Ravinia Festival creates a chief conductor and curator position helmed by Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop conducted the CSO’s Bernstein and Mahler program in the Pavilion at Ravinia Festival August 19. (Patrick Gipson/Ravinia photo)
Marin Alsop conducted the CSO’s Bernstein and Mahler program in the Pavilion at Ravinia Festival August 19. (Patrick Gipson/Ravinia photo)

Ravinia goers may recall that Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonyh No. 1 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 were brilliantly played by the CSO and conducted by Marin Alsop in 2018. They may also remember that the conductor of the highly lauded Bernstein “Mass” performed July 2017 was also conducted by Alsop. The final protégé of Leonard Bernstein, Alsop was appointed in 2018 to curate Ravinia’s multi-season celebration of Bernstein.

This week, Ravinia announced that its Board of Trustees has named the highly regarded Alsop to the new position of Chief Conductor and Curator of Ravina Fesival beginning with the 2020 season.

In a statement released Feb. 5, 2020, Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman said the position was created specifically for Alsop who will be the first person to have the title in Ravinia’s 116-year history.

A two-year appointment, the position includes Alsop’s conducting two weeks of concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that include celebrating legendary women and the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

“Marin Alsop is a consummate musician whose varied experience throughout the world—from São Paulo to California, from Baltimore to Vienna—is unsurpassed,” said Kauffman.

Marin Alsop assumes new Ravinia Festival conductor/curator position. (Photo Grant Leighton)
Marin Alsop assumes new Ravinia Festival conductor/curator position. (Photo Grant Leighton)

“The fact that she enjoys and excels in the standard repertoire, new work, jazz, and musical theater makes her a perfect fit for Ravinia where we cross genres on a daily basis,” he said.

He added, “She gets everything that Ravinia is about—the tradition; the unique audience; the eclectic mix of music; the atmosphere and environment; the El Sistema approach to music education; our very insightful Ravinia Family of volunteers, trustees, and staff—and she is unfazed by the vagaries of working out of doors!”

Referring to Kauffman’s retiring from his postion this year, Ravinia Board of Trustees Chairman Don Civgin said, “In programming his final season at Ravinia, Welz advocated to create this role for Marin—a conductor of great global acclaim who also enjoys an intimate connection to Ravinia.”

Civain explained that Alsop and the new position would “maintain consistency”of the festival’s high artistic standards including booking artists, through this transitional period.

Referring to her times at Ravinia as  special,  Alsop said, “I’ve been involved in some extraordinary experiences at Ravinia, and have felt a real connection to the audiences, trustees, Women’s Board, and staff, and, of course, there’s nothing like standing in front of the inimitable Chicago Symphony Orchestra,”   She added, “I’m certain this appointment promises even more extraordinary experiences to come.”

The Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony and Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Alsop has earned myriad honors, including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the prestigious Association of British Orchestras Award.

Throughout this year’s 250th birthday celebration of Beethoven, in partnership with Carnegie Hall, she will lead a “Global Ode to Joy,” conducting 11 orchestras on six continents in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with local culture influencing the work, including a new interpretation of Schiller’s text in the last movement by Baltimore rapper Wordsmith.

In addition, she is very involved in music education, using an El Sistema-based method similar to what Ravinia uses to create student orchestras through its Reach Teach Play programs.

In 2020. Alsop will conduct Russian composers who influenced  Bernstein including Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, the “Leningrad” Symphony and ” Slava!”, the overture Bernstein composed for Mstislav Rostropovich’s first season leading the National Symphony Orchestra in 1977, plus Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 performed by Midori, a protégé of Isaac Stern. Stern’s own centennial is celebrated in 2020. (July 10)

Also on Alsop’s 2020 agenda is an “All-Rachmaninoff Evening” when she leads some of Rachmaninoff’s most beloved works, including his Vocalise for Orchestra, Piano Concerto No. 3, and Symphonic Dances. (July 11)

Other Alsop programs include ” Legendary Women’s Voices,” the Women’s
Board’s gala benefit (July 12); “Voices of Light,”  Richard Einhorn’s 1994 oratorio inspired by Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc in its CSO and Ravinia premieres (July 16) and “An Evening of Variations” with Jorge Federico Osorio performing Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody on a program that includes the Haydn Variations by Brahms and Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations,(July 17).

The complete Ravinia season will be announced on March 12. Donor ticketing begins on March 17, and public sales begin April 28 for June and July concerts and April 29 for August and September concerts, exclusively at Ravinia.org. Most CSO tickets are only $25 in the Pavilion or $9 on the Lawn when purchased as 10-punch passes. Individual Lawn tickets are as low as $10. Children and students through college are admitted free to the Lawn for all classical concerts at Ravinia including the CSO residency.

Ravinia has hosted the CSO in its summer residency since 1936.

Jodie Jacobs