Conlon re-ups for a final Ravinia season; Orion Ensemble violist departs

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 8:03 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

James Conlon
James Conlon

James Conlon chose not to renew his contract as music director of the Ravinia Festival yet he will stay on for one more season in Highland Park.

The American conductor’s contract is up after 2014, yet he will continue to lead Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts in the summer of 2015. Conlon’s final season will offer a retrospective of his years at Ravinia, with music of Mahler, Zemlinsky, Mozart and the first festival performance of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman.

“At the conclusion of another wonderful summer season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia, I have chosen to make the 2015 season my last as music director,” Conlon said. “I am grateful to Welz Kauffman, who graciously understood and accepted my decision, and will arrange for a smooth transition.

“Everything has its time, and after 11 years I feel it is the moment to pass on this responsibility. This has been a difficult decision. The work at Ravinia is very meaningful to me, and the CSO is a supreme orchestra,” continued Conlon. “I have worked year-round, including every summer, since 1974. There are things I wish to accomplish, both musical and personal, and I need dedicated time to realize these projects.

A search is currently underway for Conlon’s successor, said festival officials.


The Orion Ensemble will enter its season this fall without one of its longtime members.

Jennifer Marlas, who has been on extended sabbatical due to medical issues, will retire from the ensemble. Stephen Boe, who has been performing regularly with Orion in recent seasons, will serve as Orion’s principal guest violist.

“I speak for the entire ensemble in expressing our gratitude to have had the opportunity to play with Jennifer as a revered core artist for many years,” said Kathryne Pirtle, Orion’s clarinetist and executive director in a released statement. “We regret that, due to a long-term chronic illness, she will be unable to return. We have been fortunate to have violinist/violist Stephen Boe fill in for Jennifer the past several years, and he will continue to serve as principal guest violist this season and in the future.”

“I treasure my years collaborating with such wonderful musicians,” said Marlas. “I also value the strong friendships we have formed; they will last a lifetime.”

In its 2014-15 season, the Orion Ensemble will feature a work by a Chicago composer on each program. The group will open their season September 28-October 5 with music of Dvorak, Schubert, Morton Gould, Jim Gailloreto and John Coltrane.

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