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Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
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[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
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(Concert Review) Tanglewood on Parade

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


BERLIOZ, Roman Carnival Overture
BERNSTEIN, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
JOHN WILLIAMS, Music from Star Wars
BEETHOVEN, Leonore Overture No. 3
TCHAIKOVSKY, 1812 Overture, Opus 49

Tanglewood on Parade is always a highlight of the summer season at Tanglewood, and this year's event did not disappoint. Reportedly attracting upwards of 12,000 concertgoers, the day-long event was jam-packed with music of all kinds, including classics, potboilers, parade music, movie tunes, and singing. The family-friendly event was made moreso by programming that emphasized music's most simple, basic pleasures -- the joys of melody, the infectious power of rhythm, the whirl of surprise, and the whiff of familiarity and recognition.

All this, and cannons and fireworks too.

While TANGLEWOOD ON PARADE may not be the most serious program on the schedule this or any summer, in some ways it is the most important, as it blatantly seeks to make the point that classical music is NOT elitist, in spite of claims (and much evidence) to the contrary. TANGLEWOOD ON PARADE celebrates music as its most democratic (with a small 'd'), emphasizing its connection to and importance to everyday life, music as a form of civic, aural architecture -- no less an art than architecture, but not necessarily something that has to be swallowed like bitter medicine because it is "good for you."

We see this of course in the choice of programming, with Leonard Bernstein's West Side STory themes and John Williams's Star Wars music. But we also see this in the fanfares that kick off the evening program -- music that informs and helps execute the functioning of civil life; and, of course, we see it in the Tchaikovsky, the musical retelling of they very real, however unfortunate, triumph of good over evil, in this case, the surprise victory of Russia over the invading forces of Napeoleon. This is music as history, music as storytelling, and music as exciting as any Hollywood blockbuster.

Classical music needn't be dumbed down to appeal to a wider audience -- the recent all-Wagner and all-Brahms programs conducted by James Levine were proofs of that. Is does, of course, need to be made more affordable, but that's a story for a different time. It simply needs to be experienced by a wider audience, and if Tanglewood can just figure out a way to bring back some of the thousands of families, with a healthy quotient of children, who attended TANGLEWOOD ON PARADE last night, to return to other shows easily as accessible (other Beethoven, in particular, as he seems most connected to the rhythms of popular music to which youngsters are most accustomed), then they will have gone a long way toward solving the dilemma of a graying audience.

As for the performances themselves, there were a number of highlights. James Levine's incredibly gracious welcoming of Seiji Ozawa back to the stage at Tanglewood, calling him "inspiring on a completely unique level," shows just what a classy guy Levine is. The Bernstein, played by the pops, was a little schmaltzy, and Williams's Star Wars music was unusually dour.

As always, however, the highlight was the Tchaikovsky, and accept for an extra battle that the French seemed to win this time, it was, as in past years, a rousing success, capping a picture perfect night (it was hot and humid everywhere except Tanglewood, where a cool breeze settled on the lawn) at the place to be.--Seth Rogovoy

We were at TOP and I agree. We joined friends who were up from Williamsburg VA and at the end they said "Let's make this an annual event." It was a wonderful respite midweek and I can't wait until I have grandchildren so I can bring them!

I went back for the first time in years- and brought my kids & husband. We had a fantstic time. I agree with your observation that families are needed- my son & I took a look around the shed while John Williams conducted Star Wars (he's a total Williams fanatic at age 10), and we noticed that the average age was about 70... Speaking of John Williams- we tried to hang around afterwards to say thanks, but none of the conductors were going to make appearances. But as we were returning from the rest rooms, John Williams zoomed by in a golf cart and he waved and said hello (yesssss.). Now my son wants to be a composer when he grows up...

And I loved James Levine's introduction of Seiji Ozawa. I agree- total class. About the Star Wars selection(s)- it/they? was/were? a little dark- but the new film is quite dark. Besides, I get the impression that John Williams gets bored just leaving a score alone & likes to mix it up a little now & then.

My girlfriend and I had a great time on the lawn (even tho' we paid for the shed), the musical selections were perfect for that summery evening, and the only problem as usual is the aftershow traffic...also...I think the fireworks should begin during the finale of "1812" and not a few mins. afterward...kind of a letdown.

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