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New Voices, Traditions, and Celebrations at Tanglewood in 2022

Clockwise, starting top left:
John Williams, Karina Canellakis, Julia Bullock, Andris Nelsons, Aaron Diehl, JoAnn Falletta
Hilary Scott, Chris Christodolou, Allison Michael Orenstein, Heather Bellini, Maria Jarzyn, Marco Borggreve
Clockwise, starting top left: John Williams, Karina Canellakis, Julia Bullock, Andris Nelsons, Aaron Diehl, JoAnn Falletta

When Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” rang through the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood in August of 2019, there was every reason to expect that the BSO would be back the following year for the next round in the festival’s long, rich history. The 2020 season did not work out that way, for reasons that need no explanation here. And while concerts with an in-person audience returned in 2021, pandemic cautions hovered over the summer, with all activities sharing space in the Shed, no vocal music, and a shortened calendar.

All of this positions the 2022 season to be not so much a return to “normal,” but rather a full-on, deeply thoughtful, pandemic-informed re-establishment of what Tanglewood is meant to be. This can be found in tradition – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony will close the season once again! – combined with the new, through a collection of guest artists, composers, and recent works that are significantly more diverse than in past seasons.

The BSO’s opening weekend (July 8-10) encompasses all of this – looking back and forward, through a diversity of voice – with three concerts led by Music Director Andris Nelsons. They begin with a program that brilliantly celebrates the zeitgeist through rebirth, in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring — the concert is paired with Liszt's firecracker Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Yuja Wang. The following night, an All-American program brings together contemporary composer Carlos Simon, Samuel Barber, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin, with soprano Nicole Cabell and pianist Aaron Diehl. And trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger returns to the Shed for the third concert of the weekend with the American premiere of Helen Grime’s Trumpet Concerto, a BSO co-commission placed between two luxuriant works by Rachmaninoff.

Nelsons once again helms a number of concerts during the first four weeks of the festival. One particular highlight is a concert performance of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, with baritone Ryan McKinny in the title role, baritone Will Liverman as Leporello, soprano Nicole Cabell as Donna Elvira, and soprano Janai Brugger as Zerlina. Nelsons also conducts the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in Berlioz’s The Death of Cleopatra, featuring soprano Christine Goerke, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Three generations of women conductors will lead the BSO during the Tanglewood season. JoAnn Falletta, whose 23-year tenure (so far) as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic is only one notable aspect of a deep resumé, makes her BSO debut on August 6 in a program that includes Respighi’s vibrant Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome. Karina Canellakis returns to lead a July 22 program of works by Wagner, Chopin (with Emanuel Ax), and Rachmaninoff. And BSO Assistant Conductor Anna Rakitina conducts Shostakovich’s Third Symphony, “The First of May,” and, with soloist Gil Shaham, Dvořák’s Violin Concerto.

Along with the works by Carlos Simon and Helen Grime mentioned above, new music at Tanglewood also reflects a diversity of perspective in 2022. Grime is one of six composers whose works are performed in world or American premieres, the others being Julia Adolphe, Caroline Shaw, Elizabeth Ogonek, and Fazil Say. And other contemporary composers featured in Boston Symphony programs include Brian Raphael Nabors, Roberto Sierra, Thomas Adès, and Anna Clyne. Beyond the BSO, new music, as always, plays an integral role in the activities of the Tanglewood Music Center, particularly through the Festival of Contemporary Music (August 4-8).

Amidst the influx of these new perspectives and voices, Tanglewood still celebrates commemorations and anniversaries with flair and gusto. And this summer, a one-two punch makes August 19 and 20 a destination weekend. First, Keith Lockhart leads the Boston Pops in a tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim, with selections from Sweeney Todd, Company, and West Side Story.

Then, on the following night, it’s a birthday party for Boston Pops Conductor Laureate and film music legend John Williams, whose 90th birthday is on February 8. The celebration, in a BSO concert led by Ken-David Masur, features cellist Yo-Yo Ma, singer-songwriter James Taylor, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, BSO Principal Harpist Jessica Zhou, percussionist Martin Grubinger, and bassist Eric Revis.

Finally, the last weekend of the BSO’s Tanglewood season (August 26-28) sees the return of Michael Tilson Thomas, whose meteoric early career stages in the 1960’s and ‘70’s were supercharged by Tanglewood and the Boston Symphony. He’ll lead a program anchored by a work infused with BSO and Tanglewood history, Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony, as well as the following Sunday afternoon’s season-closing performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

For complete information about the 2022 Tanglewood season, visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Brian McCreath is the Director of Production for CRB.