(LENOX, Mass.) – The Boston Symphony Orchestra begins its final weekend of the 2011 Tanglewood season Friday, August 26, with its first-ever performance of George Gershwin’s great American masterpiece, the blues-and-jazz-inflected Porgy and Bess, which examines African-American life in the South during the 1920s. The great Itzhak Perlman joins the orchestra on Saturday, August 27, for an all-Beethoven program, including the First and Fifth symphonies, that demonstrates his talents as both violinist and conductor. On Sunday, August 28, the BSO brings its portion of the 2011 Tanglewood season to a close with the traditional season-ending performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, conducted by Lorin Maazel.
Described by the composer as an “American folk opera,” Porgy and Bess premiered on Broadway in 1935. Three-quarters of a century later, the work has assumed its rightful place among the greatest of America’s music, and its songs are sung all over the world. English conductor Bramwell Tovey makes his BSO and Tanglewood debuts leading the performance, which also features the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, bass-baritone Alfred Walker as Porgy and soprano Laquita Mitchell as Bess.
The cast also includes sopranos Nicole Cabell as Clara, Alison Buchanan as Lily and Strawberry Woman, and Marquita Lister as Serena (BSO and Tanglewood debut); mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann as Annie (BSO and Tanglewood debut); contralto Gwendolyn Brown as Maria (BSO and Tanglewood debut); tenors Calvin Lee as Mingo, Nelson, and Crab Man (BSO and Tanglewood debut) and Jermaine Smith as Sportin’ Life (BSO and Tanglewood debut), and Chauncey Packer as Peter (BSO and Tanglewood debut); baritones Gregg Baker as Crown (BSO and Tanglewood debut), Patrick Blackwell as Jim and the Undertaker (BSO and Tanglewood debut), Leon Williams as Jake (BSO and Tanglewood debut), John Fulton as Robbins (BSO and Tanglewood debut), and Robert Honeysucker as Frazier; and actors Matthew Heck as Policeman and Brandon Griffin as Scipio.
The great Itzhak Perlman joins the orchestra August 27 for an all-Beethoven program that demonstrates his talents as both violinist and conductor. Perlman will act as soloist and leader for the Romances Nos. 1 and 2 for violin and orchestra, two relatively brief early-period works (written 1798–1802) that possess an understated elegance and foreshadow Beethoven’s great Violin Concerto, which would follow a few years later. Perlman then trades his fiddle for a baton and conducts the composer’s First and Fifth symphonies. The two works make an interesting juxtaposition, allowing the audience to experience Beethoven at his most classical in the First, as he was still mainly putting his own stamp on a style familiar from the late works of Mozart and Haydn, then rushing headlong into the music of the mature and revolutionary master that Beethoven had become by the time of the Fifth.
On Sunday, August 28, the Boston Symphony Orchestra brings its portion of the 2011 Tanglewood season to a close with the traditional season-ending performance of Beethoven’s transcendent Symphony No. 9. Lorin Maazel presides over this year’s final evening and is joined by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, soprano Joyce El-Khoury (BSO and Tanglewood debut), mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak (BSO and Tanglewood debut), tenor Garrett Sorenson, and bass-baritone Eric Owens (Tanglewood debut). The all-encompassing Ninth Symphony is not only one of the greatest and most well-known works ever, but also is a rare example of music that leaves behind the time in which it was written and heralds the arrival of a new era.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s free Prelude Concerts in Ozawa Hall take place at 6 p.m., before each Friday-evening Shed concert. The prelude concert on August 26 will feature the Hawthorne String Quartet (including Si-Jing Huang and Ronan Lefkowitz, violins; Mark Ludwig, viola; Sata Knudsen, cello; Thomas Martin, clarinet; and Jessica Zhou, harp) performing Grandjany’s Rhapsodie for harp solo, Post’s String Quartet No. 3, Srnka’s Escape Routines for harp, clarinet, and string trio, and Gershwin’s Three Preludes for clarinet, harp and string trio, arranged by Thomas Martin. The Friday-evening Prelude Concerts are open to all ticket holders for the evening’s Shed concert.
Tickets are available through Tanglewood’s website and through SymphonyCharge at 888.266.1200.