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Anniversary concert takes Ozawa Hall by storm

LENOX -- Mother Nature decided to vie with the musicians assembled in Seiji Ozawa Hall in providing a sonic spectacular Sunday night. Rumbles of thunder underlay the first part of the program celebrating the 10th birthday of the hall, and by the time young pianist Yundi Li took to the stage there was a fireworks display of lightning, and violent rains lashed the building and the large crowd seated on the lawn. The music-loving folks were prepared with umbrellas and tarps, and few fled.

Yundi Li had chosen one of Chopin's stormiest works, the Scherzo in B-flat minor, but he was fighting a battle no mortal could win. He seemed more focused and better organized than he did in his Jordan Hall debut recital last spring, and he chose a more sensible tempo for Liszt's "La Campanella," but the standing ovation he got was probably more for valor under fire than for any subtleties the public could actually hear.

The next selection was Wagner's rapt "Siegfried Idyll," offered by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players under the sensitive direction of conductor Gil Rose. Before it began, BSO managing director Mark Volpe ordered the doors opened, and invited the lawn crowd to stand under the sheltering awnings on the sides of the building. And by the time the piece had come to its blissful close, the storm had abated.

There was a contest for the loudest man-made sounds during the concert. The climaxes of "In the Beginning" by Tanglewood icon Aaron Copland brought thrilling sonoroties from the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the opulent mezzo Stephanie Blythe under the direction of John Oliver (Blythe, now a star, was the first singer to perform in Ozawa Hall during acoustical tests when she was still a Tanglewood fellow).

Seiji Ozawa unleashed the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra for a thrilling and emotional performance of Verdi's Overture to "La Forza del Destino." The public (as well as the performers) gave repeated ovations to the former BSO music director, making his first Tanglewood appearance in two years, and with a new title, "Music Director Laureate." His recent concentration on opera seems to have liberated qualities in Ozawa.

He first came onstage to conduct a work by his friend, the late Toro Takemitsu, "Ceremonial: An Autumn Ode" for sho and orchestra. The sho is a Japanese panpipe or mouth organ. Mayumi Miyata played it with a piercing, plaintive quality that was very affecting in the prologue and epilogue to the work, which is a kind of orchestral meditation on that prologue.

John Williams, who, like Ozawa, participated in the opening-night gala 10 years ago, led the only work heard on both programs, "Opening Prayer," by another Tanglewood icon, Leonard Bernstein. One of Bernstein's last works, composed for the reopening of Carnegie Hall in 1986, "Opening Prayer" is a setting of the Hebrew text from the Biblical book of Numbers that is often used as a benediction -- "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. . ."). A decade ago the solo part was sung by a distinguished Tanglewood alumnus, baritone Sherrill Milnes; Sunday night it was sung in a warm lyric baritone by current Tanglewood Music Center baritone Kyle Ferrill.

The program suggested the range of music that has been performed in Ozawa Hall and the spectrum of performers who has appeared there. It surveyed the past, offered promise for the future, and lived in the moment.

Ozawa Hall 10th Anniversary Celebration Gala
At: Seiji Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, Sunday night

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