The summer festival months are starting to show sporadic signs of life. A few brave classical music festivals are determined to put on a live programme of some kind, especially in Europe — Macerata, Pesaro and Ravenna in Italy, Salzburg in Austria — while most festivals in the US remain grounded.
July is normally the month when some of the most prestigious American festivals open. Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home, and Santa Fe, opera festival in the New Mexico mountains, have both had to cancel their planned programmes, but are keeping in the public eye with online festivals.
Under the banner “A summer tradition transformed”, Tanglewood is offering an extensive daily programme through to August 23. Like the BBC Proms, which get under way next week, this is a mixture of archive films of concerts from previous years, new talks and masterclasses, and live solo and chamber music recitals. Registration is required and the new events carry a charge.
The music started up last weekend with a chamber recital, the first in a series by musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The programme lasts just over an hour and will be online for a week.
Although it was a struggle to get the performance to start streaming, the wait was worth it. With the green campus of Tanglewood through the windows, there was a suitably uplifting start with the open-air freshness of Copland’s late Duo for Flute and Piano, skilfully played by Elizabeth Ostling and Randall Hodgkinson. Ostling then followed with the pensive solo elegy of James Lee III’s Chôro sem tristeza.
There can be an advantage in having orchestral musicians, rather than a group of full-time soloists, playing chamber music. The main work was Brahms’s Piano Quintet and the five players (with Jonathan Bass on piano) combined with a persuasive, natural blend of sound and ensemble that gave Brahms more light and shade than he sometimes gets in high-octane, virtuoso performances of this work.
The main draw is a weekly series of great performers in recital, which kicked off with violinist Gil Shaham and will include pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov, violinist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, among others.
The Santa Fe Opera offering is more modest. Under the title “Songs from the Santa Fe Opera”, it will present weekly, short programmes, each featuring works from one of the operas that would have made up the 2020 festival programme. The events are streamed live and are available free, though donations are encouraged and will be matched by a group of friends of Santa Fe Opera.
The first programme focused on Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Presented with style by mezzo Susan Graham, a Santa Fe regular, it included interviews, an appreciation of the opera and the favourite aria “Largo al factotum”, sung by Joshua Hopkins, who would have been Figaro this summer (it was a neat idea for him to check the calls for the barber’s services on his mobile phone). At 30 minutes, though, this is short measure, and a single aria seems very measly.
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