Tanglewood reopens with new John Williams concerto

Tanglewood reopens with new John Williams concerto


norman lebrecht

April 08, 2021

The festival has just rolled out its summer plans.

Among the highlights are the world premiere of a second violin concerto by John Williams, who is 89, with soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter; a rare overture by Fanny Mendelssohn and a great deal of Beethoven.

These are the weekend concerts:
Saturday, July 10, 8 p.m.: Andris Nelsons opens the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2021 Tanglewood season with an all-Beethoven program, with special guest Emanuel Ax performing Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, on a program with the overture to The Creatures of Prometheus and Symphony No. 5

Sunday, July 11, 2:30 p.m.: The Boston Symphony Orchestra performs Carlos Simon’s Fate Now Conquers, followed by Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with soloist Baiba Skride and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6

Saturday, July 17, 8 p.m.: Daniil Trifonov joins the orchestra for Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1; the program opens with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, Classical

Sunday, July 18, 2:30 p.m.: Lucas and Arthur Jussen are the soloists for Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat for Two Pianos, K.365 on a program with the Mendelssohn-Hensel Overture in C and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, Reformation

Saturday, July 24, 8 p.m.: John Williams’ Violin Concerto No 2, with soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter, receives its world premiere, under the direction of Mr. Williams; the program opens with Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst and includes performances of Copland’s Quiet City, with BSO English horn Robert Sheena and principal trumpet Thomas Rolfs in the solo roles, and Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird (1919 version)

Sunday, July 25, 2:30 p.m.: Iman Habibi’s Jeder Baum spricht opens this program that features Yefim Bronfman in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, followed by a performance of Schumann’s Symphony No. 4



  • John Borstlap says:

    Oh dearo dearo dear!

    • Peter San Diego says:

      What is so wrong about those programs?

      • Monsoon says:

        The programming is pretty safe and frankly a bit boring, and after a year and a half of no live music, who is really itching to hear Mendelssohn’s 5th symphony and Schumann’s 4th before a hundred other pieces?

        • Karl says:

          Who is really itching to hear Mendelssohn’s 5th symphony and Schumann’s 4th? ME.

        • NN says:

          At least I’m very happy to have these two romantic pieces! They are really beautiful masterpieces and fit Nelsons’ musical nature very much, probably it is also a part of their partnership with Leipzig.

          I think this year man had to choose works which relatively don’t need a large orchestra. No Shostakovich, no Opera, it is just logical.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The programs are really fantastic, if only the Williams would be deleted and buried in a deep hole somewhere in a deserted, totally forgotten graveyard.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      John Williams’s prior violin concerto that Gil Shaham recorded with Williams and the Boston Symphony is a very good piece. I see no basis for any hand-wringing over the prospect of a Concerto No.2.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I didn’t know that concerto, being quite suspicious of a film composer trying his hand on ‘serious music’. But indeed it is something extraordinary – showing that JW is a Viennese romantic studying with Schoenberg, weeping (together with Berg) over the death of late Romanticism and getting stomach pains as a result. It has not the slightest touch of Hollywood – it’s Vienna 1908 – recreating a composer who later-on will have to move to America.


        I have to review my opinion of Williams…. this is a great talent, but making the mistake of getting into film music. But probably he would have had an impossible task to convince the concert world that his music was something serious.

        Characteristic that a film composer resorts to an academic side of Schoenberg, it all sounds as something around Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet – as if to avoid any association with the easy kitsch of film music taste.

        This is another proof that picking-up authentic musical qualities from before modernism was taboo’d, ‘closing-off the repertoire and throwing away the key’.

        But what does this concerto ‘say’? Pure misery, as if looking into the bleak territory of the modern world, a perspective with sound art and crooked kitsch careers. And as such, it is moving, revealing Williams as a tragic figure.

        • Marfisa says:

          Bravo, Mr Borstlap, for being prepared to rethink. If only you could open your mind a little further, and strive to learn about and appreciate film music as a serious genre in its own right. And you should factor jazz into your analysis of Williams’ output (both concert and film). You pigeonhole Williams as a ‘film composer’. But he is a composer, tout court. Do you think less of Bach’s sacred cantatas than of his pure concert music? (OK, bad analogy, but still …)

          I wonder what you make of Williams’ bassoon concerto, The Five Sacred Trees? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdRiaNWMazU

          (The violin concerto doesn’t convey pure misery to me.)

        • Nijinsky says:

          I don’t know why modern music so often to be considered modern, classical and legit has to sound so morose, tortured and glorified in the darkness it creates.

          It’s like: THIS PIECE will really make your hair stand on end, it’s GREAT!

          WOW! Another hair raising piece of modern music.

          I think it’s more artifice and bad acting than really tragic. What’s tragic is that someone who would have anything deeper to say would get pushed into having to adhere to method, notes, who knows what, and the initial emotional content would get pushed away for effect.

          I really think the concerto is quite contrived, constructed. Imitative. It’s like Hollywood acting. A great famous soloist needs a concerto from a great modern composer. Method acting missing content.

          There are really nice beautiful sections in it, as there should be, given the medium J W is gifted with called music, but……

  • Gustavo says:

    Thank you, Andrew!

  • Tony Fogg says:

    Here is a complete listing for the 2021 Tanglewood season.


  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I hope I’m doing as well as Maestro Williams when I’m 89. He’s just amazing.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Blomsted conducts two BSO programs, plus another one with the (lucky!) Tanglewood Music Fellows.

  • Karl says:

    The Stenhammar Serenade is on the program. Great but rarely heard!