An Electrifying Performance at Tanglewood

On Friday July 24th, The Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Levine performed valiantly at Tanglewood during a deluge.  Soloist Steven Ansell, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Viola, competed with the pounding roar of the rain on the Koussevitzky Music Shed’s roof to be heard by the crowd. Great viola solos are not a common occurrence and it is a pity that much of the crowd could only hear parts of Mr. Ansell’s moving performance.

The dramatic concert started with Hector Berlioz’s overture from “Roman Carnival” Opus Nine and “Harold in Italy” Opus 16.  After the intermission, the orchestra performed Modest Mussorgsky’s Prelude to the opera “Khovanshchina” and “Pictures at an Exhibition,” orchestrated by Ravel.  During the first few minutes of the concert, rain fell softly on the roof of the shed and onto the audience seated on the surrounding lawn.  As night fell, the storm picked up its pace.  Suddenly, the darkened sky opened up and let forth a torrent of rain.  Mr. Ansell’s expressive cadenzas were punctuated by crashes of thunder.  Flashes of lightning turned the sky an unearthly blue. 

The audience seated on the lawn ran for cover under the edges of the shed. A few intrepid souls remained huddled under umbrellas and around citronella candles on the lawn.  The rain increased steadily until no one on the lawn could hear Mr. Ansell above the din.  He appeared to be putting up a good fight against the rain, communicating his passion with dramatic facial expressions and vigorously moving his bow.  The third part of the piece “Serenade of an Abruzzese mountaineer to his mistress” was overshadowed by the noise of the downpour.  At that point, Conductor James Levine had to stop the performance and wait out the worst of the storm.  During the pause, the humorous Mr. Levine turned to the audience with mock-annoyance and put a finger to his lips to shush the storm.  The audience laughed in appreciation.  After a short pause, they began again.  At certain points the tympani drum and cymbals seemed to mimic the weather.  Mr. Ansell worked hard preparing “Harold in Italy”.  It is unfortunate that the weather took over the concert. The end of the piece was greeted witht hunderous applause in recognition of the performers’ good humor, perseverance,and excellent musicianship.

During the intermission, the shivering audience collectively ran towards the food tent to buy warm drinks.  The volunteers had anticipated their need and had already set out coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. The audience also bought forest green ponchos and umbrellas bearing the Tanglewood logo.  Luckily, during the second half of the concert the weather improved enough for the audience to enjoy Moussorgsky’s dramatic “Pictures at an Exhibition”.

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