Tanglewood a blessing in our backyard

On one Saturday morning at Tanglewood, Roselle and I went to see Yo-Yo Ma and in the evening we went to see Lang-Lang. Both were once in a lifetime performances. Both performances left us in tears. There are very few people who will not agree that these are the two top genius musicians on the cello and the piano respectively. How incredibly lucky we are to have a place where you might hear two geniuses back to back. You could travel the world and never get this kind of an opportunity. We have it right here. Unbelievable.

These two men may well be the top two musicians in the world. They are also two generous and very decent men who have used their gifts to help so many others. We arrived at Tanglewood at 10:30 in the morning to hear Yo-Yo play Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Opus 104. This was the rehearsal of the piece that he would play on Sunday. You could have heard a pin drop in the absolutely filled huge Shed as Yo-Yo took his position next to maestro Charles Dutoit who, himself, is one of the very best.

Yo-Yo shook hands with the two gorgeous concert mistresses and then took his place. He then turned around to look and smile at the great orchestra. He continued to look at them and to smile at them looking around at all of them individually until the piece began. He smiled at each player and nodded to them as his eyes searched the orchestra. I don’t know about anyone else in the great Shed, but I had tears in my eyes as the master musician took total command of the orchestra, the conductor, and most of all the audience. You get to see this kind of thing once in your lifetime.

As we left the Shed we saw that Yo-Yo had come out of the door that the talent exits by, and as we were walking toward our car we heard a little kid yell, “Mom, it’s Yo-Yo!” Do you want to talk about the future of classical music as you hear something like that? It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather and standing on the porch Yo-Yo patiently took questions from the crowd, one after another. People asked him why he kept looking at the orchestra and he said that they were the ones who made it happen. He just stood there and answered questions. If you weren’t there you should have been. What a man.

That evening we got back to the great music festival to see Lang-Lang often described as the best pianist anywhere. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him. The man spoke of his childhood and his training and of his love of Tanglewood. His words were humble and inspiring, but his performance, it was one for the ages. His honors are too many to list. I swear it was almost a religious performance as you watched his face, his hands in the air and then listened to the notes pour out of the piano as he gave us Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Opus 15. When he was through there was a rush to stand up to applaud until people’s hands hurt. He kept getting dragged out with Dutoit, who looked very happy. Finally he came out without the maestro, whispered into the ear of the concert mistress who nodded to him, and then sat down once more at the piano and wowed us all over again. I told you, generous.

So this year we have seen Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo and Lang Lang. We have seen the best of the best and we couldn’t be luckier. It just doesn’t get any better.

Originally published in Berkshire Eagle, 8/10/13

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