I do not usually go to two concerts in a week, but that is how the calendar came together. (My hope had been to make motorcycle trips to the two concerts, but the weather was not suitable.) I have been a fan of the Eagles band for quite a few years and could not resist when I learned they would be performing at Bethel Woods near the site of the legendary Woodstock concert. An email a few days before the concert alerted attendees to the fact the concert was sold out and that traffic would be congested. What an understatement! The first sign of the slowdown appeared on Route 17 about 12 miles from Bethel Woods. It was reported that there were 8,000 cars and 18,000 people who were attracted to the great American rock band.
It took more than an hour to get back to the highway after the concert. Despite a lot of traffic, the concert was truly great. If you are a fan, you know the songs and you might say that after 42 years since the Eagles band was formed, they have it down pat. At 65 years of age, the band members showed no lack of energy, and their renowned versatility, superb singing, and extraordinary instrumental techniques were as good as ever. Speaking of energy, the Eagles band has 40 more concerts scheduled between now and the middle of January. Do not feel sorry for them — Don Henley’s estimated net worth is $200 million.
The second trip for the week was to the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tanglewood concerts can be traced back to 1936, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) gave its first concerts in the Berkshires. Tanglewood is a great venue for a concert. Unfortunately, the weather delivered torrential downpours during the day. The normal thousands of people on the grass was diminished but the hearty had their umbrellas and mini-tents. We had seats under the “shed” that seats 5,100 and has superb acoustics.
At just 39, Ludovic Morlot has established a solid reputation as one of the leading conductors of his generation. He became Music Director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in 2011, but he also conducts top orchestras around the world including the BSO. His energy level is impressive and he conducts the most complex works with great flair. The opening piece on Sunday afternoon was the “Carnival” Overture, Opus 92, by Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904). The overture was first performed in Prague in 1892 and was performed by the BSO in 1895. Dvorák, a renowned Czech composer, said that the Carnival Overture was meant to depict “a lonely, contemplative wanderer reaching at twilight a city where a festival is in full swing. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of the people giving vent to their feelings in songs and dances.” It takes quite a mind to envision that and translate it into music. The English horn and flute passages were great and the festive music was followed by a spirited coda.
American pianist and frequent Tanglewood guest Garrick Ohlsson joined the BSO to perform Prokofiev’s exuberant Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Opus 26. Prokofiev was born in the Ukraine in 1891. I find it interesting that he himself was the soloist in the first performance of the concerto, in 1921, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ohlsson’s performance on Sunday was outstanding. A brilliant first movement, beautiful second movement, and then the finale that began with articulate bassoons and pizzicato lower strings were followed by thundering chords from the piano. I could not help but think about big data as I listened to the BSO and pianist. The number of notes was staggering.
After the intermission came Dvorák’s beloved Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Opus 95, From the New World. This great symphony was first performed by the New York Philharmonic orchestra in 1893. It has long been one of my favorite symphonies. It is hard to say which of the four movements is more amazing. Probably the most familiar is the first movement. If you are interested, take a look at the visual analysis of the first movement on YouTube. You can also listen to the entire 42.5 minutes here. Despite no motorcycle ride, the concerts were both great — different, but great.