Boston’s in a Tanglewood of diversity

Boston’s in a Tanglewood of diversity


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2023

They’ve annnounced this summer’s highlights:

The Shed:
Andris Nelsons conducts the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Orff’s Carmina burana, Mahler 4, Prokofiev 5, and works of Iman Habibi, Wynton Marsalis, Jessie Montgomery, Carlos Simon, and John Williams; Nelsons welcomes soloists Nicole Cabell, Hilary Hahn, Leonidas Kavakos, Kate Lindsey, Yo-Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Daniil Trifonov

Keith Lockhart leads five Boston Pops programs, including a new symphonic version of Ragtime, a concert film presentation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert, Star Wars: The Story in Music, a showcase for music from the movie franchise; John Williams and David Newman conduct John Williams’ Film Night

James Taylor and his All-Star Band present performances on July 3 and 4, as part of the festival’s Popular Artist Series; additional Popular Artist performers include Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, the Steve Miller Band, and Train, plus Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!

Xian Zhang and Kazuki Yamada make their conducting debuts; Giancarlo Guerrero and Dima Slobodeniouk make welcome returns; Youth and Family Concerts Conductor Thomas Wilkins leads a Family Program and a BSO concert; and Anna Rakitina returns for her final concert as BSO Assistant Conductor

Ozawa Hall to feature the Emerson String Quartet with Emanuel Ax; The Knights with special guest Chris Thile, the Philharmonia Baroque in Handel’s Acis and Galatea; recitals by Julia Bullock, Bruce Liu, and Alisa Weilerstein, and special appearances by the Danish String Quartet, Aaron Diehl Trio, and Kelli O’Hara

Tanglewood Music Center Fellows present weekly orchestra, chamber music, and vocal performances and are featured in this summer’s Festival of Contemporary Music, curated by Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Michael Gandolfi, Tebogo Monnakgotla, and Anna Thorvaldsdottir; among the TMCO’s guest conductors, Susanna Mälkki leads the final orchestra concert of the season, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Do you see a massive audience draw?

It’s a mix of old-new-old regime plans.


  • kind of says:

    In truth, there are quite a few performances I’d attend: Carmina Burana; the Emerson String Quartet’s final performance; Cosi fan tutte; Mahler 4; and Acis and Galatea, which features the lovely Hera Hyesang Park who sang a splendid Messiah in Minneapolis this December.

  • Homeward says:

    What stood out to me is how little Nelsons will be present: he’s there for the opening two weeks (including the annual board meeting), then resurfaces for a few performances in August. Seems like a lighter load than years past, though I haven’t gone back to compare.

  • Roger says:

    Carmina Burana, Yo-Yo and John Williams will certainly pack ’em in. The Williams shows always require Tanglewood to open extra parking areas (carparks) that otherwise stay closed throughout the season. Personally, I’m curious to hear the new pieces by Iman Habibi and Jessie Montgomery (and no, I’m not their publicist).

  • anon says:

    You should look at the New Jersey Symphony concerts for next year. I know I won’t be going.

    • Steven Rogers says:

      Why won’t you be going?

    • John in Denver says:

      What exactly is the problem here? Perhaps four Black composers is too many for you?

      The 2023–24 season features amazing guest artists, including Jeremy Denk, Augustin Hadelich, Aaron Diehl, Gil Shaham, Joshua Bell, Sterling Elliott, Tom Borrow, Jennifer Koh and Daniil Trifonov as they grace the stage with their magical performances.

      Enjoy beloved classics including Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, Gershwin’s Concerto in F, Mussorgsky/Ravel’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and many more.

      Discover new pieces by 11 compelling contemporary composers including Anna Clyne, Valerie Coleman, Reena Esmail, Rob Kapilow, David Ludwig, Gabriela Montero, Jessie Montgomery, Kevin Puts, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Tyshawn Sorey and Augusta Read Thomas.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Massive, no, but Kazuki Yamada is excellent.

  • Paul Wells says:

    I’m pretty sure John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, Daniil Trifonov and Anne-Sophie Mutter will sell out. Was the question about massive audience draws a trick question? This NYT story suggests Tanglewood sold quite well last year. Maybe not everything is a crisis.

    • MarcB says:

      There were the usual sold out crowds for big names in 2022 (YYM, JW, JT, etc.), but Friday night BSO concerts were more sparsely attended than ever. Many Fridays, fewer than 1500 in the 5000-seat Shed, with a high percentage of those folks coming for free. Look for references like “attendees” or “concertgoers” or “welcomed XX,XXX people” which includes thousands of comp tickets with which the BSO papers the house.

  • Gustavo says:

    Star Wars?

  • Greg Bottini says:

    It looks like a great lineup of works and musicians.
    I wish I could be there!

  • Just a Member of the Audience says:

    “Do you see a massive audience draw?”

    Yes. Looks like a typical Tanglewood season – something for everybody, good soloists, interesting conductors. What’s wrong with that?

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    Tanglewood has traditions. I see familiar names and some obvious play-to-the-diversity-hand programming here and there. An Eminem or Dr Dre concert with the BSo accompanying would excite an audience.
    If BSo or any orchestra wants to profit from ‘diversity’ on-stage or off-stage, that’s a realistic way to do it. You’ll see a packed house willing to shed 10-50x the ticket prices Yo-Yo Ma could draw.
    Sure, rappers cost more, but it’s easy programming and it fulfills the diversity programming requirements at an exponential rate. Record it, throw it up on YouTube. Get a billion views.

    BSo, Boston Pops, Boston HipHop Orchestra

    • Bedrich Sourcream says:

      I spent eight weeks there one summer, and the only black people I remember were a composer and Shirley Verrett, apart from members of the BSO.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Some events will draw big audiences. But I’ve seen better Tanglewood seasons. Last summer Garrick Ohlson gave a complete, and memorable, Brahms solo cycle in 4 nights over two weeks.

  • been there done that says:

    No, it is wash, rinse, wash, rinse, repeat, and condition. Same old same old for the last 20 years and frankly I’m fine with this. It’s a good biz model, the place is sold out, it is comforting. Fine, Tanglewood could experiment a bit but now is not the time.

  • trumpetherald says:

    The BSO,the Pops, Tanglewood Festival Chorus,TMC,excellent soloists,conductors…:.A massive audience draw,as every year.A good mix of the old and the news….And don´t forget,it´s equally important as a training ground for young highly talented musicians.

  • E Rand says:

    It’s become clear how classical music will actually die-a slow entropy as a result of forcing music no one wants to hear as performed by musicians selected primarily on the basis of their melanin, with true talent eventually giving up and dying out. Maddening to watch needless suicide. Or is it murder?

  • Alank says:

    I went through the brochure and noticed the same thing. This is becoming a fetish. I have no issue with showcasing a broad range of talented musicians but it seems the BSO established q quota of one member of oppressed groups in every concert.

    I also have no issue with giving a hearing to composers who were not provided with a fair opportunity in the past. In fact I am grateful that my community orchestra performed the Florence Price 3rd Symphony last year. A work worthy of an occasional performance. But this fetish on DEI serves no one but the DEI industry and their richly paid consultants

    Another example of cultural suicide

  • Alfred Wachs says:

    Meh. Not the Tanglewood of my fellowship, admittedly a different era. Shrug.

  • Mack the knife says:

    Classical dies with a whimper, to the well-meaning but insipid strains of Coleridge-Taylor and Florence Price.