Tanglewood Is Back This Summer, With Beethoven and Yo-Yo Ma


There won’t be the traditional grand finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with a stage full of singers. To reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of the coronavirus, there will be no vocal music at all in Tanglewood this summer.

But there will still be plenty of Beethoven, along with philanthropic tributes to composer John Williams and well-known guests like Emanuel Ax, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Bell, and Yo-Yo Ma.

Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s warm-weather home in the Berkshires, announced in March that after it closed last year due to the pandemic, it will be this summer for a six-week season – about half the usual – with limited crowds and events will be open to distancing requests. On Thursday the orchestra filled out the program: many performances by its music director Andris Nelsons and a focus on Beethoven, whose 250th birthday was muted last year due to widespread concert cancellations.

Nelsons will lead eight orchestral programs, including a Beethoven prelude on July 10th with the piano concerto “Emperor” with Ax as the soloist and the Fifth Symphony. On July 23, the Boston Pops will honor Williams, who will be 90 years old next year and the Pops’ laureate. The following evening, Mother premieres his Violin Concerto No. 2, and on August 13, Williams stands on the podium for a night of film music. On July 30th, the violinist Leonidas Kavakos will play Beethoven trios with Ax and Ma, who will also play with the Boston Symphony under Karina Canellakis on August 8th. (Details can be found at

During the summer, the performances do not last longer than 80 minutes without interruption, and all concerts take place in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, which is open to the side. The space, which typically holds thousands, has a reduced capacity, as does the lawn that surrounds it – a popular picnic spot. Tanglewood is waiting to announce what could happen in the late summer of its popular series of pop performers like James Taylor.

Students at Tanglewood Music Center, the orchestra’s prestigious summer academy, will play chamber concerts on Sunday mornings and Monday afternoons. Programs are planned for the Tanglewood Learning Institute, a series of lectures, lectures, and masterclasses that kicked off with great enthusiasm in 2019.The orchestra is hosting a two-day version of its annual contemporary music festival from July 25-26.

The Knights, a chamber orchestra, will be accompanied on July 9 by jazz and classical pianist Aaron Diehl for Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and a selection from Mary Lou Williams’ “Zodiac Suite”. The Boston Symphony’s guest conductors include Thomas Adès (the orchestra’s artistic partner), Alan Gilbert, Anna Rakitina and Herbert Blomstedt; The soloists include the pianists Daniil Trifonov, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Kirill Gerstein as well as the violinists Baiba Skride and Lisa Batiashvili.

The Tanglewood season is part of the nationwide thawing slated for this summer on a performing arts scene that has been largely frozen for over a year. The Public Theater has announced that its venerable Shakespeare will continue in the park, as will the Santa Fe Opera and Glimmerglass Festival in New York State. On Thursday, the Aspen Music Festival and school in Colorado said it would be nearly a two-month season.

When reopening, however, the institutes expect heavy losses. As it celebrated the return of Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony announced that its current operating budget was $ 57.7 million, compared to its prepandemic budget of over $ 100 million. The orchestra estimates it lost over $ 50 million in sales last year.



Robert Dunfee