News / Arts & Entertainment

Boston Symphony Makes Music in Mountains

Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony, at dusk. (Stu Rosner)
Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony, at dusk. (Stu Rosner)
LENOX, Massachusetts — Open-air classical music concerts are now a summer tradition in the United States. However, that wasn't the case 75 years ago, when the Boston Symphony first performed on a former estate called Tanglewood in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts.

Since then, Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony.

When Serge Koussevitzy, the Russian-born conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, opened Tanglewood in 1937, he chose an all-Beethoven program, including the Pastorale Symphony. When conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi opened the 75th anniversary season in early July 2012, he recreated it.

Beethoven’s musical tribute to nature, complete with bird calls, seems a perfect companion to the charms of Tanglewood.
Boston Symphony Sounds in Berkshire Mountains
Boston Symphony Sounds in Berkshire Mountains i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


When you walk through the trees and open fields of the campus, you come across music everywhere: French horn players rehearsing Strauss in a cabin in the woods, a string quartet playing contemporary music on a concert hall stage, two trumpets rehearsing Beethoven in a barn.

"It’s a place where music and nature come together in the most wonderfully natural way," says conductor John Williams, who has composed many well-known movie scores.

The Oscar-winning composer has come to Tanglewood every summer since 1980, when he was named music director of the Boston Pops. "We learn something about ourselves as musicians and as listeners, out here every day, when we’re here among the trees and the beautiful weather and so on."
John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)
x
John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)
John Williams leading the Boston Pops with James Taylor on July 14, 2012. (Hilary Scott)

Boston Symphony managing director Mark Volpe oversees the 1,000 employees and volunteers from a Victorian house on the property.
 
"Every city has a concert hall. What makes the Boston Symphony absolutely unique in the world of orchestras is Tanglewood," Volpe says. "Tanglewood really is the grand daddy of this notion of a summer venue."

When Koussevitzky began conducting at Tanglewood during its first season - in the middle of the Great Depression - the orchestra played in a tent. After a thunderstorm damaged the tent, the Boston Symphony built a modest, but more permanent structure: a shed with a dirt floor in the auditorium and wooden seats. And, with the exception of a little acoustical fine tuning, the structure has basically remained the same.  

Over the decades, Tanglewood has attracted some of the world's finest musicians, not only to perform, but to teach. Giants like Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein were fixtures for years and, these days, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax are among the faculty of the Music Center, which is a training ground for young musicians. Every summer 150 of them, most of whom are in their early twenties, study at Tanglewood for free.  

They also perform at Tanglewood.
Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)
x
Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)
Seiji Ozawa talks with Leonard Bernstein during a lecture for Tanglewood students in this undated file photo. (Walter H. Scott)

Tom Rolfs, now the principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony who also teaches at Tanglewood, first came as an 18-year-old student.

"The very first day I sat down in the orchestra and Seiji Ozawa was on the podium," he says, "and then, Leonard Bernstein. So, if that doesn’t change your life, nothing will. "

All the music making in the world wouldn’t mean  anything without an audience, and they come in droves. About 350,000 tickets are sold every summer.  

One recent weekend, Greg Passin made the three-hour drive from New York City to meet friends, have a picnic and listen to Beethoven.

"It’s relaxed, but it feels very, not formal, but ritualized in a way, right?" says Passin. "People are coming with their chairs and their tables and their bottles of wine and, clearly, it’s something they do all the time and have very specific ways of doing it. So, it’s the social aspect, as well as the musical."

Some, like World War II veteran Bob Rosenblatt, have been coming for decades. His first visit was in 1947 and he's been a volunteer usher for 40 years.   

"Every concert’s my first," Rosenblatt says. "Doesn’t it sound Pollyannaish?  But it’s true."

Tanglewood officially celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a gala concert, featuring Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams and James Taylor. There will be more gala evenings throughout the summer in the Berkshires.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”