Tanglewood is the Setting. Rhapsody in Blue is the Work

Tanglewood is always a production...bringing the right foods, keeping the kids entertained, and being quiet after the bells ring. Toni Cunningham photos.
Tanglewood is always a production…bringing the right foods, keeping the kids entertained, and being quiet after the bells ring. Toni Cunningham photos.

On Sunday afternoon we took some relatives to Tanglewood for the first time. They have two daughters, ages 3 and 5. It could have been a cringefest but instead, the little cherubs enjoyed themselves very quietly with coloring books and some toys they brought, so narry an eyebrow was raised.

We had told our relatives about the bells…. one toll five minutes before then another and a final ring that means absolutely shut the heck up!  They were ready.

This afternoon’s performance on July 17 had a highlight. A full performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with the mesmerizing Yuja Wang on the grand piano. While the Ravel and Prokofiev works were wonderful, this was the one I was really excited about. I looked up what Gershwin said about the work and found this interesting quote, explaining how he came up with this unusual piece.

“It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise…. And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance.” 

This was an unforgettable rendition, done absolutely to the letter, from the opening wailing clarinet glissanso to the plinking piano keys deep in the piece, the Boston Symphony conducted by Andris Nelsons never missed a beat.  I can’t wait to come back to Tanglewood next Sunday with some other relatives–also T’wood Newbies–and share the wonder of the lawn.  Tanglewood tickets: www.bso.org