A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 150: Tchaikovsky at Tanglewood

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Stefan Asbury conducts Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 with the TMC Orchestra. Photo Hilary Scott.
Stefan Asbury conducts Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 with the TMC Orchestra. Photo Hilary Scott.

Tchaikovsky at Tanglewood

The July 15 performance by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra of the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique” was a highlight of my listening this summer. Conductor Stefan Asbury led a performance I will never forget. Thank you to the many wonderful young players who achieved it! I could somehow tell at the outset that it had a rareness. Like the greatest performances, it was a combination of lyricism and stark realism, both of which were made to sing. Mr. Asbury gave the performance of his life, in my opinion. Every detail was found, every silence eminent. There was an energy in this performance before any music sounded. Mr. Asbury used his usual precision as a thing of kindness, guiding each of the young musicians, it would seem, personally. The two shorter movements have often bothered me, but it seemed like these two possible intrusions were brought to life for me for the first time. I also loved the rather long silence before the last movement, which once again was profoundly right in its pace, density, and above all, energy. The concert made me hear a kind of darkness that Tchaikovsky finds in the outer movements, particularly. The beautiful principal clarinet playing of Kelsi Landon Doolittle in this performance was memorable.

Two works in the first half of the evening’s concert were admirably led and commanded by this summer’s conducting Fellows. Nathan Aspinall began the concert with the TMC Orchestra in Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano. Killian Farrell followed with a TMC commissioned work and the world premier of Helen Grime’s Limina for large orchestra. Bravo to all for a brilliant evening of music making by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra!

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