Scene: Tanglewood Gala celebrates Andris Nelsons and horticulture

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LENOX — Nearly 400 people attended The Tanglewood Gala, a fundraising cocktail hour, dinner and post-performance reception on Friday, July 7, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's opening night at Tanglewood. But it was a man who wasn't in attendance at the cocktail reception that garnered some of the most attention in a tent set up behind Seiji Ozawa Hall.

Andris Nelsons would be leading the orchestra in Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," the first of 10 concerts he is scheduled to conduct in Lenox this summer. For many in the well-heeled crowd donning their summer best, Nelsons' appearance was a welcome change after he did not perform at last year's opener.

"The fact that he was not here was a downer," said Hillel Bachrach, referring to the conductor's previous absence. Along with Martha and Todd Golub, Bachrach and his wife, Liliana, chaired this year's gala. The Bachrachs live in Alford during the summer and are among the orchestra's most generous donors, giving at least $50,000 to the organization during the past year, according to a program distributed at the dinner. Bachrach let it be known during that period that he would like to see Nelsons more this year. "We love the music director," he said.

The Bachrachs' donation helped the orchestra surpass its fundraising goal of $395,000 for the event, ultimately reaching $465,000 as of dinnertime. The money will go towards helping the organization meet its operating costs and pursue multiple horticultural projects at Tanglewood. An anonymous benefactor has pledged an additional $1 million if the orchestra can raise $1 million by the end of September to support its initiatives, according to Nina Jung Gasparrini, the organization's director of board, donor and volunteer engagement.

"We have some really ambitious horticultural projects that we need to embark on over the next couple years," Gasparrini said, citing gardens added during Tanglewood's current expansion and maintenance work on 70-plus-year-old hedges as examples of where the money will be allocated.

Horticulture served as the theme for this year's gala, with hanging plants, leafy tablecloths and floral attire ubiquitous in the cocktail reception tent. Even the hors d'oeuvres were decidedly green, with servers circulating "sip of green gazpacho," featuring cucumber, green tomatoes and spinach; chicken lettuce wrap rolls; and lemon and spinach gnocchi.

To wash down these treats, gala-goers often chose Hendrick's gin-and-tonics and Woodford Reserve whiskey on the rocks, according to the bar staff. Many also accepted waitstaff's sauvignon blanc offers. Still, on a muggy, sunny evening, attendees were just as likely to be seen holding glasses of sparkling water as something stronger.

Dress was more exotic, with Tanglewood officials, donors and friends all appearing to revel in the freedom afforded by a summer dress code and the event's natural theme; in the past, the event has been more formal. This year, many women wore dresses with floral patterns while their male counterparts tended to opt for white, grey and light blue suits.

Paul Buttenwieser, the president of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's board of trustees, wore a tie covered in fruit. "Tonight is a big highlight," Buttenwieser said of the season-opener. He's also looking forward to when Nelson conducts Wagner's "Das Rheingold" on Saturday, July 15. "It will be incredibly special," he said.

His wife, Katie, sported a floral blazer. She couldn't pick which upcoming Tanglewood performance excited her the most. "It's such a rich smorgasbord," she said.

For Yumin Choi, who resides in Natick, Massachusetts with his wife, Amy, the setting enhances the orchestra's performances.

"There's a different feel to the symphony out here," he said. Choi said he makes it to Tanglewood a handful of times per summer and views it as a delightful blend of great music and company, giving him a chance to socialize with friends from New York and elsewhere he hasn't seen in a while. "It feels like a little oasis," said Choi, who has contributed between $25,000 and $49,999 over the past year, according to the event's program.

Choi was far from the only out-of-towner at the event. With the orchestra's Boston connection, many supporters hailed from Massachusetts' east coast. New York City was also well-represented. Mary and Herman Schwartz, who have been coming to Tanglewood for approximately 45 years, even traveled from Chevy Chase, Md. Lots of gala attendees made sure to stop at their table en route to the dinner tent, where lamb was later served as the main course.

Despite the event's overwhelming metropolitan influence and focus on the orchestra's upcoming performances, one of the evening's most esteemed guests, Yo-Yo Ma, said he was most eager to explore Tanglewood's surroundings during this season.

"I'm excited about checking out what's happening all over the Berkshires," the famed cellist said.


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