The Festive Season
Think you know your way around a summer festival? Think again
By Dacus Thompson
Throughout Tangle-wood's festival season, from June 22-Sep-tember 6, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) will reproduce Tanglewood's inaugural program, including Beethoven's symphonies numbers five and six (July 6) and an all-Wagner concert (July 21). "We're picking from the festival's great moments in time," says Mark Volpe, the Boston Symphony's managing director. "It's going to be a special summer."
Tanglewood started in 1937 to keep the mostly European symphony players in the BSO stateside. "Every October, 10 to 15 musicians wouldn't return from summer trips to Europe due to love or another job," says Volpe. "So Serge Koussevitzky, the BSO's director at the time, created the festival to provide full-time employment." It was also an opportunity to develop the classical talent here.
More than 300,000 attend every summer, spreading blankets on the grounds' 520 picturesque acres in western Massachusetts's Berkshire Hills. And as for training future generations of Ameri-can musicians, Tanglewood's student programs have paid off dramatically. "I'm biased, of course, but we've had Leonard Bernstein, Wynton Marsalis, Stephanie Blythe — 25 or 30 percent of America's symphony orchestra players have passed through our programs," Volpe says, which means that in some of the lesser-crowded of Tangle-wood's 80 structures, you might just stumble across the next Philip Glass or Dawn Upshaw.
This year's giants include three James Taylor shows with the Boston Pops over Independence Day weekend and a tribute to conductor John Williams (composer of the film scores for Jaws, Star Wars and Superman, to name a few) on August 18. "We expect some significant surprise guests from Hollywood for that performance," says a tight-lipped Volpe. "There's always something exciting."
Festival tickets are already on sale, and many of the covered seats for big-name shows, such as Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma, have a tendency to sell out quickly. But Volpe encourages folks to come out anyway, since lawn seats surrounding the main stages — Ozawa Hall and Tangle-wood Shed — are almost always available. Open rehearsal tickets are also available to the public, including the practice session for the Sunday afternoon concert on Saturday mornings at 10:30 (from $10).
And to get in the mood on your plane ride there, download previous concerts. Tanglewood is making 75 past performances available online — one per day — that you can download for free 24 hours before it's listed on iTunes. (bso.org)