Plenty of Choices This Summer at Tanglewood

Tanglewood’s Boston Symphony Orchestra programming last weekend could be seen as representative of the summer’s slant. It featured works by Ravel, Gershwin, Prokofiev and Stravinsky, all composed in the first quarter of the 20th century.

If one can discern a trend in concertgoers’ tastes, it would have to be a renewed fascination for the late romantic and early modern composers of this turbulent transitional period. To the extent that this trend represents a step forward from the staid programming of warhorses of classicism and high romanticism, it is welcome indeed.

Thus there is a relative paucity of Beethoven and Brahms, for example — though by no means an absence — and a vital infusion of Mahler, Sibelius, Debussy, Vaughan Williams, Rachmaninoff and Strauss.

With this in mind, here is a handful of concert recommendations from among the wealth of choices this summer:

This coming Friday, July 22, the estimable Sir Andrew Davis conducts Sibelius’ lush Symphony No. 5, along with pieces by Dvoƙák and Vaughan Williams (his popular “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”).

Friday, July 29, brings Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, his last completed symphony, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27. BSO conductor Andris Nelsons takes the helm, with Jonathan Biss at the piano. The following night, July 30, Sibelius’ great violin concerto is performed by Augustin Hadelich and the BSO, with Nelsons conducting.

On Friday, Aug. 12, Charles Dutoit, a Tanglewood favorite, conducts Debussy’s spectacular tone poem “La Mer” (The Sea) and Ravel’s “Bolero,” along with works by Mozart and Nicolai.

Nelsons returns on Sunday, Aug. 21, to conduct a program of Berlioz, Saint Saens (his underrated “‘Egyptian’ Piano Concerto No. 5”), Tsontakis, and Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” suite.

Respighi’s rousing “Pines of Rome” closes out the program on Saturday, Aug. 27, which includes pieces by Bernstein and John Williams, as well as a Haydn cello concerto performed by Yo-Yo Ma.

For those looking for other classics, highlights include Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble on Sunday, Aug. 7; John Williams’ film night on Saturday, Aug. 13; and a concert performance of the first two acts of Verdi’s “Aida” on Saturday, Aug. 20, with Kristine Opolais, arguably the most exciting soprano of the past few years and Nelsons’ wife, in the title role.

Also worth mentioning is a performance of Messiaen’s 20th-century chamber masterpiece, “Quartet for the End of Time,” which he composed while serving time in a German prison camp during World War II.

As per tradition, the Tanglewood season closes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, conducted this year by Christoph von Dohnanyi, on Sunday, Aug. 28.


All performances take place at The Shed at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass. More information is available at www.bso.org or by calling 888-266-1200.