Nelsons coaches and leads TMCO twice

Adam Hickox is leading TMCO on July 12. (Photo by Hillary Scott)

Tanglewood’s opening still includes the reappearance of the Tanglewood Music Center and the TMC Orchestra’s weekly concerts in presentations featuring Conducting Fellows preparing pieces under the direction of a master conductor who also conducts the major work of the program. During the first two weeks of this season, BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons led the big tracks and coached the fellows. For the four remaining concerts (every Monday evening at 8 p.m.), Thomas Adés and Stefan Asbury (July 26, as part of the Contemporary Music Festival), Alan Gilbert (August 2), Herbert Blomstedt (August 9) and Stefan Asbury ( August 16) will mentor / lead.

Conductors Kevin Fitzgerald, currently Deputy Conductor of the Alabama Symphony, and Adam Hickox, Deputy Conductor of the Rotterdam Symphony Orchestra, will share responsibility for TMCO events this season.

Adam Hickox opened in the hangar on July 12e with the continuation of Appalachian Spring. By far one of Copland’s best-known works, it is not an easy piece to play, especially in the full orchestral version rather than the 13-instrument set for which Copland originally wrote it (because it c was all that could fit on the stage at the Library of Congress, where the premiere took place). Copland enlarges the orchestration, in part to be able to conduct it. Indeed, he recorded it with the Boston Symphony in this form.

Hickox gave the quiet passages, often featuring one or a few sustained woodwinds (flute, clarinet) a luminous shimmer with the felted support of the strings, gently supported by long strokes of the bow. These quiet passages, both at the start and in various returns throughout, captured the dreams of the ballet protagonists, with the newlyweds building their home on the American border in the early 19’s.e century (when the border was still much closer to the Atlantic than it became later in the century). The real difficulties of Appalachian Spring come into the fast sections, where the changes of meters and ladders going up and down risk losing coordination. Hickox’s brisk beat signaled the vigorous rhythmic irregularities, so they made their points clear. It is only occasionally, in the fastest and most unbuttoned passages, marked by rapid ladder passages in contrasting directions, that the ensemble has sometimes slipped minutely, perhaps out of pure enthusiasm. But she quickly recovered, and in the sustained and quiet ending, Copland’s pandiatonic harmonies projected a sweetness – without sentimentality – that is one of the hallmarks of this score.

Kevin Fitzgerald conducted the music of a composer new to Tanglewood. Hannah Kendall was born in England to Guyanese parents in 1984. She grew up in a multiethnic part of London where she absorbed a wide range of cultural traditions, from the widespread African diaspora as well as from East Asia, Caribbean and white Europeans. Many English orchestras gave him compositions, but his Disillusioned dreamer marked her first commission for an American ensemble, the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, which premiered in 2019. She often derives her fundamental impetus from a literary passage or visual art. Here she chose a passage from Ralph Ellison Invisible Man depicting the unease felt by a black man in a space filled with white men of various ages. The narrator described himself as a “disillusioned dreamer”, while seeing people in the rally “affecting the pseudo-courteous ways of some members of Congress from the south”. Not specifically descriptive of the text, the score begins with a passage of fragmented nervous sounds, gradually increasing in intensity and taking on more substance and solidity, until a feeling of consciousness (on the part of the protagonist), and then fading away. much of the opening fragments, suggesting a continuous and largely unchanged background to life. Fitzgerald put the fleeting and strongest musical elements into clear form and expression.

Then Andris Nelsons conducted a lyrical yet witty interpretation of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, doubly welcome for being probably the least often heard of the nine. He shaped the slow, lingering notes of Adagio’s introduction with a wonderful singing, pumped-up, and returning mood with tones that seemed alive throughout. The vivid and contrasting portions, throughout the symphony, have come alive with lively energy and wit, right down to the last page, where the frenzied theme of the last movement returns in the solo bassoon, played slowly, as if in state. of total exhaustion, when the rest of the orchestra pushes him away and rushes to a quick end.


July 19e, high humidity achieved in the hangar (although the weekend rain stopped during the concert itself), and with a slight chill in the air. Nelsons conducted two of the four works, both a little shorter than the usual closer ‘big’, but all four, to some extent, conversed with each other: an early classical symphony and a neoclassical delight. from 20e century. The fellows were leading numbers that provided a balance, representing the beginning and end of the Romantic Era.

Beethoven eventually created four openings for Fidelio, three of them entitled overtures to Leonore (the original name of the opera), and the latter now known as Fidelio opening. Adam Hickox chose the Leonore Opening “No. 2 ”(although it was actually the first compound). Many of the ideas so familiar to listeners in the more well-known and intensely dramatic opening “No. 3 ”(the second to be composed) already appears in the previous work, although in a rather rudimentary form. It is fascinating to get the original attempt, since Beethoven was trying an unusual idea, which he obviously considered to be a failure. He wanted to have a backstage solo trumpet, as happens at the opera’s dramatic climax, to signal the arrival of the official who will uncover the villain’s behavior and save the hero’s life. But in “No. 2 ”Beethoven dared to have the solo trumpet call interrupt the shape of the opening in the“ wrong ”place, where he both blurs the expected shape and (at the opera) reveals the ending even before that the show has not started. Adam Hickox conducted with wonderful orchestral color control, suggesting the darkness of the prison and Florestan’s deeply spiritual air in the dungeon, Lamenting is Unfair Imprisonment; then the energetic closing passage reassures us that the good guys will win.

Kevin Fitzgerald leads TMCO (Photo by Hillary Scott)

Kevin Fitzgerald conducted Rimsky-Korsakov’s second orchestral score (after his first youthful symphony), Overture on Three Russian Themes, Op. 28. The main theme, familiar to listeners, whether they are familiar with string quartet literature or the opera repertoire, forms the basis of much of the score: “Slava” (Glory) was used by Beethoven in one of the quartet commissions of the Russian Ambassador to the Imperial Court. Count Razumofsky. The melody appears in the Scherzo of the second quartet Opus 59. And it was brilliantly employed in the opening scene of Boris Godunov, where a crowd of peasants must sing it to honor Boris as the new tsar. The other two themes, both alive compared to the formal sobriety of “Slava”, are quite close to each other and easily merge into each other. Perhaps the most striking feature of the overture is the colorful and varied orchestration, a skill of which Rimsky would go on to become a recognized master. Indeed, the often nasty critic, Cesar Cui (nasty although he was one of the members of the circle of Russian nationalist composers which included Rimsky), noted about this first piece, “Mr. Korsakov’s gift for instrumentation is obviously developing. It’s nice to hear a work generally unknown from a renowned composer, and Kevin Fitzgerald shaped the warm colors of “Slava” in all of its various appearances with appropriate gravity, while the faster dances were light and airy, producing the range of colors throughout the TMC Orchestra.

Originally placed last on the printed document, Haydn’s Symphony No. 3 in G major was placed between Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov. Modern orchestras rarely offer Haydn’s first symphonies (the only previous performance of Haydn’s No. 3 by an ensemble connected to the BSO came from the Boston Pops conducted by Arthur Fiedler on the Boston Esplanade in the summer 1929). It may have been a youthful work, but it is invigorating for it all, full of vigor and color from its small orchestra in the opening movement, a graceful slow movement and two final movements which both show the pleasure. from Haydn to create a canon, a device that few composers after him have used as frequently as he. Hearing this early work gives us a welcome opportunity to discover the early years of a composer whose technical mastery and new ideas would continue for nearly half a century. Nelsons gave the orchestra the impetus to be playful and energetic or delicate, or sober (with a hidden spirit) in turn.

If Haydn gave us the chance to live the middle of the 18the century as it really sounded, Stravinsky’s Suite from the ballet Pulcinella take a 20evisit of a composer of the century at that time. The ballet, based on many pieces formerly attributed to Pergolesi (a few were in fact by him), derives from the commedia dell’arte. Stravinsky rearranged and orchestrated these old keyboard compositions in his then current style. Nelsons projected spiritual musical ideas with great charm. Unfortunately, the set required for Pulcineall is too small and too varied to sound effectively in the hangar. The brass threw beautifully, but the strings seemed to be at a disadvantage. In Ozawa Hall, a typical venue for these concerts, the balance would have been perfect.

Steven Ledbetter is a freelance writer and speaker on music. He received his BA from Pomona College and his doctorate from NYU in musicology. He taught at Dartmouth College in the 1970s, then became a program annotator with the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1997.

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