Bernstein at 100 – The Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood
Works by Bernstein, Copland, Mahler and Williams
Nadine Sierra (soprano), Susan Graham (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Hampson (baritone), Midori (violin), Yo-Yo Ma, Kian Soltani (cello) et al; Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons, Michael Tilson Thomas et al
C Major DVD: 747608 Blu-ray: 747704 141 mins
On a balmy August evening last year, an audience of 18,000 gathered at Tanglewood to celebrate Leonard Bernstein on what would have been his 100th birthday. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, plus members of the New York, Vienna and Israel Philharmonic’s, were joined by a starry line-up of conductors and soloists paying tribute to Lenny. To them he was a teacher, a friend or simply a legend. The first half of the concert is devoted to Bernstein the composer. The colourful highs of the Candide Overture and fleet-fingered (and footed) selections from West Side Story give way to the more pensive hues of Serenade’s ‘Phaedrus’ and Mass’s ‘Meditation No. 3’. Violinist Midori and cellist Kian Soltani captivate in the latter pieces.
Then there’s Mahler and it is to the finale of his Symphony No. 2 that the concert programme looks for its own thrilling denouement. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus raise the roof, with help from soloists Nadine Sierra and Susan Graham. An excerpt from Copland’s ubiquitous Appalachian Spring warms hearts and a new work (Highwood’s Ghost) composed and conducted by John Williams raises hairs with the help of Yo-Yo Ma and harpist Jessica Zhou. The love for Lenny really comes through in these performances, not to mention the reception in the vast crowd. I was there, and can recall thinking that it felt intimate somehow, despite the scale of the show and the enormous crowd in (and beyond) the Koussevitzky Shed. The production is served well in this HD presentation; engaging close-ups and sweeping wide shots from above and in front are crystal clear, as is the sound. A fine keepsake for those lucky enough to have been there, and a magical concert in its own right.