Ravinia Festival offers some of the most talented and interesting classical artists, musicians and composers throughout the summer, but some of what Ravinia offers might be unnoticed aurally. The unique atmosphere at Ravinia Festival provides sights and sounds of nature that are often missed in the city life of Chicago. But why is this important to notice? They’re just birds, bugs and critters that some might find less than favorable as they chime in during the soft moments of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major (“Eroica”). The reason these sounds should be appreciated is because many composers have used the sounds of nature as inspiration for some of the most influential pieces of music of all time.
Take, for example, Gustav Mahler, a favorite Austrian composer of the late Romantic era. Mahler would often leave the city life of Vienna to compose in the countryside and would draw bundles of inspiration from the natural sounds of the outdoors inside a composition hut (Komponierhäuschen) in Steinbach am Attersee and later in Maiernigg on the shores of Wörthersee in Carinthia. The natural symphony of sounds that the countryside offered Mahler helped him produce some of his most memorable work, including Symphony No. 2 in C minor (“Resurrection”).
The aesthetic of the countryside and forests also helped Mahler paint images with his thick orchestral layering which is signature of his style. In fact, one of Mahler’s most memorable quotes is, “Don't bother looking at the view - I have already composed it.” Ravinia Festival seems like a fitting place for composers like Mahler.
James Conlon’s Mahler series will end Thursday, August 4, during the 2011 season. Take the opportunity to enjoy Gustav Mahler's music in a setting that he spent the majority of his mature composing life enjoying—the sights and sounds of mother earth at Ravinia Festival.