Sting to play Tanglewood

The British rock singer will play at the Boston Symphony’s summer home, it was announced today.

What would Koussevitsky make of it?

press release:

Sting’s 57th & 9th World Tour, with special guests Joe Sumner and The Last Bandoleros, comes to Tanglewood, Tuesday, August 29, at 7:30 p.m., following sold-out concerts across North America and Europe. This performance marks Sting’s Tanglewood debut. Sting is joined by a three-piece band including his longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, plus drummer Josh Freese and guitarist Rufus Miller, with backing vocals from Diego Navaira and Jerry Fuentes of The Last Bandoleros, as well as Joe Sumner.

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  • The dumbing down continues apace, I see. Where are the people who presumably know better in decision-making at Tanglewood and the BSO? Have they been stunted, bullied into silence and submission? What next? Bruno Mars? JLo? Jackie Evancho? Katherine Jenkins? Beyonce?

    • These rock/pop concerts put on during non-classical evenings at Tanglewood as well as Hollywood Bowl enrich the coffers of their respective orchestra/owners. It’s no wonder that the Boston Symphony and LA Philharmonic are the two most financially secure American Orchestras with the two highest annual budgets. It also doesn’t hurt that they own their regular concert venues.

        • Is this entirely kind? After all, poor dear Frau Ungeheuer is indeed a great worry and I fear if she sees the above horror from Symphony Hall she will sail right round the bend for good, there to join Norma Desmond at the funny farm. And I for one would miss her: the Trumpian airs and graces, the elusive standards, the feet firmly planted in mid-air, the whining, the yelling, the threats. And all free of charge. Do admit.

          Better think it over.

          As for me and my family she is on our prayer list as of tonight.

          • Do not waste your prayers or your family’s on me. You see, yours truly’s inclinations are left of center, for what it’s worth. The conflict is yours, not mine.

  • All the people on the bill are eminent and dedicated musicians. Why should Koussevitsky mind? It’s not as if they are doing a teeny band karaoke show or something of questionalble musical value – unless you think that anything “popular” is beyond the pale.

    This whole debate – assuming there is one, as NL seems to imply – reminds me a lot of religious issues on what is “clean” or not. I don’t think a good rock concert will make Tanglewood or the people who attend classical music there unclean, so where’s the problem?

    • Something seems to have escaped the attention of this commentor.

      Serious art music is not entertainment, and this pop musician belongs to a genre that can only be defined as entertainment. Nothing against entertainment, but Tanglewood had been initiated as a place for the exploration of new, serious art music, which – as yet – had not entered the context of the orchestral performance culture.

      But pop at Tanglewood is the perfectly normal outcome of the chain of cause and effect: when ‘serious new art music’ degenerates into superficial entertainment, there is no longer any distinction between the genres.

      Serious art music as a genre may include elements of entertainment, but is in itself NOT meant to merely entertain, as if it is merely another choice from the palette including the cinema, a bar, a pop concert, a wrestle or soccer match, or a musical or a jazz session. Serious music as an art form is ‘high art’, supposed to offer universal stylizations of life experiences that go deeper than the evanescent fun of today, and realized in superb craftmanship. The so-called freedom of postwar new music in its progressive idealism, leaving behind all traditional standards and restraints, inevitably leads towards nonsense or forced transcendence of boundaries. But there is no such thing as ‘progress’ in the arts, and cultural traditions are not authoritarian bodies of rules to be followed and instructed, but living and evolving practices where rules are created by works of art and are thus flexible. But this does not mean that standards can be deleted without danger that the art form dissolves as well. Tanglewood is thus the right place of Sting.

      • You appear to be unaware that the Tanglewood Festival has ALWAYS had a mix of both classical and popular concerts through its run.
        They even have movie nights.

        Neither of the latter take away anything from the former.

        I have no idea why NL is making a big thing out of the fact that Sting is performing at Tanglewood. Some of the other pop artists performing this summer at Tanglewood are Joan Baez, Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Diana Ross, Boz Scaggs, John Mellencamp, and James Taylor… So not only is Sting not alone, he isn’t even the first.

        Tanglewood lasts all summer, June through end of August. In what way does including some pop music concerts throughout the season affect the classical part of the festival? Please defend your assertions with more than disparaging comments about degeneration, and “chains of events”.

        I would understand if there were a concert of Classical music, with a performance by Sting right in between a Mahler symphony and a Strawinski ballet… but that simply isn’t the case.

        What’s wrong with Tanglewood using the venue for other revenue-producing events as well?

        Remember that Tanglewood isn’t one of those limited 2-week long festivals.

        • I thought that Tanglewood was, originally, set-up for serious new music, not for pop. If pop has entered later-on and for a long time by now, that is merely very regrettable.

          The point is not that pop ‘takes away’ something from ‘classical concerts’, but what the purpose of an institution is. Nothing more, nothing less.

          • +1 to JB
            Welcome to the age of hyper relativism and hyper crosspollination for the sheer f*ck of it. Many commenters here are evidently brainwashed into this watered down paradigm. They are probably happier people. But must one like, enjoy and support —everything— and —everyone—?

      • “Serious art music is not entertainment” says John Borstlap and I can vouch that there was nothing entertaining in the music of his that I have heard.

  • What’s the big deal? Available venue, likely audience. Maybe it even helps subsidize the BSO concerts. And how much is the art served by the BSO playing through the standard rep on minimal rehearsal in hot/humid summer conditions? Let’s not kid ourselves; it’s all entertainment.

        • The point is not whether he is a “pretentious elitist” or not. Putting labels on people is unhelpful. The point is that JB is simply wrong when he insists that there is a complete separation between “art” and “entertainment”, with “serious” music belonging fully and exclusively to the former while “popular” is nothing but the latter. It is all entertainment, but certainly a different kind of entertainment: classical, as a rule, being more sophisticated than popular and therefore appealing to more sophisticated tastes. If a “popular” program is performed in an outdoor venue on a weekend, for example, it does not make a classical program during the following week any less valuable for those who enjoy classical music.

          • If there were no distinction between serious music and pop, there would not be any justification for subsidizing concert halls, opera houses, orchestras, etc. etc. and treat classical music as anything special. Pulling it down to the same level as the most basic and flimsical entertainment, what most of pop is, is destroying the cultural heritage of western civilization, a kind of cultural suicide. So, defending serious music’s special place in the whole of the cultural field, is not elitist, but simply common sense. It’s amazing that on a website like this, supposedly for classical music lovers, such comments which actually say: ‘away with us’, are posted at all, shows that the art form apparently can be enjoyed but in the same time, completely misunderstood.

          • Once again, instead of addressing the content of my comment, you continue preaching to the choir by fighting the same tired battle against your favorite straw man. Neither partial commonality of purpose nor partial similarity of content is synonymous with total equality – at least not necessarily. Of course there are distinctions between different types of music, level of sophistication (as I duly noted in my comment above) being the most obvious, but there are common features as well. Ingredients are the same – for the most part, the very same twelve notes – but the “recipes” are definitely different, yielding profoundly different results. Not surprisingly, each of these different kinds of “dishes” is preferred by a different kind of people. All of it however is nourishment that satisfies human thirst for what we call entertainment, though some of us can’t live without the kind that stimulates and challenges our brains and senses, while others gravitate toward the kind that mostly just numbs.

      • Tanglewood, Ravinia and the Hollywood Bowl have all had popular concerts for many years. Fortunately the people who operate these venues don’t view them as sacred shrines. And even the classical concerts see thousands of people on blankets, enjoying a nice meal with some nice wine.

        Folks, this is summertime! And I’m sorry Mr. Borstlap, this is ALL entertainment, high art or not. Go to the Edinburgh Festival sometime and you’ll hear and see everything. Go to the London Proms and you’ll see the same thing.

        If you want a shrine to worship at, go to Bayreuth. Go to Salzburg.

        (Disclosure: I would never go to hear Sting or any other pop entertainment. I’m totally a classical guy. I just don’t get all bent out of shape about things like this that mean so little yet attract all kinds of pompous bloviating from certain ‘guardians of high art’.)

        • “I would never go to hear Sting or any other pop entertainment. I’m totally a classical guy. I just don’t get all bent out of shape about things like this that mean so little yet attract all kinds of pompous bloviating from certain ‘guardians of high art’.”

          +1!

  • Koussevitzky would make a mint from it, that’s what.
    Even that migrane-set-to-music Arnold Schoenberg failed,
    heartbreakingly, to reorganize the musical universe. Wherever
    big bucks are to be made, lo, there are big names in the midst.
    Two other Russians, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky, found little
    in common musically to discuss, but were as one on how to
    make the most money from any and all sources…as the vodka flowed.
    And if they weren’t more typical than not you may call me Empress Carlota.

  • Oh, come on. Such snobbery. Sting may be a pop artist, but he’s a class act. He’s always surrounded himself with the best musicians possible, mainly from the jazz genre. His collaborations with Branford Marsalis come to mind.

    Rumor has it that there was a running feud between Miles Davis & Sting because Sting was constantly hiring away Miles’ best-back up players to record with him.

    He’s a commercial success. Good for him.

  • As it has been pointed out, Tanglewood as a revenue producing venue has staged a variety of non classical performers and performances for many years.

    Indeed, even the home of the BSO, august Symphony Hall in Boston, is also frequently used by non classical performers to include high school bands, country and folk musicians and many others. Back in the 1970s while I was in college, I was an usher at Symphony Hall and remember ushering for a sold out Joan Baez concert.

    These “alternative” concerts appeal to a different audience demographic from the “classical” audience, but the two performance venues are unmistakably the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the point is not lost on the “alternative” audience, some of whom may cross over and attend orchestral concerts too.

    It should be noted too that the concert halls in most cities in the US are booked by non classical performers and I would imagine that the revenues generated benefit the home town orchestras at least in some cases.

  • I don’t think the Beatles’ playing at the Hollywood Bowl defiled holy ground. However, the yearly Los Angeles Philharmonic performances of Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory, complete with soldiers running around, probably did.

    • Agreed fully. And I would even say that the best of Beatles’ songs are actually better quality music than Wellington Victory. On a few unfortunate occasions when I encountered the latter, I was invariably ashamed to see Beethoven’s name attached to it.

  • The classical concerts have not been cut back-btw I was at The Who in 1969 and Miles Davis the next year.

  • Every year Tanglewood hosts pop artists, and every year Lebrecht clutches his pearls. Wasn’t it — gasp — Dolly Parton last year?

  • 1) Does any major orchestra venue in the US program exclusively classical music? If it did, could it survive?

    2) There is this hypocrisy that praises the LA Phil as the most successful orchestra in the US based primarily on the strength of its finances when a good chunk of its revenues comes from popular music programming.

    3) Zachary Woolfe at the NYT, who in a recent piece calls the LA Phil America’s “most important” orchestra, praises a recent collaborative performance of the LA Phil and an Icelandic “art-rock band”, as though adding the word “art” to the “rock band” makes all the difference, as though coming from Iceland makes all the difference. (Ohhh, it’s artsy and its European!)

    • I just don’t understand Woolfe’s position. I’m all for “fusion” music, “fusion” cuisine, and certainly one can make the argument that the future of European classical music is the fusion of other forms of music, and that the LA Phil is headed in exactly the right direction, but one has to make serious thoughtful arguments — historical and aesthetic — in support of that. It can’t simply be because “I like it”, which seems to be the only thing Woolfe is saying.

      If Borda coming back to NY means merging the NY Philharmonic with the Blue Man Group, please, stay in LA.

      • Worth repeating:
        Welcome to the age of hyper relativism and hyper crosspollination for the sheer f*ck of it. Many commenters here are evidently brainwashed into this watered down paradigm. They are probably happier people. But must one like, enjoy and support —everything— and —everyone—?

    • Zachary Woolfe is an IDIOT. He wrote a REALLY snarky review of Emmanuel Pahud’s solo concert in NY a few yrs. ago which showed no understanding of who or what he was writing about.

      Mr. Pahud’s concert was a rare, delicious gem of a performance complete with delightful chamber orch., a long-awaited NY debut for this artist and his fans. He’ll probably never return to NY thanks to Woolfe.

      According to insiders, the review so disturbed Mr. Pahud that he was distracted during his master class teaching the next day and snapped at a student. It caused a tidal wave thruout the international flute community. So we really don’t like Zachary Woolfe very much.

      I followed Woolfe’s reviews for a while after that and I really have to wonder how he ended up being a classical music critic. He lacks experience and knowledge and just plain common sense in his reviews. So I wouldn’t really take anything he says seriously.

      • I assume you’re referring to this: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/arts/music/bernard-labadie-and-les-violons-du-roy-at-zankel-hall.html

        Don’t worry, he has been back to New York a few times, at least with the Berlin Philharmonic. And I find it hard to imagine he’d be so thin-skinned to be bothered by that review. And he had regularly been appearing in New York since the early 1990s, as both soloist and with the Berlin Phil, as a little search of the Times website makes readily apparent.

        • Yep. That’s the one. Pure snark in the comments about Pahud and the rest of the review is like “look at me show off my knowledge of music history in a clever way”. Woolfe is calling attention to himself at the expense of the performers, IHMO.

          Ok, so yes, I checked, Pahud had done a couple of solo recitals in NY previously, but it’s pretty rare. BIG difference between coming to NY on tour with your orch. & performing a solo concert there. If that isn’t clear to you then you’re on the same uninformed plane as Woolfe.

          This is the thing: Pahud is Principal Flute of Berlin Phil. That’s his job. He’s an orchestral player who from time to time steps out of the orch. to play a solo recital. When he does, it’s a cherished event, because he’s an amazing artist. Woolfe stomped all over him, literally mocking him.

          We’re not talking Lang Lang or Mutter or Wang or someone who purely solos for a living. This is an orch. player who had the courage and artistry and inititiave to take center stage in a notoriously competitive foreign city.

          How would we feel if NYPhil Principal Flute Robert Langevin traveled to Berlin & gave a creative, thoughtful, solo performance out of his genre as an orchestral player and a Berlin critic poked fun at him for his gestures & where his eyes were looking as he played? How ungracious. How petty that would be. Yet Zachary Woolfe seemed to feel it was an appropriate NY welcome for Mr. Pahud.

          Thin-skinned? What gives Zachary Woolfe or any critic the idea that artists are not human, that they don’t read what’s written about them, that it shouldn’t matter to them? An orchestral player, no less, who isn’t even a full time soloist? Not only does it matter to the artist, it matters deeply to that artist’s students and fans and audiences. In this case of Mr. Pahud, who is an extraordinarily charismatic and respected artist, we are speaking of legions of fans and disciples who will forever be skeptical of Zachary Woolfe’s credibility as a critic.

          Thin-skinned? Any critic who can dish it like Woolfe should be able to take it. Zachary Woolfe is a neophyte. He comes to classical music with little knowledge or understanding or sensitity to the art form he is writing about. He can write, but he does not write wisely about classical music. He wants to stir things up and destroys and hurts in the process. He jumped out of the box ready to call attention to himself and his own writing showing little respect or understanding of the art form or the artists he is reviewing. But he shouldn’t be affected at all by such criticism. After all that would be “thin-skinned”. . .

          So Zachary Woolfe, if you’re reading this, which I’m pretty sure you are, you’ve got a Hail Mary pass. Emmanuel Pahud is returning to NYC to do a solo recital in Feb. 2018. Let’s see what you do with that. We’ll be watching.

          • @The Incredible Flutist, Zach Woolfe is also reportedly an active participant, under pseudonym, in the notorious gay opera zine and anti-Lebrecht platform that is Parterre.com
            If you have never visited the site, better stay away, the better not to give it the traffic and ad revenue they are after.

          • Is that you, Zach, poor blighted blossom, grinning like a dog behind a
            slightly askew mask of La Ungeheuer, hoping thus to disarm your critics?

            Nay, that would be too outlandish, too unworthy, too screwy.
            And so unsuitable.

            And yet the sly reference to Parterre.com coming, as it were, from
            left field, might just have let the cat out of the bag. One thinks of
            the bar-stool Caligula, and….

            How human nature, given the chance, likes to disguise itself!
            …an exquisite non-subject. Obviously, we must all pray a little harder.

  • Many publishers produce pulp to be able to finance their real / core categories which don’t bring-in as much money. So, if symphony orchestras please the crowds to be able to finance their Mahler symphonies, maybe that is acceptable, but it cannot be very wholesome for the players, like being put on a fast food diet to be able to eat well once a week. The production process of pulp books however, doesn’t harm any of the company’s workers.

    The BSO has more staff members than orchestral players, so inviting pop musicians at Tanglewood is merely necessary to fund all the salaries.

    • “inviting pop musicians at Tanglewood is merely necessary to fund all the salaries.”
      How about the costs of maintaining two venues year-round, especially when one can only generate profit two months out of the year? The sad truth of the matter is that these shows sell far better than any BSO performance, save Film Night. They enable the BSO to perform regularly at their high quality of musicianship and programming, with little to no conflict. So what exactly is the downside?

      It’s the conservative attitudes of elitists that cause the problems and bring down the aggregate perception of classical music lovers. If you don’t like it, fine, don’t support it. I’m personally not a fan of the pops, Film Night or most of the pop shows. So I don’t attend them. I also don’t let these events bother me personally. I can only hope for your sake you wouldn’t either. It’s unbelievable to me those who understand music on such a high level are not all capable of keeping their minds open outside the concert hall.

      • The gist of my comment was actually, that such division of programming is legitimate, as it is with book publishers: the crowd pleasers indirectly support the high quality programs.

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