Oldcastle Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps, adapted by Patrick Barlow, and directed by Nathan Stith, turned Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film into something close to pure farce. A tiny cast of four actors, a few chairs, and we were off to the races. The two clowns, Patrick Ellison Shea and Jim Staudt, were far more than comics. Each turned himself inside out multiple times, portraying every kind of figure, from villain to spouse. I saw an evening performance, and it was electric with energy—this after they had already cut loose in an afternoon matinee. The play seemed entirely and wonderfully about virtuosity.
I have read that Kurt Masur has shared concerts with his estimable son, Ken-David, several times over the past year or so, before his fall from the podium in April caused an interruption in his concert schedule. This concert at Tanglewood is, I believe, the only appearance he will make until his broken shoulder blade heals entirely. Mr. Masur is looking forward to a full recovery, and we can only wish him a rapid and complete one. Meanwhile, Ken-David is in his second summer as a Conducting Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center. Last summer, he made a strong impression on me with Beethoven’s Leonore No. 3 Overture with the TMC Orchestra in Ozawa Hall. Unfortunately I missed his other concerts then, but this year I have heard more, with some very challenging pieces among them, including Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto and Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques. Everything augurs an important career ahead for Ken-David Masur and a cherishable contribution to our musical lives.
Last November Mark Volpe, Managing Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Anthony Fogg, Artistic Administrator, and members of the orchestra presented the 75th anniversary season of the festival in a low-key event, which, as relaxed and friendly as it was, brought back memories of old Boston in its restraint. No one attempted to hide his pride in this important anniversary of what is undoubtedly the key music festival in North America, but nobody did anything that would be out of place at the Somerset Club either.
Mark Volpe and his organization pulled off an impressive feat in creating this season at such short notice. Former Music Director James Levine submitted his resignation only after most symphony orchestras, including the BSO, have established their programming for the next season and published it to waiting subscribers. Add to that the need to corral a feasible number of potential candidates for the open position of Music Director. The Boston Symphony’s 2011-12 is not only solid and nutritious, it is even rather exciting—apart from the added piquancy of the search. The fall will be mainly given over to guest conductors who have worked with the BSO for many years, or at least a few times in the past. The serious contenders for the permanent position will begin later on.
In recent weeks the Boston Symphony Orchestra has celebrated the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann’s birth with performances of the four Symphonies and the Piano Concerto, with mixed, eventually quite good, results.