In the following press release, the Ravinia Festival's Chicago Symphony Orchestra Residency program has announced yet another eclectic and star-studded summer season.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra residency dates to 1936 and is the core of Ravinia's classical music programming. The 17 concerts, programmed from July 7 through August 15, include a celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln; the continuation of Ravinia Music Director James Conlon's multi-year Mahler symphonic cycle; his ongoing Breaking the Silence series, which restores to the repertoire the music of composers suppressed by the Third Reich; former music director Christoph Eschenbach and baritone Matthias Goerne teaming for their acclaimed performance of Schubert songs both in their original versions and orchestrated by Reger, Webern and Brahms; and an extraordinary roster of guests artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Yefim Bronfman, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Peter Serkin and Sir James Galway who join the CSO in presenting symphonic music in its complete palette from virtuosic solo concertos to large-scale works such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
In addition to Conlon and Eschenbach, other artists with significant ties to Ravinia also return this summer. Patti LuPone, who played Mama Rose for the first time in Ravinia's production of Gypsy, returns after winning the Tony for that role on Broadway to reunite with the CSO in an evening of Kurt Weill. Piano superstar Lang Lang celebrates the 10th anniversary of the auspicious Ravinia gala that placed him on the world stage, with two concerts including a performance with jazz legend Herbie Hancock that will reprise their stunning performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue from the 2008 Grammy Awards broadcast. Dmitri Hvorostovky, who heroically headlined a 2002 Ravinia concert as a commanding solo artist when the co-billed Karita Mattila fell ill, returns in the title role of Verdi's Rigoletto for a concert performance of the opera conducted by Conlon on the heels of the enthusiastically received presentations of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio and Don Giovanni in 2008.
"By all accounts, Ravinia is coming off of one of our most successful seasons in history. We experienced a significant increase in CSO audiences while creating so many extraordinary memories with the brilliant Mozart operas, Mahler's 'Symphony of a Thousand,' the 30th Ravinia anniversary of Erich Kunzel and the overdue Ravinia debut of Bernard Haitink, along with unforgettable performances by Lang Lang, Joshua Bell, Kiri Te Kanawa and Denis Matsuev," said Welz Kauffman, president and CEO of Ravinia Festival. "So I am thrilled to be building on this success with our 2009 Chicago Symphony residency,which boasts the same potential to excite our loyal audiences, attract curious new audiences and satisfy the artistic appetites of such a culturally rich and diverse region."
The life of Abraham Lincoln will be celebrated in several events next summer in observance of the 16th president's 200th birthday, including the previously announced major commissions from Chicago jazzman Ramsey Lewis and Tony-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones that will bookend the season. The quintessential symphonic work inspired by the great statesman, Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, will be paired with the rousing celebration of freedom that is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in the annual Gala Benefit Evening (hosted by the Women's Board of Ravinia Festival and co-chaired by Sarah Barden and Janet Krasny) on July 18. Soloists soprano Ellie Dehn, mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and bass Morris Robinson will join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Conlon.
Lincoln will also be observed through the exploration of music composed by his contemporaries, particularly Mendelssohn and Brahms. Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 1 opens the CSO residency on a July 7 program that includes Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2 performed by Yefim Bronfman. Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony ("Italian") follows on July 10 on a program with Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, featuring mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, an alumnus of the Steans Institute for Young Artists. Mendelssohn's Third Symphony ("Scottish") will be performed on Aug. 14 on a program with Yo-Yo Ma performing Dvořšk's Cello Concerto.
In a springtime tour of Illinois towns associated with Lincoln, The Lincoln Trio will perform works by Mendelssohn and Brahms, both masters of the piano trio form that came to prominence in Lincoln's lifetime. These concerts will also feature the winning compositions inspired by Lincoln in Ravinia's first competition for composers.
BREAKING THE SILENCE
Each summer Conlon selects a single composer whose substantial works could have left a greater impact on music history if not for suppression by the Nazis. Kurt Weill is the composer selected for the 2009 Breaking the Silence series.
"Kurt Weill fits a different profile than the composers we've honored so far because he actually made it to America and left a rich history of music created for the Broadway stage," Kauffman said. "What most of us don't recognize is that he left behind a classical career in Europe, where his music was branded as degenerate, only to have the musical elite dismiss his new American show music as frivolous. This summer, we want to demonstrate both worlds of Weill."
Making her first Ravinia appearance since winning the Tony Award for her triumphant portrayal of Mama Rose in the musical Gypsy, which she first essayed at Ravinia in 2006 with the CSO, Broadway diva Patti LuPone headlines an all-Weill program on Aug. 8. The pavilion concert will feature Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins followed by a selection of Weill's Broadway works, thus contrasting his two compositional careers.
Conlon will also conduct the Chicago Chamber Musicians in Weill's Mahagonny-Songspiel on Aug. 4 in the Martin Theatre on a program that will include Stravinsky's groundbreaking L'histoire du soldat. The "Little Mahagonny" is a devastating five-song portrait from 1927 of a fictional American town dedicated to decadence that Weill and playwright Bertolt Brecht composed as a preparatory exercise for their 1930 epic opera.
ESCHENBACH RETURNS/LANG LANG ANNIVERSARY
Christoph Eschenbach, who served as Ravinia's music director from 1995 through 2003, will conduct six CSO concerts starting on July 24, in a program that features Bernstein's West Side Story Dances, Gershwin's Concerto in F with soloist Tzimon Barto along with the Chicago premiere of Concerto 4-3 for String Trio and Orchestra by Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon, whom Ravinia previously engaged to create one of the four "Train Commissions" for its 2004 centennial. Higdon composed the new work especially for the "garage band" string ensemble Time for Three, which will join the CSO for the Ravinia performance. The next night, he leads the orchestra in Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Peter Serkin and Dvořšk's Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World"), whose largo theme was transformed by William Arms Fisher into the spiritual "Goin' Home," and will be performed in honor of the Lincoln Bicentennial.
Highlighting Eschenbach's 2009 Ravinia credits will be two CSO concerts featuring the young piano phenomenon Lang Lang, who wowed the world in the opening ceremonies of this summer's Beijing Olympics. The pianist and conductor will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 1999 Ravinia gala that launched Lang Lang to superstardom. Lang Lang recounts the life-changing evening in his new autobiography, recalling how he stepped in on short notice to replace an ailing Andrê© Watts. He will perform Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 on July 26. Two days later, he will be joined by jazz giant Herbie Hancock for the type of crossover concert at which Ravinia excels. The duo will create their water-cooler-buzz performance from last season's Grammy Awards telecast of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Though Hancock is one of the biggest names in jazz, the Chicago native was a classically trained prodigy who at age 11 made his CSO debut with a Mozart concerto.
Eschenbach will also partner with baritone Matthias Goerne in three programs, as pianist in two Martin Theatre recitals featuring Schubert song-cycles, and conducting a "Viennese Evening" with waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss, Jr. This CSO concert features a series of Schubert songs orchestrated by other great composers_ã”Reger, Webern and Brahms. Both Goerne and Eschenbach are highly lauded for their interpretations of Schubert, and the singer is in the process of his most ambitious recording: an 11-CD set of Schubert lieder, which feature Eschenbach as one of his accompanists. The composer and singer have already started their collaboration on three Schubert song cycles in concert, including Winterreise, which will be performed in the Martin Theatre on July 29. Eschenbach's earlier recordings of this music_ã”with another great Schubert baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau_ã”remain a pinnacle of the recorded repertoire.
Ravinia will close the CSO residency with a concert performance in the pavilion on Aug. 15 of Verdi's perennially popular Rigoletto, following up on Ravinia's success with concert opera productions in recent years. Hailed as one of Verdi's three great "middle period" operas, Rigoletto tells the tragic story of the cursed hunchback jester at the corrupt court of the Duke of Mantua. Singing the title role will be baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in his first Ravinia appearance since 2002. Italian tenor Stefano Secco will portray the Duke of Mantua, a role he has sung to acclaim around the world. Appearing as Rigoletto's daughter Gilda will be Cuban-American soprano Eglise Gutierrez, who has been creating sensations internationally in the most challenging roles in the coloratura soprano repertoire.
When James Conlon first picked up the baton as music director of Ravinia Festival in 2005, he immediately launched a Mahler Cycle, presenting two symphonies each season. Following his 2008 triumph with Mahler's massive "Symphony of a Thousand," Conlon will continue his exploration of all of Mahler's symphonies with a July 19 performance of Symphony No. 9 and the previously mentioned July 10 performance of Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth"), a symphonic song-cycle that is widely regarded as one of Mahler's symphonies even though it does not bear a number as such. Vocal soloists for that performance will be mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, an alumna of Ravinia's Steans Institute for Young Artists, and tenor Stuart Skelton.
Ravinia's roster of soloists during the CSO's 2009 residency will also include such favorites as violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1) and Miriam Fried (Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto); pianists Garrick Ohlsson (Schumann's Piano Concerto) and Olga Kern (Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1); and flutist Sir James Galway (Carmen Fantasy and more), in addition to the previously mentioned Yo-Yo Ma, Lang Lang, Peter Serkin, Tzimon Barto and Yefim Bronfman.
The complete 2009 Ravinia season will be announced on March 12, 2009. Tickets to the general public go on sale April 16. For further information visit www.ravinia.org.