Boston Symphony Orchestra returns to Tanglewood

When the Boston Symphony Orchestra returns to Tanglewood for the first time in two years this summer, it will be joined by a familiar face in the orchestra’s idyllic summer home in the Berkshires – Emanuel Ax.

The world-renowned 72-year-old pianist has performed with the BSO on several occasions since his debut at Tanglewood in August 1978.

On Saturday July 10, Ax and the BSO under the direction of conductor Andris Nelsons will perform one of the best-known works by one of the most popular classical composers – Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto as part of ‘an entirely Beethoven program.

The concert in the Koussevitzky Music Shed (or simply The Shed as the Great Tanglewood Theater is affectionately known) is one of the weekend’s opening concerts at the BSO’s beloved summer house.

The BSO canceled its summer season last year at Tanglewood for the first time since World War II (there were no performances at Tangelwood between 1942 and 1945) due to the ongoing global pandemic.

Conductor Bernard Haitink conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with pianist Emanuel Ax at Boston Symphony Hall in May 2018. Ax performs with the BSO at Tanglewood in Lenox on Saturdays July 10, 2021 (Robert Torres, courtesy Boston Symphony Orchestra)

Performing in front of an audience again will be a welcome experience for Ax, he wrote in response to several questions about his upcoming performances at Tanglewood this summer.

“Not playing for a year was a real change for me,” Ax wrote. “I had been playing in public for about 40 years, and it was the first real break. The only thing that was a silver lining was not having to be nervous every third day for a performance. I will probably be even more nervous this summer.

During the pandemic, Ax and his family spent most of the past year at their Berkshire home near Tanglewood, where he is on the faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center, the prestigious summer academy for young musicians in ‘orchestra. “I was in the Berkshires most of 2020 since working at Tanglewood,” Ax wrote. “We have a house and we were very lucky to be able to be there.

Like many artists, Ax gave numerous performances online last year instead of live performances due to the pandemic.

“I’ve done a lot of stuff online,” Ax wrote. “Most were volunteers playing for hospital intensive care, putting on shows for BSO and Carnegie Hall, and trying to help various organizations, such as Classical Action, which benefits AIDS research, Midori and Friends. , supporting music programs in schools and Young Concert performers, management for bright young musicians. It has been a nightmarish year for everyone, and certainly for the music profession. “

Ax gave her first live performance this year in Providence, Rhode Island in early June.

Ax’s performance on July 10 at Tanglewood will be particularly special as it features some of Beethoven’s most beloved music. In addition to Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto, known as the Emperor’s Concerto, the BSO will perform Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

Beethoven’s music is the perfect choice to kick off this summer’s season at Tanglewood, Ax explained.

“Beethoven’s music is particularly appropriate this summer because there is no music that seems more hopeful to me than his,” Ax wrote. “The Emperor’s concerto and the 5th symphony are for me a musical tribute to fraternity and to hope.

Running through August 16, the shortened season will feature eight orchestral programs conducted by Nelsons. The Boston Symphony performs on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, Boston Pops and guest ensembles perform on Friday nights, and the Tanglewood Music Center and its orchestra will also present public programming.

While the reduced six-week festival features around 50% of Tanglewood’s usual offerings, it preserves the excellence and diversity of programming that spectators have come to expect. Favorite soloists like violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Yo-Yo Ma return with younger artists like pianist Daniil Trifonov and violinist Lisa Batiashvili.

In addition to Maestro Nelsons, three generations of TMC-trained conductors will lead the BSO in other concerts this summer. Herbert Blomstedt (class of 1953 and native of Springfield, MA) conducts a program entirely devoted to Beethoven on August 7, presenting the Violin Concerto with soloist Joshua Bell and the Seventh Symphony, and a concert composed entirely of Brahms on August 15, featuring the Violin Concerto with soloist Leonidas Kavakos and the Fourth Symphony.

Alan Gilbert (class of 1987 and 1988) heads the BSO in the The bride of Messina Overture, Wilhelm Stenhammar Serenade, and Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No.3, with Lisa Batiashvili, August 1. Karina Canellakis (Class of 2014) debuts with BSO on August 8, featuring Missy Mazzoli Sinfonia (for orbiting spheres) (a brilliantly atmospheric work that Springfield Symphony spectators will remember from the 2019-2020 SSO season), and two favorites by Tchaikovsky, his Fourth Symphony and his Variations on a rococo theme for cello and orchestra, with Yo-Yo Ma.

Another young conductor making her Tanglewood debut is BSO Assistant Conductor Anna Rakitina, who will lead the orchestra in a fascinating program (August 14) including Elgar’s piece. Enigma variations, Elena Langer Suite from Figaro divorce, and Ravel Piano Concerto, with soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Boston Pops Friday Night Concerts include the ever-popular John Williams’ Film Night (August 13) AND a concert honoring John Williams and his massive contribution to American film music, accompanied by exclusive film interviews in which Williams Tells the Stories Behind Music and His Career (July 23).

Other Friday night shows include The Knights (July 9), Apollo’s Fire (July 16), an evening of Beethoven chamber music with violinist Leonidas Kavakos, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax (July 30) and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (August 6).

BSO’s artistic partner Thomas Ades is leading the Contemporary Music Festival on July 25-26, featuring works by living composers including Andrew Haig, Per Norgard, Kaija Saariaho and Judith Weir. On Monday July 26 at 8 p.m., Ades conducts the TMC orchestra in the Norgatd’s Dream game, Steve Reich’s Reich / Richter, and that of Gyorgy Ligeti Violin Concerto, with soloist Anthony Marwood.

While the Festival’s broadcasters are delighted to reopen to the public live, the organization remains vigilant and committed to the health and safety of patrons. In response to recent health and safety broadcasts from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Commonwealth of MA, and in support of regulations set by the Tri-Town Health Department and the Lenox and Stockbridge health boards, Tanglewood will limit attendance capacity at 9,000 – 50% of its usual capacity of 18,000. This represents a significant increase from the previously announced 25% cap.

Tanglewood will maintain a physical distance of three feet between patrons seated in the Koussevitzky Music Shed for all BSO-related performances. Up to 2,400 people will be admitted to the Shed and 6,600 to the lawn for these performances. Although mask wear and physical distancing are no longer required, both measures are recommended for unvaccinated clients according to guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The overall capacity limit of 9,000 also applies to the revised 2021 Popular Artists schedule (Brandi Carlile, with the opening of Mavis Staples on August 21, Judy Collins with guests Richard Thompson and Jesse Colin Young on August 22, wait , wait… don’t tell me August 26) although there are no capacity restrictions in the Koussevitzky Music Hall for concerts by popular artists.

In a public statement, former BSO President and CEO Mark Volpe (the announcement of his successor, Gail Samuel, was released on June 21) said: “Live concerts this summer at Tanglewood will definitely be a poignant reminder of how we cherish our extraordinary orchestra. , the many outstanding guest artists … featured throughout the summer, and the exquisite festival grounds that have hosted many of the world’s greatest musicians and countless music lovers since Tanglewood’s founding in 1937. The Tanglewood Season 2021 is destined to be one for the books! “

All shows and public events at Tanglewood this summer will take place in and around the Koussevitzky Music Shed. Ozawa and Hall and the Linde Center will be closed to the public.

Performances will last approximately 80 minutes without an intermission, as part of the festival’s health and safety measures in place for the summer of 2021. Increased air filtration and ventilation, newly installed hand hygiene stations and improved cleaning and sanitation are among the additional measures that will be in place to minimize health risks. In consideration of families with children below the vaccination age, Tanglewood will not require vaccination to enter the field. Admission for Tanglewood guests under 18 is free.

New signage and additional security and public support staff will be on hand to help customers negotiate parking and entering and exiting the lot. Secure, contactless mobile ticketing is in place for the summer. The BSO recommends purchasing tickets in advance whenever possible to further reduce contact.

For more information and to obtain tickets, visit

Emanuel Ax and the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform at Beethoven concert Saturday July 10 at 8 p.m. at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA.

Emanuel Ax, violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cellist Yo-Yo Ma to perform in an all Beethoven concert Friday July 30 at 8 p.m. at Tanglewood.

Ticket information for both concerts and many other Tanglewood performances this summer can be found on the Boston Symphony Orchestra website.

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