Conlon’s final Ravinia season to offer a look back

Thu Mar 05, 2015 at 1:35 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

James Conlon
James Conlon

James Conlon’s final summer as music director of the Ravinia Festival will offer a look back at some of the conductor’s favorite repertoire of his eleven years leading the festival.

Among the 2015 highlights will be a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert replicating Conlon’s first concert at Ravinia in 1977 with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with Garrick Ohlsson (July 22). Conlon will also direct performances of Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid) and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman with a cast that includes Amber Wagner, Greer Grimsley, Kristinn Sigmundsson and Simon O’Neill (August 15).

Otherwise, as has been the case in recent seasons, CSO programs reflect the festival’s emphasis on pop and jazz offerings, with orchestral programs largely centered on standard repertory and crossover.

Bobby McFerrin will conduct excerpts from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with Nicole Cabell and Brian Stokes Mitchell (July 8). Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis will make his CSO debut as composer and soloist. Other guest conductors include Pablo Heras-Casado, Nikolaj Znaider and Carlos Miguel Prieto, potential candidates to succeed Conlon as music director. Among the soloists are violinist Pinchas Zukerman, pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, Lise de la Salle and Peter Serkin.

The CSO will also perform once again as studio band to live showings of the films Fantasia, Star Trek, Gladiator and the movies of Tim Burton.

That whirring sound you hear is the corpse of Fritz Reiner spinning like a drill.

As previously, more substantial classical fare will be represented with Ravinia’s chamber and vocal events. Thomas Hampson, Karita Mattila and Frederica von Stade will all be heard in vocal recitals. The Emerson and Juilliard Quartets will return and there will be recitals by Nikolai Lugansky, Vladimir Feltsman and Jeffrey Kahane.

President and CEO Welz Kauffman said that the festival exceeded its goal of attracting new audience members to CSO concerts in 2014. averaging 2,100 seats (in a 3,400-seat venue).

“One of the most important things Ravinia can do is to make sure that as many people as possible get to experience the world’s greatest orchestra in this era when audiences for classical music are waning around the world,” said Kauffman in a press release.

“Encouraged by our uptick, Ravinia will stick to our efforts to entice new audiences with reasonable prices; free admission for children and students; pre-concert videos; guest chefs in our restaurants; dedicating one side of our annual brochure to calling out classical concerts in more detail; program notes available online in advance of the concert; parties hosted by our Associates Board; little surprises in the park that are planned for each CSO concert, such as the wedding cakes we shared with last year’s The Marriage of Figaro audiences; and, most importantly, programming an attractive array of symphonic music for new ears and connoisseurs alike, including the appealing movie nights.”; 847-266-5100.

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