Sunday, July 11, 2010

An Evening at the Ravinia Music Festival

It is not convenient getting from Downers Grove to the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. When we go, we want to make the best of it. Friday we went and discovered two-for-one tickets in the Pavilion for the all Mozart program directed by Pinchas Zuckerman, at which he played three violin solos. His daughter Arianna also sang from two Mozart vocal works. It was her Ravinia debut, but he has been there many times. Ironically, he was the conductor the only other time I sat in the Pavilion twenty or so years ago. We usually buy less expensive lawn tickets and spread out with our picnic. But yesterday was different, and we sat on the right side five rows from the cellos and bass players. I could see the scratches on the basses and how the cellos seemed to come in different shades of brown.

A second factor in our buying the Pavilion tickets was that it allowed us to also attend the Steans Institute Young Artists' Concert at 5:45 p.m. in the Bennett-Gordon Hall in the John D. Harza Building on the Ravinia campus. The young musicians come from around the world for classes with distinguished faculty, including Miriam Fried and Leon Fleisher. In the biographies in the recital program, there were many references in student and faculty profiles to the New England Conservatory of Music. On the program was a Beethoven piano sonata, a Debussy string quartet, and a Dvořák viola quintet, each approaching half an hour. We got more music than we expected. I particularly liked the Debussy while Bonnie favored the Dvořák.

We hardly had time to eat our salads and desserts before we took our seats in the Pavilion, where, as I said before we sat very close. I found it easy to watch Zuckerman conducting. Unlike my band directors in high school, "Pinkie" (as the frequent Ravinia concertgoer next to us called him) did not seem to be keeping the beat. He was swinging around and pointing and looking around. Strangely, it did not appear to me that many of the orchestra members were actually watching him. Instead, they were intently reading their music. Professionals that they are, they stuck together anyway. I enjoyed hearing the lively and familiar pieces.

The final half of the concert was Mozart's Symphony no. 40 in G minor, a very recognizable piece. I call still hear it a day later. Ta TA TA ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. It was a fitting end to a great evening of music. We have been tending toward attending Grant Park concerts more lately, but Ravinia can still deliver.

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