One of the most storied concerts in the history of the Tanglewood Festival took place on Aug. 12, 1937, when a violent thunderstorm broke out at the beginning of an all-Wagner program by the Boston Symphony. As rain poured on the enormous canvas tent under which the musicians played, even the Ride of the Valkyries couldn’t compete, and the concert was stopped several times. By the end, the tent was in tatters, audiences were soaked and the orchestra resolved to build a permanent shed, which stands to this day.
On July 21, 75 years later, the BSO will reproduce the program during the latest edition of the Tanglewood Music Festival -- though “hopefully without the storm,” said Mark Volpe, the orchestra’s managing director in an interview. The concert will be one of many special events planned for the 75th anniversary season, which runs from June 22 to Sept. 2 in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.
In announcing the lineup for its anniversary season the orchestra said it would also reproduce the very first concert, an all-Beethoven program featuring the Leonore Overture No. 3 and the Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6.
Eight new commissioned works will be presented by composers with a longstanding connection to the orchestra, notably Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison, Gunther Schuller and André Previn, plus four younger composers.
A gala concert to celebrate the 80th birthday of the conductor and composer John Williams will include appearances by Leonard Slatkin, Jessye Norman and Yo-Yo Ma. Other highlights include appearances by James Taylor, Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, the Ebène Quartet, the Emerson Quartet and the Mark Morris Dance Group.
Noting that thirty percent of the BSO's Tanglewood audiences come from the New York City area, Volpe said the orchestra is putting a greater emphasis on cultivating audiences through online initiatives. Next summer it will provide 75 digital downloads -- one per day, throughout the summer -- featuring highlights from its broadcast archives. In addition, select master classes from the Tanglewood Music Center will be streamed on the orchestra's Web site, which is expected to relaunch in the coming weeks.
Last month, the orchestra signed a new contract with its musicians that not only included increases in wages and pensions but also provisions to make more of the orchestra's performances available for Internet distribution.