We love to look back to birthdays, premieres, and all sorts of anniversaries to celebrate classical music and musicians. Ensembles and music festivals often celebrate a theme or composer - think about the excellent music the San Antonio Symphony has focused on over the last few years: Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, and next season, Dvorak!
Today marks the 139th birthday of conductor, bassist, and composer Serge Koussevitzky. He was a great champion of modern music, commissioning a number of works from prominent composers. Serge was responsible for Maurice Ravel's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, in fact, Koussevitzky held the rights to this version for many years. For the Boston Symphony Orchestra's 50th anniversary, he commissioned Ravel's Piano Concerto in G, George Gershwin's Second Rhapsody, Prokofiev's Symphony No. 4, Paul Hindemith's Concert Music for Strings and Brass, and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, AND works by Albert Roussel and Howard Hanson!
One his legacies, besides the charitable Koussevitzky Music Foundation, is the summer home of the Boston Symphony: Tanglewood Music Festival. There are a whole slew of changes for the schedule of the famous festival this summer: first, Music Director Andris Nelsons has cancelled this weekend's appearance at Tanglewood due to a concussion in Berlin; also conductor and pianist Christoph Eschenbach, who was scheduled to perform this Friday and Sunday, has cancelled due to an inner ear infection; and singer Ferruccio Furlanetto has pulled out from a performance of the Verdi Requiem with the BSO, citing a bad cold!
So conductor Carlo Montanaro will take over for Nelson's place on Saturday. Edo de Waart will replace Eschenbach on the podium on Friday, and Garrick Ohlsson will step in for him as a piano soloist on Sunday with a different Mozart concerto. Ludovic Morlot of the Seattle Symphony will replace Eschenbach on Sunday. Bass Eric Owens is to fill in for Furlanetto. It's a veritable "Who's on First?" for classical music!
Here's hoping they are all feeling better, and that you'll toast Serge Koussevitzky (who happened to discover tenor Mario Lanza, and taught Leonard Bernstein!)