Sharing Tanglewood's magic

The Massachusetts concert venue sticks close to its classical roots.

Tanglewood
An illumined Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass.

In 1936, conductor Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) couldn't finish an all-Wagner program when a summer storm racing through the Berkshires in western Massachusetts knocked over the tent they were playing under. That event led to the building of the Koussevitzky Shed, a permanent structure at the orchestra's summer home among the green rolling hills of Lenox, Mass.

Now known as the Tanglewood Music Festival, or simply Tanglewood, the concert series is marking its 75th anniversary with special events. Some 300,000 visitors will hear live concerts by the BSO and the Boston Pops Orchestra as well as top jazz and pop performers.

The venue, only a few hours' drive from several major Eastern cities (Boston; Hartford, Conn.; and New York), draws 60 percent of its audience from outside New England, says Mark Volpe, managing director of the BSO. Those unable to attend can listen to radio broadcasts (wgbh.org/995) and watch the 75th anniversary gala concert on TV Aug. 10 as part of the "Great Performances" series on PBS. And for 75 days this summer, the orchestra's website (www.BSO.org) is streaming classic performances given at Tanglewood between 1937 and 2009.

But experiencing Tanglewood in person can never be replaced, Mr. Volpe says. "The [music] students, the energy, the people on the lawn and in the shed," give strolling the grounds its own excitement.

While other summer festivals have moved toward pop music, Tanglewood has kept classical music at its core, Volpe says. "It's the one [summer festival] that has maintained its purpose, its mission: training the next generation of musicians for classical music."

Program highlights for the 75th anniversary season include performances by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Peter Serkin, and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. On Aug. 18 Tanglewood will host a special 80th birthday celebration for John Williams, Hollywood's favorite composer and a former conductor of the Boston Pops. And the orchestra will present world premières of eight new works by contemporary composers.

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