Once every summer these past few years I have attended one or two concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the BSO, at their summer home, Tanglewood. My pretext is that I am treating my son whose birthday is in July and mine is in June. Close enough. I attended the Berkshire (now the Tanglewood) Music Center many moons ago as a student and many memories flood my consciousness when I enter the grounds.

For those who do not know, Tanglewood is located near Lenox, Massachusetts and is now celebrating its 75th anniversary. The Boston Symphony is one of some five or six world class American orchestras. (There are another five or six that are nearly so.) People come to listen to the BSO from all over the world. It is not unusual for 10,000 to 12,000 folks to attend each of their concerts Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. There are also several splendid chamber music concerts during the week. I should state at this point that this column is not an advertisement, paid or otherwise.

Many orchestras besides the BSO have summer homes and have similar high attendances. What sets the BSO apart is its educational function there. There are student orchestra, choral, composition and an opera and conducting departments there. Most of the students have their bachelor degrees, and many are already performing professionally. What draws them to Tanglewood is the opportunity to study with world class professional musicians as well as the opportunity to perform there. For advanced high school students, there is the Boston University Tanglewood Institute with orchestra, band and choral departments as well.

What drew me to Tanglewood this year was a performance of the Fifth Symphony by Gustav Mahler which would be conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Either Mahler or Thomas would have been sufficient attraction. An added plus was Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 with Emanuel Ax as the soloist. Several years ago, to avoid making justifiably slanderous remarks, the New York Times music critic merely stated that the concerts we attended simply took place. Unlike that program, I am pleased to state that the Boston Symphony really sounded like the Boston Symphony should sound (glorious) and that Mr. Thomas conducted superbly. Mr. Ax played ever so musically and made the concerto look (but not sound) like it was so simple that any novice pianist could play it just as well.

One could ask why the performance of any Mahler Symphony is an occasion? If one asks that question, it is obvious that you are unfamiliar with his music. (Sorry, go and listen, listen often and take your time. Time is not a factor in listening to Mahler. It is like life itself. It may take a while but it is over all too soon.) Mr. Thomas is the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and has appeared on PBS many times. In my opinion, he is one of a handful of the world’s greatest conductors. Conducting this massive work by heart and conducting it brilliantly, he gave an emotionally charged performance this work deserved.

The new music director of the BSO, Andris Nelsons, chose Mahler’s even more massive 8th Symphony for the annual Leonard Bernstein memorial concert on the eighth. If one can’t tell a violin from a viola and/or one has a limited attention span and/or you can’t get a ticket for the shed, there are inexpensive tickets for the lawn and several large TV screens for the major performances. Have a picnic and soak up the ambiance of the place. Eventually you may be weaned from the equivalent of “musical” fast food.

— Dr. Gold is a composer/conductor and an arts reviewer for the Journal Tribune.

Comments are not available on this story.