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Despite kinks in its debut, TMC Orchestra shows promise

LENOX -- In its first week of existence the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra gave its debut concert. The level of talent within the ensemble is outstanding, its potential boundless, but orchestras aren't built within a week, and it's probably not fair to ask young conductors to make their first Tanglewood appearances under such circumstances. Eva Ollikainen and Tomasz Golka are both gifted and experienced, but the TMC band sounded like a great-orchestra-in-the-making only when Old Master Bernard Haitink took over the podium for Shostakovich's 10th Symphony after intermission Monday night.

The Finnish Ollilkainen was born in 1982, but her professional career has already taken her beyond her native country to Estonia, Lithuania, Japan, and to two of London's major orchestras. In Mozart's ``Haffner" Symphony she proved herself energetic, disciplined, and decisive. She knows what she wants and asks for it with a very clear, focused physical vocabulary and a minimum of fuss. There were aspects of a shakedown cruise in the playing, which sounded cramped and driven, lacking transparency and bloom. A genuine but generalized intensity overwhelmed more individual distinctions of character.

Golka, born in Poland but brought up in Mexico and Texas, also enjoys a cosmopolitan career with engagements in Poland, Mexico, and South America as well as with American orchestras in Buffalo, Fort Worth, and Seattle. On the evidence of Strauss's ``Death and Transfiguration," he appears to be a more spontaneous and less calculating conductor than Ollikainen, and therefore less consistent. There were exciting and beautiful things in the playing: Golka displayed an understanding of the complementary roles of momentum and elasticity in Strauss's music, but the sound was often blowsy and overdriven, and the performance as a whole lacked shape. An aerial view needs to frame the moment-to-moment land journey.

That aerial view is a consistent component of Haitink's conducting , and it lent a sense of destiny to his interpretation of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony. The Dutch maestro, making his first appearance at Tanglewood in several years, looked invigorated as he led a performance of tremendous variety of character, thrust, and propulsion; parts of it were terrifying. While the playing was not accident-free, it was delivered with white-hot commitment. Several BSO players were sitting in, and the solo playing by the TMC principals made the rest of the summer sound bright with promise -- and not just this summer.

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