rewind: September 11, 1987

One thing that all fans of classical music might agree on is that little is as thrilling as hearing a youthful musician playing to a standard of technique and artistic mastery more commonly associated with a player two or three times her age. There may be an element of democracy in the perception of talent, but when it came to a barely teen-aged Midori, the public opinion was beyond clear. With one of her earliest performances in the United States being with the New York Philharmonic at its New Year’s Eye gala at the age of 11, reputation already preceded the violinist taking the Tanglewood stage for Leonard Bernstein’s annual Serge and Olga Koussevitzky Memorial Concert with the Boston Symphony in 1986.
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Rewind: August 27, 2002

It’s a no-brainer to say that music is Ravinia’s passion. And yet, until 15 years ago the only musical Passion that had been heard at the festival was J.S. Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion—granted, it is the most popular setting of the narrative in classical music today. (Before James Levine led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a pair of performances of Bach’s masterpiece in 1978 and 1980, Ravinia had presented back-to-back performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971, but its loose interpretation of Biblical accounts makes its categorization as a Passion narrative questionable.)

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Rewind: August 21, 1912

Before Ravinia emerged from the Great Depression in 1936 to begin hosting the incomparable performance residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it was for about a decade and a half known as the “summer opera capital of the world,” presenting many of the Metropolitan Opera’s foremost stars in selected scenes or acts of that venerable form of music theater. The performances were often so abridged so as to accommodate the schedule of the trains that were the primary means of travel to Ravinia (indeed, it was originally founded in 1904 as a general amusement park along the train line). However, not all operas are multi-hour, multi-act epics.
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Rewind: August 10, 2007

Though the terms
 “virtuoso” and “prodigy” are most often applied to classical musicians, mandolinist Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins, and guitarist Sean Watkins easily fit the bill when they formed the band Nickel Creek in the late 1980s, before any of them were yet in their teens. The trio earned widespread attention with their third album, Nickel Creek, which was produced by Alison Krauss, herself considered a virtuoso of the fiddle.
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Rewind: August 5, 1937

Now in its ninth consecutive decade, the musical partnership between Ravinia and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra continues to be a uniquely fulfilling one, with the six-week summer residency of the orchestra regularly featuring about as many programs as might be heard downtown over the rest of the year.
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Rewind: August 1, 1967

At a time when conflict with Russia weighed heavily on many minds—no, not today; during the mid-20th century—there was one thing that the then-Communist nation and the United States could agree upon: Van Cliburn was a great musician. In 1958, as the Cold War was escalating, Moscow inaugurated what is still today one of the most closely watched events in classical music, the International Tchaikovsky Competition.
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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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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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Rewind: July 5, 1957

You always remember your first. As the curtain rose on 1955, the Metropolitan Opera presented its first African-American cast members: contralto Marian Anderson as Ulrica in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and, three weeks later, baritone Robert McFerrin as Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida. McFerrin was subsequently specially chosen by composer/conductor Virgil Thomson to breathe life into his Five Songs from William Blake—both the singer’s Ravinia and Chicago Symphony Orchestra debuts—on a program of Thomson’s works at Ravinia on July 5, 1957.
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Rewind: June 17, 1957

You can’t miss it. Nestled in the center of Ravinia and gazing upon the festival’s grand entrance is the Martin Theatre, the immaculate Arts and Crafts–style concert hall that has stood since the park first opened in 1904. But over Ravinia’s 113-year history, it hasn’t always been a stage for the premier chamber musicians—and even small orchestras—of the world. During the first decade of the park’s existence, it was largely used for motion pictures.

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Rewind: July 25, 1936

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.

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