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What is Tanglewood?

By CPW
Updated May 23, 2024
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Tanglewood is the venue in Lenox and Stockbridge, Massachusetts, that is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and host to the Tanglewood Jazz Festival and Tanglewood Music Festival. The site's history goes back to 1936 when Mrs. Gorham Brooks and Miss Mary Aspinwall Tappan gave the Tappan family estate, Tanglewood, to Mr. Serge Koussevitzky, leader of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ever since, the site has hosted the festivals on its grounds. The venue comprises 526 acres (212.86 hectares) and hosts around 350,000 people annually.

The seeds from which this venue grew were sown in 1934 when a small group of Berkshire residents presented the New York Philharmonic at Interlocken. The residents presented a second summer festival the season after and then again in 1936, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra was included in the repertoire and the venue was moved to Holmwood. Some 15,000 people attended the 1936 festival, which was presented under a giant tent. Finally, in 1937, the festival moved to the Tanglewood venue and assumed the name Tanglewood Musical Festival that it still uses today.

The site grew rapidly through the 1940s and saw the erection of the several buildings which make up the core structures of the venue today. By 1941, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Theatre-Concert Hall, the Chamber Music Hall and a number of smaller studios were completed. This expansion meant that the venue could then welcome approximately 100,000 visitors per year.

The complex underwent extension in 1986 which saw it almost double in size from its original 210 acres (85 hectares). The acquisition of the new property meant that the committee could move the site of their concert hall to its present location. This new concert hall was given the name The Seiji Ozawa Hall and was inaugurated on 7 July 1994. The new hall has allowed the Tanglewood concerts to admit more visitors and expand its range of performances. The site also hosts two music schools, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) and the Tanglewood Music Center, where musical luminaries such as Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Lukas Foss have all instructed the school's budding musicians.

The venue takes its name from the collection of short stories written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Tanglewood Tales. In 1850, Hawthorne rented a cottage from William Aspinwall Tappan in the Berkshires where he re-wrote a series of Greek myths. To commemorate the author's achievement, Tappan renamed the cottage Tanglewood, a name that the entire Tappan estate would eventually bear.

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