Music of the Baroque has performed hundreds of concerts in downtown Chicago and elsewhere in the city over its 52-year history, but it has only played Ravinia Festival once, and that was nine years ago.
To at least partially rectify the Chicago Chamber Orchestra’s absence from Ravinia’s lineup, the band will perform their first-ever concert in the festival’s 3,350-seat outdoor pavilion on September 3.
“Of course we’re excited to be going to Ravinia and to the main stage as well – it’s fabulous,” said Jane Glover, who will begin her 20th season as Music of the Baroque’s musical director with the appearance.
One of the initiatives of Jeffrey Haydon, who took over as president and CEO of Ravinia Festival in 2020, is to bring more high-profile bands from the Chicago area to the series, and he think Music of the Baroque fits the bill.
“Obviously we’re an international music festival,” he said, “and we bring artists from all over the country and around the world, and that will continue to happen. But we also have music of international quality that takes place in Chicago, and it is not because it is local that it should be neglected.
At the same time, he said, Ravinia’s relaxed atmosphere is ideal for introducing audiences to new styles or periods of music they may not be familiar with, such as the sounds of the 17th and 18th centuries. in which Baroque music specializes.
He is convinced that listeners who give Baroque music a chance will like what they hear.
“If you close your eyes and listen to harpsichord,” he says, “and translate that into electric guitar, it’s actually pretty close. A lot of these harpsichord parts are pretty rock. It’s quite remarkable how exciting baroque music is.
In choosing the repertoire for this concert, Glover considered the outdoor setting, where it can be difficult for some small-scale or quieter works to register.
“We’re not going to play delicate Purcell or Vivaldi, that sort of thing,” she said. “We do the most important things.”
It sticks to what has been proven and features works by the four famous composers it considers to be the mainstays of the Baroque music repertoire – Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart.
The concert will also feature renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson, returning for his 41st concert at Ravinia, having first performed at the festival in 1981. He will be the soloist for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major , ” Young man “.
While Ohlsson is an old friend of Glover and a Ravinia regular, this will be his first time with Music of the Baroque.
“So we’re thrilled he’s coming,” Glover said. “He has such delicacy as well as such power, and I know his Mozart is glorious, and we’ve done quite a bit of that together elsewhere.”
Haydn wrote more than 100 symphonies, and this program kicks off with the less frequently heard Symphony No. energy”.
“Wherever you put the pin on the list of Haydn symphonies, you always find something spectacular,” she said.
After Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, the program ends with Handel’s ever-popular ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’, written for an outdoor setting like the one in which it will be performed.
“So it absolutely comes home, in a sense,” Glover said.
The September 3 concert also marks Glover’s second festival appearance, adding something of an encore to Ravinia’s July 29-31 mini-festival, “Breaking Barriers: Women on the Podium.” She is one of more than 100 famous conductors whose stories are featured in an outdoor exhibit this summer on the grounds of Ravinia.
The British conductor marks two decades with Music of Baroque and has no plans of leaving anytime soon.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? ” she says. “It’s a relationship that I value very much. Every time I come to Chicago I feel like I’m coming home musically.
Music of Baroque’s return to Ravinia had been under discussion for several years, with a tentative idea that it might happen around the band’s 50th anniversary, but the COVID-19 shutdown made that impossible.
Conversations are already underway about future festival appearances, perhaps featuring more adventurous repertoire.
“I hope,” Glover said, “this is the start of a great relationship.”