Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Celebration, Blu-ray (2013)Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Celebration Program: COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man; BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town”; Selections from The Great American Songbook; HAYDN: Piano Concerto in D (excerpts); TCHAIKOVSKY: Andante Cantabile; SARASATE: “Carmen Fantasy”; RAVEL: La Valse; BEETHOVEN: Choral Fantasy – James Taylor, vocalist (in the Songbook sel.)/ Emanuel Ax, p./ Yo-Yo Ma, cello/ Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin/ Peter Serkin, p./ Tanglewood Festival Chorus/ Boston Pops/ Tanglewood Music Center Orch./ Boston Sym. Orch./ Keith Lockhart, John Williams, Stefan Asbury, Andris Nelsons & David Zinman – conductors Producer: Mitch Owgang, Richard R. Schilling & John Walker Director: Bill Cose Studio: C Major 713304 [Distr. by Naxos] Video: Full HD Color 1080i for 16:9 Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM Stereo Bonus: The History of Tanglewood; John Williams on Tanglewood Length: 112 minutes Rating: ****
75 years is a big deal for any celebration, and for an institution like the Tanglewood Festival, nested in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, and still haunted by the ghosts of Copland and Bernstein, the celebration looms large indeed. This concert was broadcast by PBS in 2012, and this edition bears the imprimatur of Thirteen and WNET of Boston.
It is an entertaining concert, though don’t look for any elements of profundity or specially earth-shattering performances—they aren’t here, and that’s not a terrible thing as I doubt anyone with a serious interest in this music even expects such Galas like this to produce them. But it’s all very competent (though I thought the Choral Fantasy with Zinman conducting the BSO to be a lousy choice for a finale, and it’s a rather lackluster reading) with some real moments of delight.
To give a brief summary, the Copland Fanfare is fine though rather perfunctory; Bernstein’s On the Town is quite snazzy, and Lockhart does a nice job with it. James Taylor, a very popular figure at the festival for many years now, is simply awful in the Great American Songbook—Over the Rainbow, Shall We Dance, and Ol’ Man River have been recorded and sung by unbelievably wonderful voices over the years, and Taylor’s fits none of these songs. Emanuel Ax plays beautifully in the Haydn, one of his staple works, but just getting the last two movements is rather cheesy. The Tchaikovsky is wonderfully rendered by Yo-Yo Ma, and we would expect nothing less. Anne-Sophie Mutter is not a name one associates with the festival, but she did get chosen, and plays the Carmen Fantasy with blazing technique and sumptuous tone. The best is La Valse—the BSO’s new conductor Andris Nelsons gives a stunningly sculptured performance of a piece that is in the blood of this “Aristocrat of Orchestras”.
All in all quite enjoyable. Whether you want this in permanent media depends on your preferences and your pocketbook. The sound is superb surround.