Next season, the Ravinia Festival will mark the 80th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual residency, and it also will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the debut of conductor James Levine, steward of the CSO summer residency for 20 years. In other highlights of the 2016 season, the festival will welcome six new faces to the podium, four of whom also will be making their CSO debuts, as well as a range of guest soloists, from Nicola Benedetti and Alisa Weilerstein to Itzhak Perlman and Lynn Harrell. Also on tap: the Midwest premiere of the blockbuster film “Titanic” with live orchestra.
“We’re very excited to present the 2016 lineup of esteemed favorites and new experiences, in terms of both repertoire and artists,” said Welz Kauffman, Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman, in announcing details Aug. 25 of the 2016 CSO residency, which will begin July 12 and run through Aug. 21. “One of the greatest strengths of Ravinia is its ability offer something for everyone, and we have high expectations that next summer’s programs will satisfy the connoisseur as well as the first-time listener. Building the audience for symphonic music — especially enticing younger listeners — is job No. 1 for Ravinia.”
To that end, the festival will continue its practice of pricing most pavilion seats for all CSO concerts at $25 each; lawn tickets for most of those nights remain at $10, or as little as $7 each with Ravinia’s 10-punch lawn pass. Children and students through college are admitted free to all classical concerts.
Here’s the lineup for the CSO’s 17-concert residency in 2016:
JULY 12: The opening night concert features the American premiere of jazz legend Wynton Marsalis’ first violin concerto, co-commissioned by Ravinia for Nicola Benedetti and conducted by Cristian Măcelaru, winner of the 2014 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award and conductor-in-residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra, in his Ravinia debut. The concert marks the return of the violinist who first appeared at the festival in 2012 with her piano trio and as a soloist with the CSO under Christoph Eschenbach.
JULY 13: Măcelaru again will be on the podium for the Midwest premiere of Holst’s The Planets paired with a film prepared by NASA that “reveals the wonder of our solar system,” shown on screens in the pavilion and on the lawn. It will be followed by Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, now ingrained in pop culture as the theme to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine.
JULY 16: After a nearly decade-long absence from the festival, Sir Andrew Davis, music director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, returns to conduct the CSO in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Alisa Weilerstein as the soloist.
JULY 20: Rising conductor Vasily Petrenko makes his Ravinia debut in a program of Richard Strauss’ tone poem Don Juan, Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist.
JULY 23: As previously announced former Ravinia music director James Levine will celebrate the 45th anniversary of his Highland Park debut by returning to the festival for the first time since 1993. Levine ascended to the festival’s music director post two years after conducting Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony for Ravinia’s gala concert on June 24, 1971, as a last-minute substitute; for this concert, he will lead rhe Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the same work for the 50th annual Gala Benefit Evening.
JULY 26: Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Ravinia’s 2016 selection for its One Score, One Chicago initiative, will be presented in a production created by Janni Younge of Handspring Puppet Company, widely praised for its London and Broadway spectacular “War Horse.” Ben Gernon makes his CSO and Ravinia debuts conducting the program, which also features Debussy’s La mer and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes.
JULY 29-30: Ravinia presents the Midwest premiere of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster “Titanic” with live orchestra, conducted here by Ludwig Wicki. The film, which received 11 Oscars, including for best song (“My Heart Will Go On”) and best score (James Horner, who died in a plane crash this summer), also holds the record for the best-selling orchestral soundtrack of all time. A chorus and soprano soloist, who will sing the film’s Irish-tinged vocalizations (as well as the theme song made famous by Celine Dion), will join the CSO onstage.
AUG. 2: One of the world’s hottest young pianists, Daniil Trifonov, will perform Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the CSO. Trifonov was introduced to Chicago audiences at Ravinia as part of its $10 BGH Classics series, and last spring he earned rave reviews for his performances of Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto with the orchestra at Symphony Center. Gustavo Gimeno, newly named music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic, makes his CSO and Ravinia debuts conducting the program, which also features Dvořák’s New World”Symphony.
AUG. 3: Pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane will feature Gershwin’s swirling showpiece Rhapsody in Blue, led from the keyboard. He then will take to the podium and strike up the band for two sets of symphonic dances by Rachmaninov and Bernstein.
AUG. 5: Kirill Karabits, principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, makes his dual Ravinia and CSO debuts in a program of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring soloist Paul Lewis, and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.
AUG. 9-10: Conductor David Zinman returns to Ravinia for the first time in over two decades for back-to-back programs featuring symphonies by Brahms. On Aug. 9, Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 is paired with Bernstein’s Second Symphony, also known as “The Age of Anxiety.” The latter work doubles as a piano concerto and will feature Misha Dichter in his first appearance with the CSO at Ravinia since 2007. On Aug. 10, Zinman will lead the CSO in Brahms’ First Symphony as well as Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto, with Gil Shaham as the featured soloist.
AUG. 12: Superstars violinist Joshua Bell and trumpeter Chris Botti join forces with the CSO for a potpourri of classical, jazz, and symphonic pops led by George Hanson, a Bernstein protégé, in his Ravinia debut (Botti also marks his CSO debut on this program).
AUG. 20: Beethoven is the sole focus of this program, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and featuring the composer’s Symphony No. 7. Legendary virtuoso Itzhak Perlman will be the soloist in the composer’s impassioned Violin Concerto.
AUG. 21: Closing out the 2016 CSO residency, Perlman will take podium to conduct Ravinia’s annual “Tchaikovsky Spectacular,” which concludes with the festival’s signature presentation of the 1812 Overture, complete with live cannon fire. Along with those pyrotechnics, cellist Lynn Harrell, returning to Ravinia for the first time since 2007, will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. Perlman also leads the CSO in the composer’s songful Fifth Symphony, rounding out the program with the work’s transformation of darkness into triumph.