July 3, 1936: The CSO Residency Kicks Off
In 1936 Ravinia and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began an enthusiastic partnership in presenting history’s greatest music in a uniquely lush and comfortable setting, and 80 years later that dedication is as strong as ever, forming the cornerstone of the festival’s classical mission, which also encompasses chamber music, recitals, kids concerts, Reach*Teach*Play, and Ravinia’s Stean’s Music Institute. Even before the relationship became official the CSO was a regular guest, dating back to 1905 as the Theodore Thomas Orchestra. Over the 17 concerts that compose its residency at Ravinia this summer, the CSO will play works that are just as powerful today as they were during that first season—from Beethoven’s Seventh, Brahms’s Second and Fourth, and Dvořák’s “New World” Symphonies to such orchestral delights as Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Strauss’s Don Juan to the playful swirl of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. But the ensemble will also be instrumental in the presentation of several never-before-seen/heard works, including the American premiere of a violin concerto co-commissioned by Ravinia from Wynton Marsalis, the modern-day master of genre-bending classical music like Gershwin before him. These special features also include the first showing in the Midwest of James Cameron’s cinematic masterpiece Titanic with the worldwide bestselling score by James Horner performed live with the complete movie, as well as a new film showcasing the grandeur of our solar system as seen through NASA’s lenses set to Holst’s celestial suite, and the Chicago premiere of an innovative, new staging of Stravinsky’s breakthrough first ballet, The Firebird, co-commissioned by Ravinia from Janni Younge of the Handspring Puppet Company, the visual mavericks behind the international stage hit War Horse.
As ever, all season long the CSO will be joined by a remarkable, rotating host of supporting artists as storied and varied as the history of the orchestra’s residency, and featuring both longtime favorites and young stars destined to be heard again and again over the coming years. In addition to the long-awaited return of James Levine for the 50th annual gala concert and the 45th anniversary of his debut with the CSO at the festival, beloved baton-wielders David Zinman and Sir Andrew Davis will bring to the podium this summer the phenomenal musicianship that has made each a venerated name the world around, and six conductors will be making their first impressions upon Ravinia audiences, from downtown veterans Vasily Petrenko and Cristian Măcelaru to CSO newcomers such as Kirill Karabits and Gustavo Gimeno. Alongside these figures will be such celebrated soloists as Itzhak Perlman and Lynn Harrell, both of whom are marking the 50th anniversaries of their Ravinia and CSO debuts, as well as next-generation counterparts Nicola Benedetti and Alisa Weilerstein. Superstars Joshua Bell and Chris Botti join forces for an evening of showpieces, while Gil Shaham and Paul Lewis similarly join the CSO onstage for selections from their respective specialties. Longtime Ravinia favorite Misha Dichter will be returning to the Pavilion stage for the first time in nearly a decade, and Daniil Trifonov will be making his first such appearance, having thrilled CSO audiences downtown since his Ravinia debut, plus pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane will combine those talents for a signature performance of Gershwin’s original Rhapsody in Blue.
Pictured above: Ernest Ansermet conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Pictured below: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first concert at Ravinia since the festival shut its gates during the depths of the Great Depression.
Purchase tickets for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 80th season at Ravinia.org