CSO marks 75th season at Ravinia

Updated 6/30/2011 5:22 PM

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's special summer at the Ravinia Festival is about to begin.

This year marks the CSO's 75th season as Ravinia's resident ensemble. It was back in 1936 when the CSO began bringing North Shore audiences the world's greatest orchestral and operatic works under the batons of the world's finest conductors, along with visits by many instrumental and vocal soloists.


This summer's celebration gets under way at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 7, when former Ravinia music director Christoph Eschenbach and pianist Lang Lang join forces to not only launch the 75th anniversary season but also begin a summerlong celebration of the bicentennial of composer and pianist Franz Liszt, whose Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major will be featured. Thursday's program also will include Lang Lang at the keyboard for Frederic Chopin's Andante Spianato in G Major and Grand Polonaise in E-flat Major, and it will conclude with Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique."

Lang Lang came to international prominence in 1999, when he substituted for Andre Watts on short notice and brought the Ravinia audience to its collective feet in that summer's gala benefit concert.

The opening weekend will continue at 8 p.m. Friday, July 8, with Eschenbach leading the CSO in Igor Stravinsky's ballet "The Rite of Spring," along with Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Watts, a longtime Ravinia guest artist, the soloist. Watts will also perform the Liszt solo works "Un Sospiro" and the "Transcendental Étude" No. 10. That concert features a ticket and dining package for a special price of $85.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 9, Northwest suburban native and world-acclaimed dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt will join the CSO and Eschenbach for a concert featuring arias and orchestral works by Wagner, Beethoven and Richard Strauss, including excerpts from Strauss' "Salome" and "Elektra," Beethoven's "Fidelio" and Wagner's "Die Walküre," "Götterdämmerung" and "Tannhäuser." A regular guest artist at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Voigt recently starred as Brünnhilde in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of "Die Walküre." The July 9 Ravinia concert will feature supertitles and a video screen.

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The Ravinia chamber music series continues at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, when the Emerson String Quartet returns to the North Shore for a concert featuring works by Haydn, Bartók and Schubert in the Martin Theatre. Recently inducted into the American Classical Hall of Fame, the Emerson String Quartet has received nine Grammy Awards.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 75th anniversary season at Ravinia continues through the Aug. 18-19 weekend when guest conductor Ludwig Wicki leads two screenings of director Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring," with the CSO playing Howard Shore's full score and the film shown on large video screens.

Ravinia music director James Conlon will lead the CSO in concerts July 21 through Aug. 9. Highlights include a concert performance of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca" at 7:30 p.m. July 30, with international stars Patricia Racette, Bryn Terfel and Salvatore Licitra; violinist Itzhak Perlman playing Beethoven's D Major Concerto at 8 p.m. Aug. 4; and superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme" at 8 p.m. Aug. 5.

Conlon will also conduct Ravinia's famous "Tchaikovsky Spectacular," including the "1812 Overture" with live cannons, at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 31. This concert, for years given over Labor Day weekend, was for more than two decades conducted by Erich Kunzel, Ravinia's "Prince of Pops," who died in 2009.

Ravinia's Steans Music Institute is also opening its summer season, with its young musicians in residence and coached by an internationally renowned faculty. Faculty member and cellist Paul Katz will present a free Steans Institute master class at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 5; at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 10, piano and strings artists will present a free concert. Also, before the CSO concert on Saturday, July 9, Steans Institute students will appear in a preview concert at 5:15 p.m. This concert is free with a paid entry for the Pavilion concert.

For a schedule of the CSO's 2011 summer residency, or to purchase tickets, visit ravinia.org or call the box office at (847) 266-5100.