The Boston Symphony Orchestra has canceled its summer season at Tanglewood because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so for the next seven weeks, 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston will be broadcasting past Tanglewood performances. WGBH News’ Henry Santoro spoke with Tony Rudel, the general manager of WGBH’s sister station about the upcoming series of Tanglewood concerts and mini-festivals. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Henry Santoro: WCRB is no stranger when it comes to bringing live music into people's homes, is it?
Tony Rudel: No, on a normal year — when there are concerts and people in the concert halls — we air 50 broadcasts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, from either Tanglewood or Symphony Hall. And that is probably five times more than any other radio station in the country does with its local orchestra. So not having those concerts has a big impact on us.
Santoro: Tell us about the upcoming BSO series and the themes that you came up with.
Rudel: First of all, every Saturday night, we will have a full Tanglewood concert drawn from the archives, which is really very cool. So we begin actually this Sunday, with Andris Nelsons conducting Mozart and Mahler, with pianist Emanuel Ax playing a Mozart concerto. And then each week after that on Saturday nights, we’ll have a different concert from Tanglewood. And these are spectacular concerts. You listen to them, and you feel like, 'Wow, I am there again,' and it's wonderful.
Santoro: And these were handpicked from the archives, right?
Rudel: Yes, and I have to thank the musicians, who have allowed us to mine 30 years worth of broadcasts for what we're going to do Monday through Friday nights, which I'm really excited about. Every weeknight at 8 p.m., when we normally have our "Symphony at 8," we're instead going to have mini-festivals for the next seven weeks. The first festival, which begins Monday July 6 will be "BSO Signature Works at Tanglewood." On Monday, we'll air Beethoven's Sixth Symphony led by the great conductor Bernard Haitink in a broadcast from 2008. On Tuesday, we'll air Debussy's "La Mer" conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos in 2009, and so on.
So each week, Monday through Friday, we'll explore a different festival. One that I particularly love is the week of July 13, when we're airing the five Beethoven piano concertos, with a different conductor and a different pianist each night.
But then there are also some weeks when the musicians are choosing the pieces that they think represent them best. So we have the string section, the wind section, and the percussion section each picking pieces. And then the last week of the summer festival, from Aug. 17 to 22, we're going to pay special tribute to the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which would have been celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer.
Santoro: These performances will be streamed online at classicalwcrb.org. And the full-length concerts will be broadcast on WAMC in Albany, New York; WMNR in Monroe, Conn.; and New England Public Radio in Springfield, Mass. So it really looks like you've got the region covered.
Rudel: We do, and again it's thanks to musicians and my team and director of production Brian McCreath and Lead Sound Engineer Antonio Oliart Ros making all this happen.
Santoro: Tony Rudel is the general manager of 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston, WGBH’s sister station.
WGBH News Intern Abby Hunt assisted with production.