Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Britten & Bernstein: Tanglewood first and last

This year marks the centenary of the great British composer, conductor, and pianist Benjamin Britten, born on Nov. 22, 1913. His recording company Decca is gearing up for a smashing 100th anniversary boxed set of the complete works, which we'll be carrying in the fall. (Right now we've got a DVD of the opera Owen Wingrave and a volume of letters that greatly enriches our understanding of his life and times, as well as his music.) Thousands of related performances and events are taking place all over the world, which can be perused at www.britten100.org.
 What's interesting about today's date vis à vis Britten is that on August 6, 1946, Leonard Bernstein conducted the American premiere of his opera Peter Grimes at the Tanglewood Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts. Boris Goldowsky, Tanglewood's music director, spoke presciently when he told Opera News that the work "has lasting merit, and it will join the standard repertory." Peter Grimes was the first opera Bernstein conducted professionally, and its famously atmospheric Sea Interludes were on the program of the last orchestral concert he ever conducted. That was in August of 1990—also at Tanglewood!
The Library of Congress has some wonderful background on Tanglewood and its denizens; this blog post has links to special collections on Bernstein, Copland et al., as well as to the vast archives of the Koussevitzky Foundation, which commissioned Peter Grimes and many other great modern works.
To get a sense of the "musical utopia" that is Tanglewood in your own home, sample this PBS special on its 75th Anniversary Celebration, featuring the Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra & Festival Chorus, John Williams, Keith Lockhart, Andris Nelsons, Peter Serkin, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Taylor.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, my opinion is Bernstein carried out the yank ultimate of his opera Peter Grimes on the Tangle wooden competition in Len ox, Massachusetts. Boris Goldwyn, Tangle timber's music director, spoke presciently while he advised Opera news that the work "has lasting benefit, and it's going to be part of the usual repertory." Peter Grimes became the primary opera Bernstein conducted professionally, and its famously atmospheric.