Ravinia Festival: It’s Pretty Remarkable How Exciting Baroque Music is

In its 52 years, Music of the Baroque has given hundreds of concerts in Chicago’s downtown and elsewhere in the city, but it has only ever played at Ravinia once.

To at least partially compensate for the Chicago chamber orchestra’s omission from the Ravinia roster, the organisation will present its first-ever concert in the festival’s 3,350-seat open-air pavilion on Sept. 3.

By making this appearance, Music of the Baroque’s music director Jane Glover will kick off her 20th season. “Of course, we’re thrilled to be going to Ravinia and on the main stage, too — that’s fabulous,” she said.

New Ravinia Festival president and CEO Jeffrey Haydon plan to expand the series to include more prominent Chicago-based ensembles, and he sees Music of the Baroque as a good fit.

He went on to say, “Obviously, we’re an international music festival, and we’re bringing artists from all over the country and all over the world, and that will continue to happen. But Chicago is also home to the music of international calibre, and just because it’s created here doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

He also noted that the laid-back setting at Ravinia is perfect for introducing listeners to music they may not be familiar with, such as the 17th and 18th-century sounds that Music of the Baroque focuses on.

If people give Music of the Baroque a chance, he’s sure they’ll enjoy it.

He said, “Close your eyes and listen to a harpsichord; then imagine that sound being played on an electric guitar. The harpsichord parts sound very “rock” at times. Incredibly, baroque music can be quite thrilling.

Glover took into account the outdoor venue’s potential inaudibility of some smaller-scale or quieter works when deciding on the concert’s repertoire.

You won’t hear “delicate Purcell or Vivaldi, that sort of thing,” she emphasised. It’s the big stuff that we’re taking care of right now.

Sticking to what she knows will work, she will only perform works by Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart, the four composers she considers to be the backbone of the Music of the Baroque repertoire.

A highlight of the concert will be the return of world-renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson, who first played at Ravinia in 1981 and is returning for his 41st performance there. To be performed by him is Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, “Jeunehomme.”

This will be Ohlsson’s first time performing with Music of the Baroque, even though he is a longtime friend of Glover’s and a Ravinia regular.

That’s why we’re so excited about his visit, Glover added. “I know his Mozart is magnificent, and we’ve done quite a bit of it together elsewhere,” she said. “He has such delicacy as well as such incredible strength.”

Although Haydn composed more than a hundred symphonies, the first piece on this programme is his Symphony No. 59 in A major, “Fire,” a crowd-pleaser that Glover praised for its “great humour and intensity.”

She praised your ability to find a masterpiece in the Haydn canon no matter where you positioned your pin.

Following Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, the audience will be treated to Handel’s ever-popular “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” which was composed specifically for a public performance in an open field.

After twenty years, the British conductor has no intention of leaving the Music of Baroque.

“Isn’t it stunning?” she said. I place a high value on this friendship. The city of Chicago has always felt like a musical home to me, and I always like returning there.

Ravinia Festival

There had been talks for years about bringing Music of Baroque back to Ravinia to celebrate the group’s 50th anniversary, but the COVID-19 closure prevented this from happening.

Intentions have been made to return to the festival in the future, potentially with a more experimental setlist.

It’s the start of a beautiful friendship,” Glover added.

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