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Ozawa headshotAs a last-minute replacement for Georges Prêtre in July 1963, Seiji Ozawa was called upon to lead the Orchestra in two concerts at the Ravinia Festival. The twenty-seven-year-old conductor made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on July 16 in Beethoven’s Leonore Overture no. 3, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Byron Janis, and Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony. Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune reported that Ozawa was “instantly in command when in possession of a baton and a musical idea. His conducting technique reminds you of his teacher, Herbert von Karajan, in that it lays the score in the lap of the Orchestra with transparency of gesture and human communication, then commands acceptance.” On July 18, he conducted Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Christian Ferras, Debussy’s Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, Takemitsu’s Requiem for Strings, and selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

Only a month later it was announced that Ozawa would become the Ravinia Festival’s first music director and resident conductor beginning with the 1964 season, replacing Walter Hendl, who had served as artistic director since 1959. For his first concert as music director on June 16, 1964, Ozawa led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Barber’s Piano Concerto with John Browning, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.

Reverse jacket of Angel Records recording of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, made at Medinah Temple on June 30 and July 1, 1969

Reverse jacket of Angel Records recording of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, made at Medinah Temple on June 30 and July 1, 1969

He served as music director of the Ravinia Festival through the 1968 season and as principal conductor for the 1969 season, returning regularly as a guest conductor. Ozawa most recently appeared there on July 14, 1985, leading Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in D major and Takemitsu’s riverrun with Peter Serkin, along with Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony.

Between 1965 and 1970—at both Orchestra Hall and in Medinah Temple— Ozawa and the Orchestra recorded a number of works for both Angel and RCA, including Bartók’s First and Third piano concertos and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with Peter Serkin, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade with concertmaster Victor Aitay, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

Some of this content was previously posted here; this article also appears here.

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Maurice Ravel program bioMaurice Ravel appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall on January 20 and 21, 1928, conducting a program of his works, including Sheherazade (with mezzo-soprano Lisa Roma), Daphnis and Chloe Suite no. 2, Le tombeau de Couperin, La valse, and his orchestration of Debussy’s Sarabande and Dance.

According to the review in the Chicago Tribune, “the audience cheered M. Ravel again and again, and at the end of the program the Orchestra, incited thereto by the audience and by the music it had been playing, gave him a prolonged and enthusiastic fanfare.”

Maurice Ravel program pageHowever, the real news of his appearance actually involved his shoes, as recounted in Madeleine Goss’s 1940 book Bolero: The Life of Maurice Ravel. “Just as Ravel was dressing for the concert he discovered that his evening shoes had been left in one of the trunks at the station. This was a major calamity. Wear his day shoes? Jamais de la vie! Maurice Ravel must be correctly—impeccably—dressed or he would not appear in public.

“In desperation, Mme Roma . . . dashed down in a taxi—rummaged through the trunks—back to the auditorium—the evening was saved.”

Some of this content was previously posted here; this article also appears here.

January 20 and 21, 1928

Maurice Ravel appeared with the Orchestra on one occasion, on January 20 and 21, 1928, conducting a program of his works, including Le tombeau de Couperin, the second suite from Daphnis and Chloe, Shéhérazade (with soprano Lisa Roma), and La valse. According to the review in the Chicago Tribune, “the audience cheered M. Ravel again and again, and at the end of the program the orchestra, incited thereto by the audience and by the music it had been playing, gave him a prolonged and enthusiastic fanfare.”

However, the real news of his appearance actually involved his shoes. The story is recounted in Madeleine Goss’s 1940 book Bolero: the Life of Maurice Ravel:

“Just as Ravel was dressing for the concert he discovered that his evening shoes had been left in one of the trunks at the station. This was a major calamity. Wear his day shoes? Jamais de la vie! Maurice Ravel must be correctly—impeccably—dressed or he would not appear in public.

“In desperation, Mme. Roma . . . dashed down in a taxi—rummaged through the trunks—back to the auditorium—the evening was saved.”

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Last night - Maestro Riccardo Muti and the CSO with pianist Kirill Gerstein (@kgerstein) perform Puccini’s Preludio sinfonico, R. Strauss’ Suite from Le bourgeois gentilhomme and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1. Photos by @toddrphoto.

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