New faces on Ravinia podium
Jaap van Zweden
Lake-Cook and Green Bay roads, Highland Park
Tickets can be ordered at www.ravinia.org or (847) 266-5100
The 2012 season at the Ravinia Festival just might be called the summer of many maestros, with 10 conductors arriving to lead orchestral programs in the park.
In addition to the residency of music director James Conlon, who will conduct a dozen concerts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from July 19 to Aug. 20, past music director Christoph Eschenbach returns to the podium for CSO concerts on July 13 and 14.
Four conductors are making Ravinia debuts: Steven Reineke, July 4, Jaap van Zweden (July 7), Richard Kaufman (July 15) and Gianandrea Noseda (Aug. 2).
Kaufman is no stranger to Chicago Symphony fans; he has conducted the CSO’s “Friday Night at the Movies” in Orchestra Hall for the past seven seasons.“These concerts downtown are sold-out year after year,” said Kaufman when reached by phone at home in California.
At Ravinia he will conduct the CSO with Barbara Cook in an evening of music from Broadway, tapping into his experience as principal pops conductor with the Pacific Symphony in Orange County and his years conducting for Mary Martin and decades with Andy Williams and John Denver.
“Conducting the CSO is like driving the world’s greatest race car,” he said. “It is so responsive, and I’ve been a fan of Barbara Cook for many, many years. It will be wonderful to hear her with the Chicago Symphony behind her.”
Van Sweden has also conducted the CSO downtown. “I think I have been there eight or nine times, “ he said, when reached by phone in the Netherlands. “We have a beautiful relationship.
“In the past,” he continued. “we did Mahler One and we decided together to present Mahler’s Sixth at Ravinia.”
The maestro, who is a graduate of The Juilliard School, was concertmaster at the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam under the baton of Sir Georg Solti. But it was Leonard Bernstein who put the violinist in front of an orchestra to conduct Mahler’s First, and it was a life-changing experience.
“When he told me that I needed to conduct, that was the moment I decided to study conducting seriously,” he said. He has been music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 2008 and will become the music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic in the fall.
In addition to his visits to Chicago, he regularly conducts the top orchestras in Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland. “And I have conducted Boston,” he said, referencing those ensembles as the Big Five. “But there are other American orchestras that are rising,” he declared. “I’m very proud of what I have been able to do with my musicians in Dallas.”
Noseda will make his festival debut on Aug. 2, leading an all-Rachmaninoff program with soprano and Chicago favorite Nichole Cabell, a graduate of the Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center. The program is sponsored by the Serge Rachmaninoff Foundation, with which the Italian maestro collaborated on a recording of the composer’s Symphonies No. 1, 2, 3 and operas, including “Francesca da Rimini,” with the BBC Philharmonic.
He debuted with the Metropolitan Opera in 2002, conducting three performances of Prokofiev’s “War and Peace.” Noseda is laureate conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, chief guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, guest conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the Teatro Regio in Turin.
A host of other conductors will be on the podium during the festival, including Steven Reineke, who will conduct an all-American program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on July 4, the first concert of its summer residency at Ravinia.
Marvin Hamlisch, the only person to win three Academy Awards in one night, will conduct the CSO in a program featuring vocalist Idina Menzel on July 8 and David Wroe will lead the Ravinia Festival Orchestra July 10 in an evening with singer Natalie Merchant.
Eschenbach’s two programs with the CSO include an all-Brahms program of the composer’s Symphony No 4 and violinist Nicola Benedetti and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich in his Concerto Violin and Cello on July 13. On July 14 he conductors Dvorak’s Carnival Overture and Symphony No. 8, as well Korngold’s Violin Concerto with Erik Schumann as soloist.
Eschenbach’s skill at the piano was highly prized during his years as music director, and this season, he will accompany baritone Matthias Goerne in a program of Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms July 16 in the Martin Theatre. He will also give a master class July 17 in Bennett Gordon Hall for young people studying piano and strings at Ravinia’s Steans Institute.
This season’s One Score, One Chicago is “The Planets” by Gustav Holst July 31, conducted by American John Axelrod, who is making make his seventh appearance at the festival since 2003. He will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus in the work. Also on the program is Grieg’s Piano Concerto, with soloist Gabriela Montero. Axelrod is the founder of Orchestra X in Houston, which presented classical music in non-traditional venues.
Theater conductor Ted Sperling, who won a Tony Award for best orchestration for his work in “The Light in the Piazza,” will conduct the CSO Aug. 5 in “A Tribute to Harold Arlen.” Vocalist will be Ann Hampton Callaway, a native of Winnetka and a graduate of New Trier High School, who is noted as a singer and composer. Appearing with her will be the John Pizzarelli Quartet.