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The Bernstein Centennial Summer at Tanglewood

Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood
Heinz Weissenstein
Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood

The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer of 2018 celebrates the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth through film, dance, and, of course, astonishing music.

While the centenary of Leonard Bernstein will be celebrated around the world in 2018, Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, will offer an experience like no other. The scenic campus in the Berkshires was a spiritual home for Bernstein, and Tanglewood played a critical role in his life as a musician, from the very beginning, when, in 1940, he was in the first class of students of the Berkshire Music Center (now called the Tanglewood Music Center) until the very end, when he conducted his final concert in 1990.

BSO Artistic Administrator and Director of Tanglewood Tony Fogg described the range of events throughout the season in an interview at Symphony Hall:



Each week of the season in 2018 highlights the broad range of Bernstein’s life as a composer, conductor, pianist, educator, and social activist. The culmination of the celebration takes place on Aug. 25, the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth. With a dazzling lineup of conductors headed by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, and guest artists including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the program includes selections from Bernstein’s Candide, West Side Story, Mass, and Serenade, as well as works by Copland and Mahler that were significant in Bernstein’s life as a conductor.

The summer begins on Friday, July 6, with an Opening Night BSO concert led by Andris Nelsons that includes one of Bernstein’s own favorite works, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. The program also includes the Russian composer’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with soloist Lang Lang. Then, on Saturday, July 7, Keith Lockhart leads the Boston Pops in a fully staged performance of Bernstein’s first musical, On the Town.

Later in the summer, on Saturday, Aug. 18, Boston Ballet and the Boston Symphony join forces in a fully staged performance of Fancy Free (the work that laid the musical groundwork for On the Town), using Jerome Robbins’s original choreography.

Other Bernstein Centennial highlights of the season include

  • West Side Story, performed by the BSO and conductor David Newman in a live accompaniment to the 1961 Oscar-winning film (July 28),
  • the operetta Candide, in a fully staged production at Seiji Ozawa Hall by The Knights and conductor Eric Jacobsen (Aug. 22 and 23),
  • a Young People’s Concert, inspired by the landmark series Bernstein produced with the New York Philharmonic, featuring the BSO, conductor Andris Nelsons, and host Jamie Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein’s daughter (Aug. 10),
  • the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra’s Bernstein Memorial Concert, led by Andris Nelsons and featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the world premiere of a new work by John Williams composed for the occasion (Aug. 19), and
  • a colloquium, moderated by Michael Tilson Thomas, focusing on Bernstein’s role as a social conscience of his time (Aug. 10-12).

The 2018 Koussevitzky Artist at Tanglewood is pianist Kirill Gerstein, who will perform in four concerts. On July 30, he’ll be the soloist with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra during the annual Festival of Contemporary Music (curated this year by BSO Artistic Partner Thomas Adès). On Aug. 1, Gerstein and Adès perform a piano duo concert that includes works by Debussy, Stravinsky, Lutosławski, Adès, and Ravel. Gerstein also performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the BSO (Aug. 3) and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for Tanglewood on Parade (Aug. 7).

BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons leads a total of 13 concerts through the course of the summer. In addition to those mentioned previously, they include

  • Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with soloist Rudolf Buchbinder (July 8),
  • a semi-staged performance of Puccini’s opera La bohème (July 14), with soprano Kristine Opolais in the role of Mimi and tenor Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo,
  • Film Night with John Williams and the Boston Pops (Aug. 11),
  • Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with soloist Yefim Bronfman (Aug. 17), and
  • Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 (Aug. 24).

The eminent Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt leads two BSO concerts. The first, on July 20, is an All-Mozart program that includes the Piano Concerto No. 17, with soloist Emanuel Ax, and the Symphony No. 41, the “Jupiter.” The second, on July 21, includes Bernstein’s Halil, featuring BSO Principal Flute Elizabeth Rowe, as well as Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 34.

Other guest conducts scheduled to lead the BSO include Juanjo Mena (July 27 and 29), Charles Dutoit (Aug. 3 and 5), Bramwell Tovey (Aug. 4), Michael Tilson Thomas (Aug. 12 and 25), and Christoph Eschenbach (Aug. 25 and 26).

Among the remarkable lineup of visiting artists and ensembles performing at Seiji Ozawa Hall are

  • the Emerson Quartet, performing all five of Beethoven’s extraordinarily powerful late quartets (July 24 and 25),
  • pianist Paul Lewis, who begins a multi-year survey at Tanglewood of works by Haydn, Beethoven, and Brahms (Aug. 2),
  • pianist Igor Levit and the JACK Quartet in a program of works with extramusical sociopolitical connections by Beethoven, Schoenberg, and Rzewski (Aug. 15), and
  • the Skride Quartet in works by Mahler, Mozart, and Brahms (Aug. 16).

These highlights only begin to tell the deep and rich story of the 2018 Tanglewood season. For complete information and schedules, visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Brian McCreath is the Director of Production for CRB.