Weepy Ninth closes BSO season at Tanglewood
LENOX — Sunday’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony marked the end of John Oliver’s 45-year career with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Oliver received the Tanglewood Medal in recognition of his preparation of more than 200 works and 500 rehearsal jokes for well over 1,000 performances.
Punctuated by heaving sobs and the occasional honking nose, the fourth movement of the symphony took on a morose atmosphere despite the text’s call to joy. Even chorus choreographer Anna Choi looked unusually serious. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus sang from memory as usual, keeping their hands free for fistfuls of kleenex and blowing kisses towards Oliver’s seat in the audience. At times, their signature “fully-throated” sound was blubbery and downright mucousy.
Naturally, the chorus pulled it together to execute the final fugue flawlessly.
The orchestra played admirably during the prior three movements, but truth be told, no one was really paying attention until the chorus stood up. The historic performance, which sparked an ovation lasting well into Monday morning, will be remembered for its passion and the tremendous achievements of its honoree, John Oliver.