Tuesday
Jul182017

Common Ground in Common Time: Kent Nagano Feels Harmonious with the Music of John Adams

Kent Nagano had his first in-depth encounter with John Adams’s music in 1980/81 when he was an assistant conductor at the Oakland Symphony, becoming enamored of the audacity, originality, and craft of Common Tones in Simple Time. The now internationally renowned American maestro has since become one of the San Francisco Bay–area composer’s most ardent champions, recording more than a half dozen of Adams’s compositions and presenting the world premieres of such milestone works as The Death of Klinghoffer and El Niño.

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Monday
Jul172017

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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Tuesday
Jul112017

How Hi-Fi Popularized Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture (with cannons)


Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture is unquestionably one of classical music’s all-time greatest hits, right up there with Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” concertos and the “Wedding March” from Wagner’s Lohengrin. Yet it gave me pause when a friend who is not particularly into classical music asked why, in particular questioning why such a fuss is made about using real cannons, as has been done every year at Ravinia for nearly four decades. After long thought, I came up with a theory that attributes the phenomenon to recording technology.

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Thursday
Jul062017

Lionel Bringuier: A Nice Guy looks Forward to making the CSO Swell

Lionel Bringuier is only 30 years old, but he has a decade and a half of conducting experience that he will bring to the podium on July 11, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra begins its 82nd annual residency at the festival. “I grew up in Nice, and my parents loved music,” he says, recalling his formative years as the youngest of four children. “My whole family and I used to go to concerts together. I was always amazed at seeing an entire orchestra onstage.”

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Wednesday
Jul052017

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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Monday
Jul032017

Rewind: July 1, 1937


Basking in the glow of the 1936 renewal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s residency at Ravinia, the festival paid tribute to its partnership with the ensemble during the early 1900s, when Ravinia was known as the “summer opera capital of the world,” with a gala season-opening performance on July 1, 1937, in honor of Louis Eckstein, who oversaw The Ravinia Company from 1911 to 1931.

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Monday
Jul032017

Rewind: July 4, 1967


There are a few necessities for a picture-perfect Fourth of July celebration: a hot grill, a cold drink, a few firecrackers (conscientiously handled, of course), and a small wind band marching down the main drag. Though the draw of that last item may have faded in present times, it’s an element sure to be found in cinema of a certain age—not to mention more than a few old photo albums—and just as assuredly such a band would be playing one of two things: a rousing march by John Philip Sousa, or “76 Trombones” from Meredith Willson’s inimitable Broadway and silver-screen hit, The Music Man.

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Wednesday
Jun282017

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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Monday
Jun262017

The Speedo of Song: Ryan Speedo Green Races to Erase Preconceptions of Race


When Ryan Speedo Green was in fourth grade in southern Virginia, he was placed in a special education class for students with behavior problems. His teacher was Elizabeth Hughes, a petite woman with blonde wavy hair, a heart of gold, and a backbone of stainless steel. Green initiated their relationship by hurling his desk at her. Rather than reacting with expected censure, Hughes calmly told him that she could teach him as well sitting on the floor as anywhere else, and if he demonstrated an incentive to learn, she would restore the desk. He earned his desk back.

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Monday
Jun262017

Passed to the Future: The Moody Blues Play Days in One Night in Celebration of their Golden Album


When it comes to rock’s all-time landmark albums, The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed holds so many distinctions that it’s still being dissected, celebrated, and now performed for the very first time in its entirety 50 years later on a summer tour that swings through Ravinia on June 30. At face value, the iconic collection is stacked with the era-defining smashes “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon,” though it’s also became an archetype for the idea of a concept album. And perhaps equally amazing was the fact this masterpiece was recorded in a ridiculously short amount of time at the request of the band’s record label, Decca, a mostly classical company that, believe it or not, wanted the ever-evolving Moodies to simply provide a test “stereo recording” (which was brand-new in the musical marketplace).

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