Thursday, 26 July 2007

Tanglewood Two/Too

cyntillating sounds opus ten

When the weather is sunny and the repertoire is Bach, Tanglewood exhurts its irresistible charm and we return within a week's time to a favoured landscape. But for this visit, we do it right, shunning real seats for a concert-from-the-lawn experience.

The scene in the parking lot hours before show time is unique. Most visitors are elderly this evening, Bach's B Minor Mass is considered heavy going by Americans. They may be elderly but they are certainly routined in Tanglewood traditions: the gas guzzling 4 wheel drives pull up close, and out come the lawn chairs, the wine bottles, the pasta salads and good French bread (Tanglewood attracts a good number of French Canadians). Those arriving early just fold out their chairs right smack in front of the ticket gate, pour a glass, perhaps read a book (we saw St. Augustine's Confessions lying on a nearby chair) and wait at least an hour to stake their claim to a good spot on the lawn.

We share our picnic table with strangers, united in a love of Bach.
He: ' is it a singalong tonight?'; she: ' I hope not!' .
Volunteers pass out not only programmes but brochures on this season's Dutch theme, a celebration of Holland's musical best and brightest. Like this evening, Jos van Veldhoven and his Netherlands Bach Society, on a return visit after their recent, exceptionally succesful tour to the States in April.

The performance is in the elegant Ozawa Recital Hall which looses it's back wall just prior to performances, to allow a view from the lawn on a par with the main shed where the symphonic concerts take place. But this visitor's dream is, of course, an instrumentalist's nightmare, and the harpsichordist and string players arrive early to tune, tune and yet tune again.

Van Veldhoven leads a magnificent performance, one very much in tune, using a parred down choir of a mere ten voices - often beefed up by the five soloists -, which never sounds skinny or disappointing. The Bach is rich, inventive and inspired, even from our seats half way up the long lawn. Again, the sound system is excellent, 'pimped up' via speakers barely visible in the trees: we have a front row seat feeling, with the added spectacle of the stars and a three quarter moon above us. Breathtaking.

At the end, a class of students leaves in a famous American yellow school bus, younger children are carried home in their sleeping bags, we pack up our empty bottles and books and fold away our lawn chairs after a very special evening of excellent performance in a perfect place.

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