LENOX -- The final weekend's concerts at Tanglewood mingled crowd appeal with connoisseur attractions: two Beethoven piano concertos with major pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, as well as the first Tanglewood performance of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony since Klaus Tennstedt led it in 1978.
Conductor Herbert Blomstedt's approach to Bruckner is very different from Tennstedt's now-legendary one, but on Saturday it proved equally persuasive. This Bruckner was as transparent as Mozart, the rich counterpoint always clear and balanced. The dynamic range was extraordinary; you couldn't tell when the first movement actually began to emerge from the surrounding silence. The climaxes were huge, but solid and majestic, not forced and shrill; Mike Roylance's tuba provided a pillowy foundation for the choir of Wagner tubas. And the nobly played performance both unfolded within time and somehow moved beyond it, as the best performances of Bruckner's symphonies do. If you resist Bruckner's spaciousness of scale, the symphonies will mow you down and drive you crazy; if you submit to them, they will lead you into a new psychological space, calming and uplifting.
Ax was nimble-fingered, golden-toned, elegant, and smiling in Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto, and Blomstedt and the orchestra provided a suitably gilded framework.
Rafael Fruehbeck de Burgos missed two concerts last week because of an ear infection, but he was back on Sunday for the final program of the season, an all-Beethoven event.
Bronfman, often heard in big virtuoso works, was cast a little against type in the Fourth Concerto, the most lyrical of the series. He did deliver a bigger performance of this piece than we usually hear, but he has plenty of poetry in his soul, and that shone through his performance, especially in the supple, quiet, and evocative playing. Like Dubravka Tomsic in a memorable BSO performance under Seiji Ozawa a few years ago, Bronfman did not turn this into a concerto for the right hand; the left hand's contributions of harmony, counterpoint, and commentary were equally important.
Fruehbeck and the orchestra are thoroughly experienced in the Seventh Symphony; no major orchestra and conductor could deliver this work as if for the first time, which may be a good thing, considering its difficulties. But under Fruehbeck's propulsive direction, the BSO delivered it with confidence, panache, and a surprising freshness. Beethoven was a composer of many moods and messages, and the Seventh Symphony delivers some of the most inspiring ones: The music proclaims that the way to go through life's challenges is not to walk, but to dance.