Last month’s downtown Beethoven Festival that had departing CSO principal conductor Bernard Haitink traversing all nine of the Beethoven symphonies across three weeks of concerts gets a magnificent and compact summer cadenza at Ravinia with a rare and wonderful opportunity to experience all five Beethoven piano concertos across two consecutive concerts.
Mexican-born pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, who has long made Highland Park his home but who had to prove himself the world over before being taken seriously as a rank concretizer of choice here will be the soloist, a coup for all involved. Ravinia is loosely attempting to tie in the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence to Osorio’s heritage, but an opportunity to hear a complete Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle with a pianist of Osorio’s caliber needs no such gimmickry and is a major musical statement in and of itself.
Mozart is often credited with creating the piano concerto as we know it, but it was Beethoven who not only gave the orchestra an expanded and eventually a role equal to that of the soloist, but who made the piano concerto a more personal vehicle of self-expression and emotion, marking the transition from Classicism to Romanticism.
Unlike the downtown Beethoven Festival, which presented Beethoven’s symphonies by juxtaposing the familiar and the less familiar in each concert, the piano concertos will be presented in chronological order, beginning with No. 2 (the earliest), No. 1 (the first published) and No. 3 on the Thursday evening, revealing the steps that Beethoven took from expansive Haydn and Mozart-like writing to heading towards Romanticism by No. 3, with Friday night’s concert showing the full-blown results of that revolution with the first true Romantic concertos of No. 4 and No. 5 (“the Emperor”). Ravinia music director James Conlon, a wonderful Beethovenian in his own right, will conduct. (Dennis Polkow)
July 15 (Concertos 2, 1 & 3), 8pm; July 16 (Concertos 4 & 5), 8pm, Ravinia Festival, Lake-Cook & Green Bay Roads, Highland Park, (847)266-5100. $10-$25.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: email@example.com