A Big, BSO Embrace For Bernstein At Tanglewood Next Summer

Leonard Bernstein conducting at Tanglewood. (Courtesy Heinz Weissenstein, Whitestone Photo/BSO)
Leonard Bernstein conducting at Tanglewood. (Courtesy Heinz Weissenstein, Whitestone Photo/BSO)

The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s schedule at Tanglewood next summer is laced with programming that celebrates the life and work of Leonard Bernstein. The famed composer and conductor would have turned 100 on Aug. 25, 2018.

Throughout the season, the orchestra will perform a comprehensive cross-section of Bernstein’s music for stage and screen. The lineup, announced Thursday, culminates in a gala concert on Bernstein's actual birthday featuring accomplished artists who worked with him, including Yo-Yo Ma, Midori and Michael Tilson Thomas, and a new work for cello and orchestra by composer John Williams.

"The program will celebrate his own music in its many genres," explained Tony Fogg,  the BSO's artistic administrator and director of Tanglewood. "It will bring together the composers and ideals he celebrated in his own lifetime."

A highlight for Fogg will be a fully-staged performance of Bernstein’s "Fancy Free" with the Boston Ballet. It’s in one of the programs to be conducted by BSO music director Andris Nelsons during his planned five weeks in the Berkshires.

Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood in 1981 (Courtesy Walter H. Scott/BSO)
Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood in 1981 (Courtesy Walter H. Scott/BSO)

Tanglewood's summer (June 15 to Sept. 2) will build on the Boston Symphony Orchestra's season-long tribute to Bernstein.

While alive, Bernstein created iconic music for orchestra, film and Broadway musicals including "West Side Story." He played an active role at the Tanglewood Music Center for 50 years, first as a fellow brought on by founder Serge Koussevitzky in 1940. Bernstein, a Lawrence native and Harvard grad, conducted his final concerts in Lenox the summer of 1990.

"We managed to program a number of specific pieces he himself conducted often," Fogg said, "whether at Tanglewood or in other parts of the world. They were clearly ones in which he was entranced, fascinated, committed — and we think they will provide a very interesting context for listening to Bernstein’s music throughout the season."

Bernstein believed that classical music shouldn’t be confined to so-called experts and expanded the New York Philharmonic's "Young People’s Concerts" to television broadcasts.

The BSO plans to replicate those concerts with one of its own on Friday, Aug. 10. Nelsons will conduct with Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie, moderating.

“We hope that will be something very special for those who may have attended the concerts either in person or the millions of people who saw them on television," Fogg said. "But it will also be a reminder of just the power of music just to help us in life.”

Here's the full lineup for next season at Tanglewood.


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Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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