Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra; Christoph Von Dohnanyi, conducting; Emanuel Ax, piano
Sunday afternoon, August 18, 2013
Reviewed by Lesley Ann Beck
Mozart and Mahler were performed with panache and passion last Sunday when the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, led by Christoph von Dohnanyi, took the stage in the Koussevitsky Music Shed and delivered magnificent performances of these major works in its final performance of the summer season. And while it is quite possible to write about a concert at Tanglewood without mentioning the weather, Sunday was a most perfect day, sunny but not too warm, making the afternoon concert especially delightful.
Acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax joined the TMC Orchestra in performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat. The concerto is a magnificent piece that is very Mozart-like; it is immediately recognizable, most pleasantly so. Ax’s meticulous, beautifully dynamic playing was supported by the orchestra offering rich and lustrous amplification of the motifs played on the piano.
After the intermission, von Dohnanyi led the orchestra in a vibrant, expressive, and moving performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D. The orchestra played magnificently, with lively energy, well-defined dynamics, and a sense of excitement. The symphony is one of Mahler’s most accessible works, with magical bird calls woven into the piece, a mystical cuckoo appearing in the first movement, and hunting horns, pastoral passages, fragments of marches and folk music, even a passage that sounds like a minor-key klezmer tune, in the other sections. The music feeds the listener’s imagination, with so much texture, color, and the strong narrative quality — it’s easy to imagine a story unfolding and ending with a blast of triumph.
For anyone who may not know, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra is made up of extremely talented musicians who are completing their formal training and are participants in the fellowship program at the Music Center. The list of prominent alumni from this distinguished program is long and impressive; it includes such Tanglewood luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, and the concert’s conductor, Christoph von Dohnanyi.
It was a glorious concert – from the idyllic setting and ideal weather to the deeply satisfying orchestral performance, the afternoon could not have been lovelier. All the more reason to venture to Tanglewood before the summer season ends with Beethoven’s Ninth on August 25.
For information or tickets, visit www.tanglewood.org.