On a crisp, clear Friday in the Berkshires, the place to be last night was Tanglewood where, after a picnic dinner out back of Highwood, my friend Kit and I took our seats in the Shed for the annual Koussevitsky Memorial Concert by the Boston Symphony. Performing with them was the Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire, who wowed me last year when I saw him play Beethoven's 4th concerto with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. Here, he once again displayed his quiet mastery at the keyboard, starting with an understated performance of Mozart's 20th concerto in D minor, keeping his cadenzas and his gestures clipped and articulate. (Freire plays Mozart's 20th again next week as part of the opening concert for the Mostly Mozart Festival.)
Freire followed with a performance of his fellow Brazilian Villa-Lobos' "Momoprecoce," a fantasy for piano and orchestra that was new to almost everyone in the Shed, including the BSO. Led by BSO assistant conductor Marcelo Lehninger (also a Brazilian, making his Tanglewood debut), the three conjoined movements were at turnes exotic and dancey, propelled by trumpets, flute, and a huge percussion section including everything from maracas to bass drums.
The concert ended with Mussorgsky/Ravel's Pictures at an Exhibition: a symphonic staple, both here and elsewhere. Lehninger, who's 31, wasn't perfect, showing a fair bit of awkwardness during some of the slower Pictures. But, he more than made up for it with the bigger, showier movements, shaking his sweat-matted hair and snapping his baton around like that other South American conductor. After the grand, deafening roar of The Great Gate of Kiev, the audience exploded in cheers, with everyone rising to their feet to applaud the young conductor.
After all, even if Lehninger's hands weren't always in the right place, his heart certainly was. Stay tuned: this guy might just end up becoming Jimmy's replacement.
More pics below and on the photo page.