My First Ravinia Experience

Last week, my family and I attended two concerts at Ravinia, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. My recent positive concert-going experiences lead me to see what the CSO had on the schedule for this summer. To my amazement, they were performing Symphonie Fantastique and Rite of Spring on consecutive nights. I simply had to go. Not only are these two of the most important works in the musical canon, but, as all tuba players know, both of these pieces call for TWO tubas!

We took Megabus from Iowa City into Union Station in Chicago, and walked the two blocks to the Ogilvie Transportation Center (OTC), which was our connection to the Metra rail up to Ravinia. We were very impressed with OTC. Housed in a steel and glass Emerald-City-esque sky scraper, the center includes dozens of shops, stores, and services; including a Dunkin’ Donuts, bookstores, a bar, and a Fedex store, which came in handy to print out our tour bus tickets from my email. The Metra seemed clean, efficient, and inexpensive and got us back and forth from our hotel to downtown Chicago. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriot in Highland Park, which was only a few miles from the Metra and Ravinia.

On Thursday, July 7th, we headed to Ravinia for the first of two concerts; piano soloist Lang Lang playing Chopin and Liszt with Christoph Eschenbach conducting. The second half featured the Berlioz, so I moved from our blanket on the lawn to my seat in the pavilion. Morris Kainuma played second tuba to Gene Pokorny, and they sounded fantastic!

The next day, we rode a double-decker tour bus all around Chicago, and I finally got a good overview of this grand city. I was very impressed by the architecture, the cleanliness, and the friendliness of the city, and we really want to visit on a regular basis.

On Friday night, I really enjoyed my front row seat. André Watts performed Liszt, and I was struck at not only his musicality, but at how relaxed he looked. Listening to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring has always been a very powerful experience for me, and the second half did not disappoint. I got an up close and personal view of one of the most amazing orchestras in the world, playing probably the most important compositions of the 20th century.

TubaHead Alert: Gene Pokorny will be performing the Vaughan Williams tuba concerto four times next season; May 16-19, 2012. Order your tickets in advance!

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