity and vigor that some of the majors would do well to imitate; there is no fatigue or ennui in their playing, even playing warhorses, even in the midst of a seven-day a week, 18 hour a day scheudle. (I don't exaggerate.) Last night's program- a bear in its own right, wedged between a performance of The Planets last week and a production of Don Carlo next week- was not the sharpest I've heard the group, but the energy and excitement in the playing was constant, and hard not to like. Their season continues through the middle of August, including a fully staged production of Cosi fan Tutti and the annual performance of Beethoven's 9th. Concerts at Tanglewood also include the Mark Morris Dance company performing "Dido and Aneas" next weekend, and the Festival of Contemporary music will present the posthumous Julius Hemphill Sextet.
Closer to home, Eric Friedlander, featured this morning in the NY Times, passes through Boston with his own memories of America. He'll play tomorrow night at the Lily Pad in Inman- review to come.