The music of the Baroque concert at Ravinia marks the orchestra’s debut in the pavilion

Music of the Baroque has presented hundreds of concerts in downtown Chicago and elsewhere throughout the city during its 52-year history, but it has performed only once at the Ravinia Festival, and that was nine years ago.

To at least partially remedy the absence of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra from the Ravinia lineup, the group will present its first-ever concert in the festival’s 3,350-seat open-air pavilion on September 3.

“Of course, we’re excited to be going to the Ravinia and to the main stage, too — that’s great,” said Jane Glover, who will begin her 20th season as music director of Music of the Baroque with this presentation.

One of the initiatives of Jeffrey Haydon, who took over as Ravinia Festival president and CEO in 2020, is to bring more top-tier Chicago-area bands to the series, and he believes Music of the Baroque fits the bill.

“Obviously, we’re an international music festival,” he said, “and we’re bringing in artists from all over the country and all over the world, and that will continue to happen. But we also have international-quality music going on in Chicago, and just because it’s native doesn’t mean it should be overlooked.”

At the same time, he said, the relaxed atmosphere at Ravinia 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 Music specializes. of the Baroque.

He’s confident that listeners who give Music of the Baroque a chance will like what they hear.

“If you close your eyes and listen to the harpsichord,” he said, “and translate that to the electric guitar, it’s actually pretty close. A lot of these harpsichord parts are pretty stony. It’s amazing how exciting baroque music is.”

In choosing the repertoire for this concert, Glover took into account the outdoor setting, where some smaller or quieter works can be difficult to record.

“We’re not going to play subtle Purcell or Vivaldi, anything like that,” she said. “We’re doing the biggest things.”

She sticks to the tried and true, featuring works by the four famous composers she sees as the pillars of the Baroque music repertoire – Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart.

The concert will also spotlight renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson, returning for his 41st Ravinia concert, who first performed at the festival in 1981. He will be soloist in the Concert of Piano No. Mozart’s 9 in E-flat Major, “Jeunehomme.”

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson will perform with Music of the Baroque at Ravinia.

While Ohlsson is a longtime friend of Glover’s and a regular at Ravinia, this will be his first time with Music of the Baroque.

“So we’re excited that he’s coming,” Glover said. “He has such delicacy as well as such power, and I know his Mozart is glorious and we have done many things together elsewhere.”

Haydn wrote more than 100 symphonies, and this program begins with Symphony No. 59 in A major, “Fire,” an audience-pleasing work that Glover described as “with great wit and energy.”

“Wherever you put the needle on Haydn’s symphony list, you always come up with something spectacular,” she said.

After Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, the program concludes with Handel’s ever-popular “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” which was written for an outdoor setting like the one in which it will be performed.

“So it absolutely hits home, in a sense,” Glover said.

The Sept. 3 concert also marks Glover’s second festival appearance, adding an encore of sorts to Ravinia’s July 29-31 minifest, Breaking Barriers: Women on Podium. She is one of more than 100 famous women conductors whose stories are featured in an outdoor exhibit this summer on the Ravinia grounds.

The British conductor is marking two decades with Music of Baroque and has no plans to leave anytime soon.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she said. “It is a relationship that I value very much. Every time I come to Chicago, I feel like I’m coming home to music.”

The return of baroque music to Ravinia had been under discussion for several years, with a tentative idea that it might happen around the group’s 50th anniversary, but the COVID-19 shutdown made that impossible.

Talks are already underway about future appearances at the festival, perhaps with a more adventurous repertoire.

“Hopefully,” Glover said, “this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”

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