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Classical High Season Approaches Its Zenith
By Stephen Dankner, Special to iBerkshires.com
12:27PM / Wednesday, July 27, 2016
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The uproarious Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera 'The Pirates of Penzance' running until Aug. 13 at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield.

During late July into early August, the classical music festival high season, anchored by concerts at Tanglewood and at other regional venues, approaches its zenith, with sure-fire programming.

Offerings at Tanglewood this week include Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and Mahler's Ninth, concertos by Mozart, Brahms and Sibelius, with solo star turns by world-renowned soloists, and much more.

Not to be outdone, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams is concluding its on-going three-week Summer Music Festival of new music - Bang on a Can (BOAC), curated by 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Luther Adams.

Hungry for still more musical options? Consider the Manchester Music Festival in Vermont and the Sevenars Music Festival in South Worthington, Mass.

As always, the place to be for great classical and stimulating new music is right here in our own intimate corner of the world - the Berkshires - a designated "cultural capital," where artistic boundaries are nonexistent.

 

Tanglewood

• Friday, July 29, 8 p.m. in the Shed: Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director/conductor Andris Nelsons takes the podium for his first of two weekends of programs during the 2016 Tanglewood season. Pianist Jonathan Biss is the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat, K.595, composed in 1791, the year of the composer's death. The program also includes Mahler's last designated completed symphony, his Symphony No. 9, which is both one of the most emotionally affecting works in the entire orchestral repertoire and also carries special significance for Maestro Nelsons and the BSO as it was the first work the he and the orchestra performed together. This concert will surely be another not-to-be-missed Tanglewood/BSO high point of the season.

• Saturday, July 30, 8 p.m. in the Shed: Maestro Nelsons returns to the Shed podium to lead the BSO in a program that pairs Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer John Corigliano's expressive "Fantasia on an Ostinato," (composed in 1985 and subsequently arranged for orchestra in 1986,) with the work that inspired it, Beethoven's stirring Symphony No. 7, one of the composer's most popular works. Corigliano's piece is based on a famous repetitive passage from the second movement of Beethoven's symphony. Between those two works, the young German violinist Augustin Hadelich, who possesses a pure, silvery tone, joins Mr. Nelsons and the orchestra in a performance of Sibelius's soaring Violin Concerto, a high point within the entire concerto repertoire.

• Sunday, July 31, 2:30 p.m. in the Shed: The renowned English pianist Paul Lewis joins maestro Nelsons and the instrumental Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra for the annual Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert. The all-Brahms program opens with the Piano Concerto No. 1, the composer's first large-scale orchestral masterpiece and a work that took some eight years and considerable struggle for Brahms to complete. Mr. Nelsons also leads the BSO in the composer's heroic Symphony No. 1, the only piece that gave Brahms even more trouble than his First Piano Concerto, requiring more than 20 years of false starts, abandoned drafts, and torturous labor to bring to fruition, and thereby fulfill the public's expectation that he was to become the symphonic heir to Beethoven, as prophesied by Brahms' mentor, Robert Schumann.

• Sunday, July 31, 8 p.m. in Ozawa Hall: Jazz lovers, take note. The Chick Corea Trio, featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, and with Mr. Corea on piano, celebrate Mr. Corea's 75th birthday. A jazz legend, Mr. Corea rose to prominence in the late 1960s through his work with Miles Davis on albums such as "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew," as well as his first album as leader, recorded in 1968, "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs". He became a leader in avant-garde jazz, and then subsequently became a pioneer during the 1970's fusion movement. He has been active and extremely prolific ever since, and has been nominated for 63 Grammy Awards, of which he has won 22.

• Tuesday, Aug. 2, 8 p.m. in the Shed – "Tanglewood on Parade": One of the festival's most beloved traditions, the ever-popular, celebratory Tanglewood on Parade offers audiences a full day of musical activities for the entire family, culminating in an 8 p.m. concert in the Shed featuring all of the festival's orchestras performing in a single concert. Boston Pops Conductor Laureate John Williams and conductors Stéphane Deneve, Giancarlo Guerrero and Stefan Asbury will lead a variety of works, including composer Michael Gandlofi's "Night Train to Perugia," Mozart's Double Concerto for flute and harp, featuring BSO principals Elizabeth Rowe and Jessica Zhou, Ravel's "La Valse," John Williams' "Hymn to New England," the suite from "The BFG" ("Big Family Giant") and "March of the Resistance" from "Star Wars," followed by the traditional TOP finale, Tchaikovsky's explosive "1812 Overture."

This festive concert features performances by the BSO, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and the Boston Pops, followed by fireworks over the Stockbridge Bowl. Tanglewood on Parade festivities begin at 2, with performances throughout the day by the young musicians of the Tanglewood Music Center, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), and members of the BSO. These performances include a cello ensemble performance by the TMC at 2:30, a 3:30 solo piano performance, the BUTI Young Artists Chorus and Orchestra at 4 and a TMC Vocal Program, "Sing America," with Stephanie Blythe, at 5. Other activities include an Instrument Playground and free Tanglewood tours. TMC Brass Fanfares in the Shed at 7:30 will herald the 8 p.m. concert. This is one of the most popular and festive events at Tanglewood. Don't miss it.

Tickets for all Tanglewood events can be purchased online at tanglewood.org, via SymphonyCharge, 888-266-1200 or 888-266-1200, and at the Tanglewood box office located at the main gate, on West Street in Lenox. For further information call 413-637-1600.

 

Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival

If you think that this three-week new music festival is your typical "high modern," cerebral celebration of head-in-your-hands, academic musical experimentation divorced from our daily lives and popular culture, think again. This is not your father's (or grandfather's) festival of modern music. Instead, it's a joyous, pop-inflected, "what if" carnival of musical merriment, and yes, passion, where caution is thrown to the winds. Think music on the cutting edge and beyond. As the BOAC Festival organizers themselves describe it: "Brilliant musicians and composers inhabit the Mass  MoCA campus for three rollicking weeks of innovative, unexpected, and ear-expanding music."

Recitals are held throughout specific MoCA galleries every day except Sundays until July 31 at 1:30 p.m. (BOAC composer/performer Fellows) and at 4:30 p.m. (BOAC music faculty). All daily gallery concerts are free with paid MoCA admission.

As it progresses, the Festival heats up, with evening performances every night from Saturday, July 27, until the concluding BOAC Marathon concert/blowout, featuring the Bang on a Can All-Stars on Saturday, July 30, which runs continuously from 4-10 p.m. in MoCA's Hunter Center auditorium. Patrons can freely enter or leave as they please. Tickets for this event are $5 for members, $15 for students, $24 for non-members for the concert or $35 for the concert plus gallery admission.

For complete BOAC Summer Music Festival information and related events, including performers, composers and joint art/music presentations at MoCA and in venues within the city of North Adams, go online.

 

Manchester Music Festival

On Thursday, July 28, at 7 p.m., the MMF presents a program titled "Handel to Modern: Music Spanning Three Centuries (with a world premiere!)". Performers include violinists Joana Genova and Deanna Bausch, violist Ariel Rudiakov, cellist Thomas Landschoot and Benjamin Capps and pianist Lynelle James. The stellar Manchester players perform Handel's Sonata for two cellos in G minor, Op. 2 no. 8, Mozart's Trio for strings and piano in B flat, K. 502, Chopin's "Introduction and Polonaise brillante" for cello and piano, and the premiere performance of my own piano quintet for string quartet and piano.

About my new piano quintet, here is an abbreviated program note: "My Piano Quintet, composed in 2014/2015, is the realization of a dream. After composing 20 string quartets, I've desired for many years to compose a quintet for string quartet and piano - the same medium that inspired Schumann, Brahms, Franck, Ernest Bloch and Shostakovich. By a happy coincidence I was already at the final stage of composing such a work when MMF Artistic Director Ariel Rudiakov asked me to compose a piano quintet for his Manchester Music Festival performers. It's a powerful piece, written in a lush, rhapsodic style and contains many tuneful melodies. The piece is very accessible and audience-friendly."

For this concert, for every ticket sold, you will be offered a free ticket, so tell your friends and bring a guest with you. Be sure to mention the code Bogo 2016 when purchasing tickets online.

For tickets and complete information, visit the Manchester Music Festival's website or contact the MMF by phone at 802-362-1956. The concerts are presented on the campus of the Southern Vermont Arts Center, 930 Southern Vermont Arts Center Drive, Manchester Center, Vt.

 

Sevenars Music Festival

On Sunday, July 31, at 4 p.m., pianist Vassily Primakov and cellist Ben Capps join Manchester Music Festival musicians returning to Sevenars this year by popular demand. At the heart of the ensemble are Sevenars favorites: the brilliant Bulgarian violinist Joana Genova and violist and conductor Ariel Rudiakov, both directors of the highly regarded Manchester Music Festival. Performing with Ariel and Joana will be cellist Ben Capps and the virtuoso pianist Vassily Primakov. The program will include Mozart's passionate Piano Quartet in G Minor, Rachmaninoff's magnificent Cello Sonata, and Fauré's transcendent Piano Quartet in C Minor.

Refreshments are free, and the hall, located in the Academy building in South Worthington, Mass., is air-conditioned. Suggested admission is $20.

 

'The Pirates of Penzance' at Barrington Stage

Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield presents the uproarious Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera "The Pirates of Penzance," running until August 13. This is a phenomenal production in every way. You will laugh until you cry, with tears streaming down your face. Whatever else comes along this summer, this is, and will remain, a standout. Get your tickets now!

Performances are at the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield. Get tickets at 413=236-8888 or online.

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