July 25, 1936: George Gershwin's Sole Ravinia Performance
After the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took residence at Ravinia on July 3, 1936, perhaps the next great highlight of that summer came just a few weeks later. Thousands descended upon the freshly reinaugurated festival in hopes of seeing—but most certainly for the chance to hear—the inimitable pianist, composer, and songwriter George Gershwin. On the July 25 program devoted to what remain some of his most eternal works, he conducted the CSO in a newly devised orchestral suite from his landmark opera Porgy and Bess that, after his death the following year, vanished for about four decades. It was truly a performance for the history books. Accounts of the evening state that some audience members climbed into the trees to try and get a better view. Though Gershwin would not have seen them, he later wrote that he could not have imagined a better place to have a concert than Ravinia.
As part of the CSO’s 80th-anniversary residency at Ravinia, on August 3 Jeffrey Kahane will simultaneously play and conduct Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in its original 1924 jazz band version.
Below: The concert program for George Gershwin’s sole performance at Ravinia was as effusive as the festival’s audience in its praise for the composer-pianist’s musicianship, even declining to comment on the medley of his showtunes that are still today infectious aural delights.
Purchase tickets for the Aug 3 performance featuring Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at Ravinia.org