Live music will return to the Tanglewood grounds this summer, for the first time since 2019. Above, the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood. Photo: David Noel Edwards

Tanglewood returns to in-person performances this summer

The season will include a Saturday-evening and Sunday-afternoon BSO series; a Friday-evening series featuring recitals, guest artists and ensembles, and the Pops; and a Monday-evening Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra series.

LENOX — It is no longer a matter of wishful thinking: Live music will definitely return to the Tanglewood grounds this summer, for the first time since 2019. The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) today announced plans for a 2021 Tanglewood season. 

The health of musicians, staff, and visitors being the BSO’s top priority, today’s announcement provides details mainly about the safety protocols the organization has developed with guidance from 9Foundations, Inc., the Centers for Disease Control, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and local Berkshire authorities

Expect the usual precautions: masks, social distancing, hand washing, enhanced cleaning, and, for members of the orchestra, regular testing. All performances will be held in the open-air Koussevitzky Music Shed — with appropriate distancing limits — and will last up to 80 minutes with no intermission. Distanced lawn seating will be available, and, of course, all safety protocols will be subject to updates from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (Details at tanglewood.org/safety.) 

However, the rubber — musically speaking — really hits the road on April 8, when the orchestra announces details of the music they will be playing this summer. Watch for announcements.

BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in six performances and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in two performances this summer. The season will include a Saturday-evening and Sunday-afternoon Boston Symphony Orchestra series; a Friday-evening series featuring recitals, special guest artists and ensembles, and the Boston Pops; and a Monday-evening Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra series.

The live performance schedule will be accompanied by select weekly live video performance streams, available throughout the summer on the orchestra’s online streaming portal, BSO NOW.

With the opening of Tanglewood in Summer 2021, the Boston Symphony Orchestra returns to live performances with audiences for the first time since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated what will be a 16-month live performance hiatus.

The BSO has, from time to time, been forced to perform some of its most difficult repertoire under some of the Berkshire’s most “interesting” summertime conditions. (Remember when Wagner’s angry Wotan was drowned out by a thunderstorm?) If you provide this orchestra with a heads-up about expected performance challenges, you can be sure it will rise to the occasion with repertoire that perfectly meets those challenges.

Because that’s what these players always do. We saw them do it in the streaming concerts shot in Symphony Hall on an extended stage, but they didn’t have the luxury of tailoring every piece to the new performance environment. This time, they do.

Tanglewood — one of the country’s premier summer music festivals and summer home of the BSO since 1937 — is located in the Berkshire Hills of Lenox and Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In a typical season, Tanglewood draws an annual attendance of approximately 340,000 people and brings more than $100 million in economic activity annually to the Berkshires. Except for several years during World War II, when the performance schedule was curtailed or canceled in its entirety, as it was in 1943, the festival has run uninterrupted until last summer when the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tanglewood was founded by Serge Koussevitzky, BSO Music Director 1924–1949.