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Tanglewood 2020 season highlights

The problem with making a list of Tanglewood summer highlights is that almost nothing on the schedule qualifies as a lowlight, not even soloists or composers we've never heard of.

Lenox — It’s the most wonderful time of the year — more wonderful even than kids going back to school in the fall. But not more wonderful than the holiday season itself, because, in fact, the annual Unveiling of the Tanglewood Summer Schedule is one of the Berkshires’ most beloved and anticipated winter holiday traditions. It cheers us up powerfully, and we needn’t even appoint a designated driver.

A family enjoys a picnic on the Tanglewood grounds. Photo: David Noel Edwards

Andris Nelsons will make 12 conducting appearances this summer, from July 10-Aug. 2. This will include a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance of Act III of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” on July 11 and a Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 on July 20.

The problem with making a list of Tanglewood summer highlights is that almost nothing on the schedule qualifies as a lowlight, not even soloists or composers we’ve never heard of. And with nothing on the 2020 schedule by sound designer John Cage, it’s entirely possible that the summer will be utterly bereft of lowlights.

Pianist Conrad Tao thanks the Shed audience for enjoying themselves on Aug. 23, 2019. Photo: David Noel Edwards

In certain Tanglewood seasons, the most exhilarating moments occur not in the Shed but during the five-day Festival of Contemporary Music held in Ozawa Hall. Those moments certainly qualify as highlights, but it’s difficult to describe them eight months before they occur. (This summer’s FCM runs Aug. 6-10, with Thomas Adès returning as director.) What we can do is name the musicians and composers most of us know and love. That will be a good start, but in a perfect world, we would know ahead of time that magic would occur at such-and-such a time and place, as it did last summer when pianist Conrad Tao came out of nowhere and demolished an unsuspecting Shed audience. But if we could do that, then the magic wouldn’t be magic anymore.

So, without further obfuscation, here are the highlights (of the highlights):

  • Ken-David Masur conducts an all-American program on opening night, July 3
  • Emerson String Quartet with Emanuel Ax on July 9
  • The Jussen Brothers play Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat for two pianos on July 10
  • Andris Nelsons conducts Act III of Wagner’s Tannhäuser on July 11
  • Tanglewood Festival Chorus celebrates its 50th anniversary season
  • Paul Lewis plays all five Beethoven piano concertos July 17-19
  • A lineup of superstar violinists celebrates Isaac Stern’s 100th birth anniversary July 24-26
  • Tanglewood on Parade, July 28
  • Garrick Ohlsson performs Brahms’ complete solo piano works (Aug. 4, 11, 13 & 18)
  • John Williams hosts his 20th “Film Night” on Aug. 15
  • Keith Lockhart leads the Boston Pops in two programs, including “Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back” on Aug. 21
  • Thomas Adès directs the Festival of Contemporary Music Aug. 6-10
  • The Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra performs Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 on July 20
  • Twenty-two artists make their Tanglewood debuts
  • Christoph von Dohnányi closes the orchestra’s season on Aug. 23 with the traditional season-ending performance of Beethoven’s Ninth
  • Second annual Tanglewood in the City: Pittsfield
  • Tanglewood Learning Institute events
  • Popular Artist Series (Ringo Starr, Trey Anastasio, Judy Collins & Arlo Guthrie, more)

*     *     *     *     *

The Linde Center at Tanglewood. Photo: David Noel Edwards

Every highlight of the Tanglewood season (which is to say, everything on the entire schedule) can be found here. Tickets for the 2020 Tanglewood season (June 19-Labor Day Weekend) go on sale to the public Feb. 9 at and at (888) 266-1200.

There’s so much going on at the Tanglewood Learning Institute that we’ll have to dedicate a separate article to their recent programming announcements. Breathe normally and watch for it.


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