A Ravinia night to remember: Emanuel Ax plays Brahms Concerto 2 and Rafael Payare conducts CSO in Beethoven Symphony 3

 

Rafael Payare conducts the CSO in Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 at Ravinia Festival. (photo credit Ravinia Festival and Kyle Dunleavy)
Rafael Payare conducts the CSO in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 at Ravinia Festival. (photo credit Ravinia Festival and Kyle Dunleavy)

 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conductor Rafael Payare and pianist Emanuel Ax gave bravo performances at Ravinia Festival Aug. 2, 2019.

Payare, a Venezuelan conductor who has led ensembles and orchestras across the globe and will lead the San Diego Symphony as its new music director this fall, infused Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 with extra exuberance and sensitivity to its Napoleonic themes.

Although the themes are familiar to classical musical lovers, Eroica in less able hands has sometimes come across as too predictable and automatically played. But when Payare opened the symphony by (I think appropriately) upping the pace on the Allegro con brio, there was a new feeling of excitement stretching across the Pavilion and lawn.

It was in perfect contrast to what became the very expressive Marcia funebre movement in C minor followed by the CSO strings’ nimble and delightful Scherzo that went back to the symphony’s key of E-flat major.

During the symphony, the cameras for ravinia’s screens’ focused on the orchestra’s exceptional oboist, flutist and French horns.

They deserved the extra acknowledgement accorded them by Payare after the heroic symphony’s exuberant final notes drew enthusiastic applause.

 

Emanuel Ax plays Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 at Ravinia. Rafael Payare conducts the CSO in Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 at Ravinia Festival. (Ravinia Festival and Kyle Dunleavy photo)
Emanuel Ax plays Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 at Ravinia. Rafael Payare conducts the CSO in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 at Ravinia Festival. (Ravinia Festival and Kyle Dunleavy photo)

 

This interpretation of Beethoven’s epic, groundbreaking symphony was among the best I’ve heard.

It would take another epic performance to complement the first half the program.

And that is what Ax delivered with his extraordinary Brahm’s Concerto No. 2 in B –flat major.

Back at Ravinia for his 28th appearance since 1975, the 70-year-old Ax still has the powerful hands, agile fingers and emotion variations that won the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv in the 1974 and the Avery Fisher Prize in New York City in 1979.

Among the finest pianists of our time, Ax appeared to be having a love affair with the piano (or with Brahms) on Friday.

From hands crossing to land powerful chords and fingers flying across the keys to their producing lyrical waterfalls and gentle caresses, Ax married technique with sensitivity.

What audiences may not recall is that Brahms pays homage in Piano Concerto No. 2 to another instrument he likes to write for, the cello. In notes on the work, Brahms calls the section of the Andante that features a cello solo, a “concerto within a concerto.”

Ax is familiar with Brahms piano cello pairings. As a frequent partner with cellist Yo Yo Ma, the duo has won several Grammy Awards for their Brahms recordings.

As the strains of the last notes of Brahms second piano concerto echoed through the Pavilion, the audience rose, almost as one body, applauding loudly and long.

The double bill of bravo performances made Friday at Ravinia a night to remember.

(Friday was the second night to feature Beethoven symphonies and Brahms concertos. Thursday’s concert was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor followed by pianist Yefim Bronfman playing Brahms’ Concerto No. 1 in D minor.)

For more Ravinia concerts visit Ravinia/Calendar.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Around Town: Mid May has treats for the senses

Long Grove Chocolate Fest returns third weekend in May. (Photo courtesy of Long Grove)
Long Grove Chocolate Fest returns third weekend in May. (Photo courtesy of Long Grove)

Yummy sweets at Long Grove’s Chocolate Fest, fine art visual treasures of antiques and art at a Merchandise Mart show and fascinating sounds of Finnish music at Symphony Center are all on tap this weekend in the Chicago area.

Long Grove Chocolate Fest

From balsamics and bacon to popcorn and zucchini bread, just about everything imaginable that can infused, covered by or adorned with chocolate can be sampled and bought at the historic village of Long Grove May 17-19, 2019. Bands will also be playing throughout the event.

Details: Long Grove is near Routes 83 and Old Route 53 (about 35 miles northwest of Chicago). The festival is in the business district at the intersection of Old McHenry and Robert Parker Coffin Roads. Admission is $5 over age 12 per day, kids 12 and under free. Tickets can be purchased there or ahead of time by clicking HERE. However, parking is at a premium so there is a 2 for 1 admission discount up to 2 people who rideshare with uber/ lyft) and dropped at the Archer & Robert Parker Coffin Gate. Discount admission applies when upon showing the rideshare receipt at the gate.  Hours May 17 are noon to11 p.m., May 18 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and May 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information and the band schedule visit Long Grove/Chocolate-Fest.

 

Chicago Antiques + Art + Design

Explore the 7th floor of the Merchandise Mart where 75 national and international exhibitors have brought fine art, antiques and unusual design elements. The show runs May 17-19, 2019 but there is also a first-look preview Northwestern Memorial Hospital benefit on May 16.

Details: The Merchandise Mart is on the north side of the Chicago River at 222 Merchandise Plaza, bounded by Orleans and Kinzie. For tickets and hours visit ChicagoAntiquestArtDesign.

 

Finnish Masterwoks at Symphony Center

A mostly Finnish program that includes violinish Hilary Hahn playing Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, Einojuhani Rautavaara’s “A Requiem in Our Time” will by played by the Chicago Symphony Orchesra led by Mikko Franck, May 16, 17, 18 and 21 of 2019.  Also on the program is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. The progam is part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s season of “A time for reflection-A Message of Peace.”

Details: Hours are May 16 – 18 at 8 p.m., May 21 at 7:30 p.m. Symphony Center is at 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.  For tickets and other information visit CSO

Jodie Jacobs

 

Around town: Ethnic and scary events end the month of October

 

See Young Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein at the CSO (Photo courtesy of CSO)
See Young Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein at the CSO (Photo courtesy of CSO)

Frankenstein is back in town

See the scary “Bride of Frankenstein” and funny “Young Frankenstein” movies with background music by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.  Oct. 26 For tickets and other information call (312) 294-3000 and visit CSO.

Or see Remy Bumppo’s scary production of Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein,” Oct. 28-30 (Oct. 27, 27 and 31 are sold out) at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. For tickets and other information call (773) 975.8150 or visit RemyBumppo.

 

Historic African American Design exhibit

“2019 African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race” opens Oct. 27, at the Chicago Cultural Center. The exhibit runs the advertising gamut from illustration, cartoons, and graphic design to architectural signage, product and exhibit design and sign painting.

Located up on the fourth floor and continuing   through Mar. 3, 2019, the exhibiti s part of the current Art Design Chicago events that explore the city’s art and design history. Art Design Chicago is partially funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

The Chicago Cultural Center is at 78 E. Washington St. For more information visit City of Chicago.

 

Historic designs by African Americans on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
Historic designs by African Americans on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

 

Hobnob with mummies

The Oriental Institute, an internationally known center for study of ancient Middle Eastern civilizations, is holding Mummy Tours every half hour Oct 27 from 4 to 7 p.m. Space is limited so registration is  needed. Admission is free but adults are asked for a $5 donation.  The event also includes Mummy Simulations. Tickets to the Mummy Simulations (also every half hour) are free to adults, $3 per child, and can be purchased at the event.  For registration and other information visit Oriental Institute. .For questions call the OI Public Education Office at (773) 702-9507. The Oriental Institute is at 1155 E. 58th St. on the University of Chicago campus..

 

Dia De Los Muertos

Maxwell Street Market is celebrating the Day of the Dead Oct. 28 from 10:30 a.m. to-2 p.m. with the dedication of a surrealist Mexican mural, pumpkin carving. An ofrenda (altar) workshop, other arts and crafts and live music. The Maxwell Street Market is at 800 S. Des Plaines Ave. For event times and more information visit Maxwell Street Market.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

Ravinia Festival still draws the crowds

 

With such top drawing festivals and names as Pitchfork, Windy City Smokeout and Jimmy Buffett (among several others) filling  parks and fields all over Chicago this past weekend, you might think that a north suburban music outpost would not be jammed.

Yet Ravinia Festival in Highland Park packed them in for James Arthur, Fitz & The Tantrums and OneRepbulic, Saturday, and its Tchaikovsky Spectacular played by the CSO, Sunday.

Ravinia Festival was jammed an hour before the Tchaikovsky Spectacular Sunday. Jodie Jacobs photos
Ravinia Festival was jammed an hour before the Tchaikovsky Spectacular, Sunday. Jodie Jacobs photos

“Every inch of space and lawn was filled,” said a One Republic fan describing the Saturday scene.

If understandable for the pop rock genre, it might have come as a surprise to classical music lovers that the same was true on Sunday as visitors kept filing in and looking for even a few inches to sit and picnic.

The luckier folks, or make that those in the know, staked out their space two hours ahead of Sunday’s early, 5 p.m. concert start.

Spread out with a yummy-looking picnic under the trees before the crowds descended were The Nelson family who came from Chesterton and  West Lafayette, IN and from Evanston.

“We all came last year,” said Wendy Nelson, Evanston. The rest chimed in with “We enjoyed it so much wanted to do it again,” said Laura Nelson, West Lafayette; “You know, Purdue University,” husband Jeffrey said. They were there with parents Eileen and Roger Nelson, Chesterton. “I’m the patriarch,” said Roger.

The Nelson family, Jeffrey, Laura, Eileen, Wendy and Roger, arrived at Ravinia early to chat and find a choice picnic spot, Sunday.
The Nelson family, Jeffrey, Laura, Eileen, Wendy and Roger, arrived at Ravinia early to chat and find a choice picnic spot, Sunday.

By 4 p.m. the lawn was a sea of humanity. After the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, a sterling piano performance of Concerto No. 1 by Simon Trpceskiand and the Francesca da Rimini fantasy, came the 1812 Overture with real cannons in a roped off area.

When the smoke faded and the last note played, some people left to catch the Union Pacific North Line train but that didn’t make much of a dent in the crowd that still enjoyed getting together and picnicking on the lawn.

“Great concert,” said a guy from Glen Ellyn on his way to the parking lot.

Well, there are a lot more chances to come to Ravinia, this summer.

Long time Highland Parker Dan Pierce, a former IL State Representative and former Highland Park mayor, strides outside Ravinia's pavilion Sunday.
Long time Highland Parker Dan Pierce, a former IL State Representative and former Highland Park mayor, strides outside Ravinia’s pavilion Sunday.

The CSO returns July 18 with Yefim Bronfman playing Brahm’s Piano Conderto No. 2. The orchestra which makes Ravinia its summer home, will be back for several more concerts including July 20-21 to play Beethoven and Sibelius programs.

BTW, Tony Bennett returns Aug. 4. Hootie & the Blowfish founder Darius Rucker is at Ravinia the next night, Aug. 5.

Santana, the famed guitarist of Latin, rock an jazz fusion, is there Aug. 11-12  and  heartland rocker/rock and roll hall-of-famer John Mellencamp is coming for the first time to Ravinia Aug. 26-27.

Ravinia Festival is at 418 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park. For more schedule information, tickets, prices and parking, call (847) 266-5000 and visit Ravinia.

 

Four things to do this weekend

It’s easy to get so caught up in holiday shopping and preparations that before you know it you’ve missed a show or program you wanted to see. Here are four events for your calendar. Three will disappear after this weekend. The fourth one will take a winter break if you don’t catch it by next week.

Angela Ingersoll as Judy Garland in Porchlight production of "End of the Rainbow' Photo by Michelle Leatherby
Angela Ingersoll as Judy Garland in Porchlight production of “End of the Rainbow’ Photo by Michelle Leatherby

Experience  ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’  with James Stewart as George Bailey, at Orchestra Hall. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra accompanies the film with Dimitri Tiomkin’s score and the CSO Chorus, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. or 3 p.m. Dec. 10 or Dec. 11. Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago. Call (312)294-3000 or visit  CSO.

Reserve a ticket for ‘Handel’s Messiah’ with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Harris Theater for Music & Dance, 2015 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago. Call (312) 427-5620 or visit Apollo Chorus.

Catch Peter Quilter’s  ‘End of the Rainbow’ musical about Judy Garland before it leaves Dec. 11. It’s a wonderful Porchlight Music Theatre production that brings back her talent, songs and struggles. The show is at Stage 773, 1225 Belmont,  Chicago. Call (773) 327-5252 or visit Stage 773

Watch ‘The Magic Flute,’ a charming fairy tale opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Lyric Opera of Chicago will be performing the opera through Jan, 27, 2017 but to see it in 2016 go Dec. 10, 12 or 14. Running time is 3 hours 20 minutes including 1 intermission. The Lyric is at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Call (312) 827-5600 or visit Lyric Opera.