The Special Magic of Tanglewood

the gentle hordes gather

Here we are at Labor Day, and I’d like to say that I’m refreshed and ready for the new season:  but in reality I feel barely decompressed from a most eventful and fulfilling summer.  In addition to the Marlboro Festival, where I spent five weeks—as I do every other year—I spent a portion of my summer on the chamber-music faculty at the Tanglewood Music Center.   As I touch upon briefly here, I came away exceedingly impressed with the top standard of artistic integrity that Tanglewood somehow manages to combine with an unashamedly wide appeal to mass audiences.  In fact, a significant part of Tanglewood’s enduring success during its first seventy-five years lies in its felicitous, if sometimes unexpected, juxtapositions:  one of the world’s great professional orchestras, with a storied continuity of tradition—and an all-star student orchestra that comes together at the beginning of the summer, attaining a superb level by the end; a beehive of gnarly elite creativity, including the renowned Festival of Contemporary Music—and relaxed outdoor concerts by James Taylor or Diana Krall; a major nerve-center of the classical world (conductors, soloists, composers, administrators, managers, critics)—and a rural location in the Berkshire hills; a natural setting of grandeur and magisterial insouciance—and the ever-present threat of torrential rain or tornadoes.  And perhaps the most striking contrast of all:  the petulant hand-wringing about the supposed End of Times so prevalent amongst many in our field—and its living repudiation in the dynamic whirlwind of this remarkable festival.