All About the Music
A closer look at and companion to the music we play on the show, written by the Prairie Home music librarian, Kathryn Slusher.

A Tanglewood Lollapalooza
By Kathryn Slusher

June 2003

The end of the season is upon us, and this means it is time for APHC to return to Tanglewood. Tucked away in the green, rolling hills of western Massachusetts, Tanglewood is a remarkably beautiful place, and performing our final show here has become something of an annual tradition. This is our fourth trip in as many years and it's a place we never get tired of visiting.

A view of the Berkshires from the Tanglewood grounds
Famed Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky founded the Tanglewood Music Center in 1940, as the Berkshire Music Center. It was Koussevitsky's idea to establish this place in the Berkshires as a premier music academy where young performers and composers of exceptional ability would study with world-class artists. It is also the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and many of the Orchestra's players also teach during the summers at Tanglewood. Today, 20 percent of the members of American symphony orchestras and 30 percent of first-chair players are alumni of Tanglewood. Other distinguished alumni include trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, conductors Seiji Ozawa and Claude Abbado, songwriter/pianist Burt Bacharach, and of course Leonard Bernstein, who attended Tanglewood as a conducting student of Koussevitsky's.

Koussevitsky became Bernstein's mentor and cherished friend, and appointed young Leonard Bernstein as his assistant in 1943. Leonard Bernstein remained on the faculty of Tanglewood until his death in 1990. Garrison and pianist Rich Dworsky paid tribute to "Lenny Bernstein" on last year's show from Tanglewood, June 29, 2002, with a parody of Bernstein's song "Gee Officer Krupke" from West Side Story:

Listen | Lyrics

The Koussevitsky Music Shed
During the summer of 2000, renowned pianist Emmanuel Ax was teaching at Tanglewood. We were fortunate that he had the time to appear on our July 1, 2000 broadcast. Not only did he delight our listeners with Claude Debussy's Estampes:


He also showed his talent as an actor in that day's Guy Noir adventure. You may also notice another Tanglewood guest in this clip - the lovely young actress Erica Rhodes

Listen | Script

There is an infectious spirit of youth and excitement that surrounds Tanglewood, with all of the young musicians milling about, practicing, and studying. To salute the special future professional musicians who work so hard to refine their craft, we welcomed 16-year old violinist Bella Hristova on our 2002 show. Bella began playing the violin at the age of six in her native Bulgaria. She came to the United States in 1999 to study at the Meadowmount School of Music and the University of Michigan. She has quite a promising future ahead of her, as she has won various awards, international acclaim, and has appeared as a soloist with the Ann Arbor, Illinois, Olympia, and Ashland Symphony orchestras. Bella is soon to tour with the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and will make her Asian debut with the Daejeon Philharmonic in Korea. She also will continue her studies - entering the Curtis Institue of Music in the fall. It was very exciting to watch this young talent perform last year at Tanglewood, she was so poised and mature in front of our audience of over 11,000. She dazzled us with three pieces, accompanied by Robert Conway of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. First up was "Who Let the Cat Out Last Night" by Paul Schoenfield:


And she followed that up with Debussy's "Beau Soir", arranged by Jascha Heifetz:


Later in the show, she came back to perform Henryk Wieniawski's "Caprice in A minor"


A memorable moment from our June 30, 2001 show was Tom Keith's performance in a SFX script saluting Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, accompanied by both current music director Richard Dworsky and former leader Rob Fisher. Rich and Rob then played a spirited 4-hand medley of patriotic songs with Garrison, just in time for Independence Day:

Listen | Script

That show was memorable for another reason - we received some bad news during our rehearsal for that Tanglewood show. One of the performers' wives had the unenviable task of calling us from Minnesota to inform us that our longtime friend, guitar legend Chet Atkins, had passed away. Chet probably wouldn't have wanted the dramatic reaction, but he was dearly loved by all those that knew him, and this was not easy to hear. Garrison had to break the news to our audience, and did so with a simple, poignant chorus of "Joy, Joy, Joy", intended to celebrate the great man. The audience sang along.


The following year, the one-year anniversary of Chet's passing was commemorated by Garrison, with a talk underscored by the Guy's All-Star Shoe band playing "Don't Cha Know", written by our own Pat Donohue, who Chet Atkins himself once referred to as "one of the greatest finger pickers in the world today".


During our last two visits to Tanglewood, we were graced by performances by the Juilliard Quartet. The quartet has been together for over fifty years, and has been an international presence and an American institution. The current members, Joel Smirnoff, Ronald Copes, Samuel Rhodes and Joel Krosnick have been performing together since 1997. They are all on the faculty at the Juilliard School in New York, and have a fierce commitment to preserving the classics and exposing new music to a broader audience.

On the June 30, 2001 broadcast, the Juilliard String Quartet performed the first two movements of Debussy's String Quartet in G minor, op. 10:


And a year later, they played the first and third movements of Haydn's "Sunrise" Quartet, op. 76 no. 4:


In addition, the quartet members showed that like Emmanuel Ax, they too have a secret talent for acting and appeared in Guy Noir's escapades:

Listen (2002 show) | Listen (2001 show)

This Saturday we will be back at beautiful Tanglewood, joined by Leo Kottke, Dan Newton, the Nilsson Quartet, and pianist Hsing-ay Hsu. I'm really looking forward to returning. It's a nice reward for a season of hard work.

Past Articles
  • Winding Down at Wolf Trap (5/27/04)
  • Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew (3/26/04)
  • California, I'm Coming Home (11/26/03)
  • The Songs of Johnny Cash (10/23/03)
  • The Music of Lennon and McCartney (07/01/03)
  • A Tanglewood Lollapalooza (06/01/03)
  • Marvin and Mavis Keep Smilin' (05/01/03)
  • Classical Parodies (04/01/03)
  • Good Cookin': the Songs of Memphis Minnie (03/01/03)

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    Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

    Old Sweet Songs

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