Saturday, July 26, 2008

Phil Lesh Digs the Concerto for Orchestra

Tanglewood Moments: “Yes, THAT Phil Lesh”

If you were in the audience on Wednesday night after the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra, conducted by Oliver Knussen, gave a luminous and revelatory performance of Elliott Carter’s Concerto for Orchestra, you might have noticed an interesting fellow attendee. During the considerable applause following the concert’s conclusion, conductor Oliver Knussen gave each section of the orchestra acknowledgment in turn, pointing out the various solos that members had executed.

During the bass section’s bow, a gentleman in a light jacket popped up, vigorously applauding the double bass contingent: It was Phil Lesh, bassist for the Grateful Dead! Lesh has a classical pedigree of his own: he studied composition with Luciano Berio at Mills College. It must have been such a thrill for the string players, once they were clued in as to who was paying them homage!

Lesh’s enthusiasm was well deserved. One of the best moments in the concerto, one which can’t hope to be captured on recording, was when a solo line began at theback desk of the double basses and wended its way forward. I’ve never heard this passage, nor for that matter the whole piece, better performed. Kudos to Knussen, the TMC students, and Phil Lesh!

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