The summer night was a glorious mid 70’s temperature with dappled sunlight filtering through the trees at Ravinia Festival. Picnickers spread their repasts across the grass behind the Pavilion and out across what patrons call The Lawn.
The music emanating from the Pavilion was an inspired duo of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”) that opened the program, followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. The Bernstein work was part of Ravinia’s tribute to the legendary composer/conductor on the anniversary of his 100th birthday.
Brilliantly played by the CSO and conducted by Marin Alsop, the works were well paired for their religious themes. Both first symphonies contained passages whose roots went back to Jewish ceremonial and folk music and both symphonies contained passages of protest.
But where Bernstein’s piece ended with “Lamentation” sung by mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, the Mahler concluded with a triumphal coda set against nature sounds originally heard in the introduction that left picnickers happily lingering a few minutes longer.
“Wasn’t that beautiful” said Trish who had come with husband Joe from Pingree Grove west of Elgin. “We enjoy just being out here,” she had said earlier after they set up under trees bordering the Lawn.
Talking about the high quality of the program and the low lawn price, Joe pointed out, “It’s a deal.”
Also coming in from Chicago’s western suburbs were Cindy and Jim from Wayne with Valerie and Steve from Kildeer whom they met at Ravinia a few years ago. “We love it here” said Valerie.
“We try to come anytime the CSO is playing,” said Cindy who added that she and Jim have been coming to Ravinia since 1982.
By the way, Sunday, Aug. 19 was the last Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert at Ravinia for the 2018 season. For Ravinia’s program during the remaining season visit Ravinia. The Ravinia Festival is between Sheridan Road and Green Bay Road just north of Lake Cook Road at 200 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park.