Thursday
Jul202017

To Every Thing There Is a Season: The Four Seasons have inspired much more than small talk

If a beauty pageant was held for the orchestral works of the Baroque period, odds are the hands-down winner would be Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the set of four violin concertos that the Cleveland-based Baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire will perform in the Martin Theatre on July 27, replete with the period flavor of their 1725 publishing. Probably the only works that might come close in a popular vote would be Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos and Handel’s Water Music, but Vivaldi’s Four Seasons have entered the collective consciousness as few musical works ever have.

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Wednesday
Jul192017

One Nation, Under Jean: Sibelius Made the Music Finland Had All Along

It doesn’t happen often, but at a few crucial points in human history, musicians and composers have found themselves playing outsized roles in world politics.

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Tuesday
Jul182017

Buzz-ness as Usual: Blondie Remains Honeycombed with Signature Sweetness

To quote the title of the second single off the group’s latest album, Blondie has been doing this a “Long Time.” Pollinator, released in May, adds to a 40-some-year history and 10 records that, taken together, account for more than 40 million albums sold worldwide.

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Tuesday
Jul182017

Common Ground in Common Time: Kent Nagano Feels Harmonious with the Music of John Adams

Kent Nagano had his first in-depth encounter with John Adams’s music in 1980/81 when he was an assistant conductor at the Oakland Symphony, becoming enamored of the audacity, originality, and craft of Common Tones in Simple Time. The now internationally renowned American maestro has since become one of the San Francisco Bay–area composer’s most ardent champions, recording more than a half dozen of Adams’s compositions and presenting the world premieres of such milestone works as The Death of Klinghoffer and El Niño.

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Monday
Jul172017

Rewind: July 22, 1977


From semistaged operas 
and musicals to plays and other performances of spoken word, top stagecraft has long been a part of Ravinia’s DNA, but even longtime fans of the festival might be surprised to learn that during a three-year period in the late 1970s, you could enjoy violins at 8 and violent laughter at 11.

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Tuesday
Jul112017

How Hi-Fi Popularized Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture (with cannons)


Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture is unquestionably one of classical music’s all-time greatest hits, right up there with Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” concertos and the “Wedding March” from Wagner’s Lohengrin. Yet it gave me pause when a friend who is not particularly into classical music asked why, in particular questioning why such a fuss is made about using real cannons, as has been done every year at Ravinia for nearly four decades. After long thought, I came up with a theory that attributes the phenomenon to recording technology.

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Thursday
Jul062017

Lionel Bringuier: A Nice Guy looks Forward to making the CSO Swell

Lionel Bringuier is only 30 years old, but he has a decade and a half of conducting experience that he will bring to the podium on July 11, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra begins its 82nd annual residency at the festival. “I grew up in Nice, and my parents loved music,” he says, recalling his formative years as the youngest of four children. “My whole family and I used to go to concerts together. I was always amazed at seeing an entire orchestra onstage.”

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Wednesday
Jul052017

Rewind: July 6, 1967


As America had Robert Shaw, so Britain had Malcolm Sargent. Both dubbed the “deans of choral music” of their respective nations, both also had uncanny command of music that did not feature the voice. And just as Shaw became a household name for his Christmas albums, so too did Sargent become a well-loved public figure through his many appearances on BBC radio and as chief conductor of the Proms for 20 years.

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Monday
Jul032017

Rewind: July 1, 1937


Basking in the glow of the 1936 renewal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s residency at Ravinia, the festival paid tribute to its partnership with the ensemble during the early 1900s, when Ravinia was known as the “summer opera capital of the world,” with a gala season-opening performance on July 1, 1937, in honor of Louis Eckstein, who oversaw The Ravinia Company from 1911 to 1931.

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Monday
Jul032017

Rewind: July 4, 1967


There are a few necessities for a picture-perfect Fourth of July celebration: a hot grill, a cold drink, a few firecrackers (conscientiously handled, of course), and a small wind band marching down the main drag. Though the draw of that last item may have faded in present times, it’s an element sure to be found in cinema of a certain age—not to mention more than a few old photo albums—and just as assuredly such a band would be playing one of two things: a rousing march by John Philip Sousa, or “76 Trombones” from Meredith Willson’s inimitable Broadway and silver-screen hit, The Music Man.

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