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Great Music and More at Tanglewood, Sevenars, Berkshire High Peaks Festival
By Stephen Dankner, Guest Column
11:33AM / Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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On Friday, July 19, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will present its first-ever free community event on the Pittsfield Common, similar to what it presents on the Boston Common, seen here. (Courtesy of the BSO)

As Tanglewood enters its third week, stellar performances will take center stage in Ozawa Hall and in the Koussevitsky Shed. Why go? To experience world-class instrumental soloists, the Boston Symphony and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra perform chamber and orchestral masterworks by iconic masters Schumann, Brahms, Ravel, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Debussy, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Wagner and Tchaikovsky.

Add to the above an inspiring world premiere featuring Metropolitan Opera diva Reneé Fleming, baritone Rod Gilfry, and the Boston Symphony, led by maestro Andris Nelsons in composer Kevin Puts' orchestral song cycle "The Brightness of Light." The powerful and deeply moving "Enigma" Variations of Edward Elgar will precede this extraordinary performance.

And, if the offerings at Tanglewood aren't enough to pique your musical interest, there are also outstanding performances to be enjoyed at the Sevenars Music Festival in South Worthington, Mass., and at the Berkshire High Peaks Music Festival, presented by Close Encounters With Music in Great Barrington, Mass., in a series of concerts from July 23 through Aug. 2. All three venues present great music performed in acoustically resonant settings by marvelous performers. Read below for all the details.

Tanglewood

On Friday, July 19, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will present its first-ever free community event on the Pittsfield Common. "Tanglewood in the City: Pittsfield" is a live video transmission of the BSO's concert at Tanglewood that will bring Tanglewood into the Pittsfield community and share one of the festival's major performances with a wider group of Berkshire residents. The performance, which will be transmitted onto a 15-foot by 27-foot screen on the Pittsfield Common, will begin with welcoming comments from a BSO musician and feature BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons leading the orchestra in music of Betsy Jolas, Debussy and Ravel, as well as Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with soloist Gautier Capuçon.

The Pittsfield event is inspired by the popular Boston edition of "Tanglewood in the City." Now in its fourth year, this year's "Tanglewood in the City: Boston" event takes place on the Boston Common, also on Friday, July 19.

"The city of Pittsfield is absolutely thrilled to welcome Tanglewood for this dynamic event – and the first of its kind – in the heart of our downtown at The Common," Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said. "Thanks to the collaborative efforts of so many in our community and throughout the county, Tanglewood in the City will provide attendees with an unforgettable evening of music under the stars.”

"Tanglewood in the City: Pittsfield" will begin at 5 p.m. on the Pittsfield Common with pre-concert festivities taking place throughout the evening, including performances by the Eagles Community Brass Band Ensemble, performers from the Barrington Stage MTC Choral Group, and students from the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, as well as family-friendly activities offered by local organizations such as the Norman Rockwell Museum, Hancock Shaker Village, Berkshire Music School, and the Pittsfield YMCA.  The Boston Symphony Association of Volunteers will also host an Instrument Playground following the Eagles Community Brass Band Ensemble performance.

Audience members will also have an opportunity to enjoy casual summer fare from local on-site food vendors including Main Street Hospitality, Barrington Brewery, SoCo Creamery, and Mad Jack’s BBQ.

The program (which you can also buy tickets to see in the Shed at Tanglewood in Lenox) features French cellist Gautier Capuçon joining Maestro Andris Nelsons and the BSO at 8 p.m. as soloist in Saint-Saëns's Cello Concerto No. 1, which displays the composer’s trademark combination of classical order and Romantic emotion. The program begins with "A Little Summer Suite" by French-American composer Betsy Jolas — a piece she describes as "wandering music" and says was inspired by Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." Concluding the concert are two foundational works of the modern French orchestral repertoire: Ravel's "La Valse" and Debussy's "La Mer."

Meanwhile, back in Lenox this week:

• Wednesday, July 17, 8 p.m., Ozawa Hall, Recital Series:
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and cellist Gautier Capuçon join forces in Ozawa Hall for a duo recital. The program opens with Schumann's poetic "Fantasiestücke," Op. 73, and continues with Brahms' Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38 - a quintessential example of the composer’s uniquely beautiful, confessional chamber music. The second half of the program pairs Sibelius' harrowing outpouring of grief, "Malinconia" with Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40, one of the composer's most ambitious chamber music works.

• Saturday, July 20, 8 p.m. in the Shed, "The Brightness of Light" premiere: The letters of iconic American artist Georgia O'Keeffe and her husband, the photographer and curator Alfred Stieglitz, are full of poetry, humor, passion, pain and longing. Written over the many months and years they lived apart, these letters chronicle their initial courtship in 1915 — when Georgia was a young, aspiring artist — to Alfred’s death in 1946. Written especially for soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfry, with projections by Wendall K. Harrington, American composer Kevin Puts' "The Brightness of Light" — a BSO co-commission — is the story of a great artist who ultimately turns from a painful marriage to embrace her work within the desert landscape she loves. Maestro Andris Nelsons conducts the BSO in the world premiere of the new orchestral song cycle, on a program that also includes Elgar's "Enigma" Variations.

• Sunday, July 21, 2:30 p.m. in the Shed: Andris Nelsons and the BSO welcome French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist in two works for piano and orchestra by George Gershwin: the Piano Concerto in F, a more traditional but still heavily popular jazz-influenced follow-up to the more famous "Rhapsody in Blue" and Variations on "I Got Rhythm." Following, is Stravinsky’s ballet score "Petrushka." which concerns a puppet-come-to-life, whose attempts to win the admiration of a ballerina come to naught. Written two years before "The Rite of Spring," it represents a brilliant and miraculous leap of the composer's confidence and technique following his breakthrough score composes for the Ballet Russes, "The Firebird."

• Tuesday, July 23, 8 p.m. in the Shed, Tanglewood on Parade: One of the festival's most beloved traditions, the ever-popular Tanglewood on Parade offers audiences a full day of musical activities for the entire family, culminating in an 8 p.m. concert in the Shed featuring all the festival’s orchestras performing in a single concert. BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart, BSO Germeshausen Youth and Family Concerts Conductor Thomas Wilkins, and Boston Symphony Children’s Choir Conductor James Burton lead the BSO, Boston Pops, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and Boston Symphony Children's Choir in a program of works, including Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries," selections from James Burton's own "The Last Words" for children’s chorus and orchestra (a world premiere), and the traditional Tanglewood on Parade finale, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," followed by a spectacular fireworks display over the Stockbridge Bowl.

Tanglewood Learning Institute: O'Keeffe Weekend

O'Keeffe Immersion Weekend is offered in conjunction with the world premiere of Kevin Puts' "The Brightness of Light," an orchestral song cycle based on the letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Complementary programs explore artistic partnerships, the creative process, and the influence of place on and in the arts.

TLI Weekends are multi-day immersion experiences that include a variety of programs inspired by Tanglewood’s summer schedule. Public conversations, demonstrations, multimedia presentations, film screenings, special performances, keynote speakers, and more will explore themes and topics related to some of the world’s most inspiring artists and their creations in the realms of music, painting, film, and other genres. The weekend costs $399.

TLI Open Studio

• Monday, July 22, 8 p.m., Ozawa Hall, Vocal Class led by Renée Fleming: Led by world-renowned musicians, TLI OpenStudio master classes provide the rare opportunity to witness the exceptionally talented Tanglewood Music Center Fellows fine-tune their interpretive skills while exploring nuances of the classical repertoire. In this masterclass, soprano Renée Fleming, one of the most acclaimed singers of our time, works with TMC Vocal Fellows.

Regular-season ticket prices for the 2019 Tanglewood season range from $12-$130, and are available online, through Symphony Charge at 888-266-1200, and at the Symphony Hall Box Office at 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets will also be available for purchase in person at the Tanglewood box office, located at Tanglewood's Main Gate on West Street in Lenox, Mass.

Sevenars Music Festival

Founded in 1968, Sevenars Concerts will present its 51st anniversary season of six summer concerts, held at the Academy in South Worthington, Mass., located at 15 Ireland St., just off Route 112. The 2019 season continues to be true to Sevenars roots as a family festival, with featured Schrade and James family members performing, while also presenting distinguished guest composer-performers and touring artists. Concert are held Sundays at 4 p.m. from July 21 through Aug. 18. Call 413-238-5854 for tickets; leave a message for a return call, or visit the website.

This Sunday, July 21, the Revere Quartet plays British masterpieces. Returning after their phenomenal concert at Sevenars last season, the Revere Piano Quartet will present a stunning program of works by British composers Frank Bridge and William Walton.

These exciting Revere Quartet musicians have crafted a magnificent program of rarities. The first half will open with Frank Bridge's captivating "Phantasy for Piano Quartet" and, for the duo of viola and piano (with violist Ron Gorevic and pianist Tae Kim), the same composer's "Pensiero" and "Allegro Appassionato." To round out the first half, Tae Kim has selected four of Frank Bridge's "Characteristic Pieces" for solo piano ("Water Nymphs," "Fragrance," "Bittersweet" and "Fireflies") – each a gem of color and imagination.

After an intermission with Sevenars' complimentary refreshments, the four musicians will perform William Walton’s magnificent Piano Quartet in D minor (composed in 1919, when the composer was just a teenager). Pianist Tae Kim, hailed as a “radiant talent” (The Boston Globe), and Smith College violinist/violist Ronald Gorevic, "a musician first and foremost" (New York Times), will join forces with the husband-wife pair of cellist Eugene Kim and violinist Jin-Kyung Joen, together called "masterful" (The Boston Musical Intelligencer). All four are sought after for their teaching and solo, orchestral, and chamber music performances throughout the United States and abroad.

High Peaks Music Festival

"The Grand Italian Tour" is the theme of the 10th edition of the Berkshire High Peaks Festival: Music with Altitude! The festival runs from July 23-Aug. 2, and is presented by Close Encounters With Music, the Berkshire-based chamber music organization, and is hosted by the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass. The 10-day festival, directed by internationally acclaimed cellist Yehuda Hanani, offers a combination of concerts, lectures and master classes and is open to the public. It will feature distinguished faculty artists and outstanding young musicians from around the world.

Festival events will take place at the Allen Theatre on the campus of Berkshire School, at Saint James Place in Great Barrington and at additional locations in the Hudson Valley and Berkshires. This summer, 50 young emerging artists of exceptional promise and demonstrated accomplishment — from China, Korea, Taiwan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and the United States and Canada – will gather for the festival.

Guest faculty/performers include violinist Peter Zazofsky, First Prize winner of the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition; Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes; contemporary music superstar violinist Miranda Cuckson; and opera director and conductor Jay Lesenger, who directs John Corigliano's "Ghosts of Versailles" this summer at Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown.

The centerpieces of the festival are two concerts devoted to Italy as the nascent "mother lode" of musical culture. "Souvenir de Florence," on Sunday, July 28, at 5 p.m. at Saint James Place in Great Barrington, is Tchaikovsky’s own musical souvenir of his visit to Italy as he recovered from a disastrous marriage and developed an infatuation with the city that spawned the Renaissance. Florence worked its magic on Tchaikovsky, and the result is one of the most delightful and charming pieces in the repertory, for string sextet.  Violinist Miranda Cuckson performs Salvatore Sciarrino’s technique-stretching Caprices that inject Niccolo Paganini’s demonically difficult violin caprices (1819) with a 20th century vocabulary, timbral palette and startling aural innovations. Soprano Danielle Talamantes and baritone Kerry Wilkerson spin magic with operatic arias and art songs.  And no Italian showcase would be complete without Vivaldi’s Double Concerto for two violins, which features Peter Zazofsky and the High Peaks Festival Chamber Orchestra.

"Years of Pilgrimage," set for Thursday, Aug. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Allen Theatre, Berkshire School in Sheffield, traverses two centuries of Italian brilliance and demonstrates how it inspired its famous tourists (Mendelssohn, Byron, etc.) and residents. This concert showcases selections from the mercurial keyboard music of Baroque-era Domenico Scarlatti, to the humor and exuberance of Rossini, the virtuosity of Paganini, and the genius of Verdi.  Liszt's "Années de pèlerinage" and Gian Carlo Menotti's "Suite" for two cellos and piano are among the featured works. Soprano Danielle Talamantes sings favorite coloratura arias that typify the bravura of Italian vocal tradition. Also being performed are "Chrysanthemums," a string quartet in one movement and the only chamber music work from Puccini, and Gian Carlo Menotti's two cellos and piano work.

Throughout the festival, a range of venues will host performances by talented up-and-coming musicians participating in the festival’s residency, providing audiences with an opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of the classical music world’s future stars. These include a series of "Moonlight Sonata" performances featuring top-tier young artists at Berkshire School's Allen Theater, which will be free and open to the public.

For a full schedule of events, visit the website.

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