After coping with two years’ worth of pandemic-necessitated limitations, Tanglewood is back. The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in the Berkshires will offer a full schedule for the first time since the summer of 2019 and feature scores of familiar faces.
Here are some highlights.
PIANISTS THINKING BIG The Tanglewood schedule is rich in keyboard artists going deep on particular segments of the repertoire. Three such projects:
- EMANUEL AX A prized BSO guest artist for decades, the American pianist presents “Pathways from Prague,” a three-concert series at Ozawa Hall centered on two heralded Czech composers: Dvorak and Janacek. For his first concert, Ax accompanies the excellent tenor Paul Appleby and members of Boston’s Lorelei Ensemble in Janacek’s song cycle “The Diary of One Who Disappeared,” followed by the Dover Quartet playing Dvorak’s final string quartet (Op. 106). (July 7) The final program is notable for the inclusion of a work for cello and piano by Vítězslava Kaprálová (1915-40), an influential figure in Czech music despite her early death. (Aug. 12)
- PAUL LEWIS Lewis has few equals today in the piano music of Beethoven and Schubert, both of whose final sonatas he’s played at Tanglewood in the past. For this visit, the British pianist teams up with the BSO and music director Andris Nelsons to play the five Beethoven concertos over the course of three consecutive programs. Notably, each concert will feature a commissioned work by an American woman composer: Julia Adolphe (July 29), Caroline Shaw (July 30), and Elizabeth Ogonek (July 31).
- GARRICK OHLSSON Another frequent guest, Ohlsson has previously created Tanglewood series devoted to Chopin and to the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven. This summer he focuses on Brahms, playing the composer’s complete solo piano works over the course of four concerts. (Aug. 16-25)
NICOLE CABELL The lyric soprano has established herself in high-profile performances of American operas such as Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and William Grant Still’s “Highway 1, U.S.A.” One day after the BSO’s opening night, she joins music director Nelsons to sing Barber’s gorgeous and nostalgic “Knoxville, Summer of 1915″ on a program of American music. (July 9) The following week, she returns to sing Donna Elvira in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” part of a cast that also includes Ryan McKinny in the title role. (July 16)
STEPHEN DRURY Drury, a stalwart in the Boston new music scene, visits Ozawa Hall to perform a single work: “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!,” Frederic Rzewski’s epic set of variations on a popular South American protest song. (July 17)
CHRISTINE GOERKE Listeners should never miss an opportunity to hear this outstanding dramatic soprano, last seen at Symphony Hall as Marie in Alban Berg’s opera “Wozzeck.” Here she joins Nelsons and the BSO for Berlioz’s intensely colorful “La Mort de Cléopâtra.” Mahler’s Fifth Symphony fills out the bill. (July 23)
DANISH STRING QUARTET The highly acclaimed Scandinavian foursome’s most recent scheduled visits to Boston have been undone by COVID. With a little more luck, they’ll make it to Lenox to perform Schubert’s 15th and final string quartet, a work of visionary power. (Aug. 3)
GEORGE BENJAMIN Nine years ago, the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music hosted the American premiere of Benjamin’s searing “Written on Skin,” which quickly became that rarest of commodities: an in-demand new opera. He is back this summer for a concert performance of the equally anticipated US premiere of his most recent opera, “Lessons in Love and Violence,” another collaboration with the playwright Martin Crimp. Expect a similar viscerality of expression in this work, drawn from the life of King Edward II of England. (Aug. 8)
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS One of America’s greatest living conductors, the 77-year-old Thomas was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He will be scaling back his conducting activities, making it all the more fortunate that he will be on the podium during Tanglewood’s closing weekend. That Saturday, he leads the BSO in music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff (the Third Piano Concerto, with soloist Alexander Malofeev), and Copland. On the following afternoon, Ives’s choral setting of Psalm 90 precedes the traditional season-ending performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. (Aug. 27-28)
A quartet’s final show
The Spektral Quartet formed in 2010, with a taste for imaginative projects and a desire to set down deep roots in its home city of Chicago. A series of worthwhile projects followed — among them, a commissioned series of ringtones and an album accompanied by a tarot-style deck of cards. Alas, Spektral has decided to call it a day, and will disband after its final performance. That will be at the Newport Classical Music Festival on July 10.
David Weininger can be reached at email@example.com.