CSO: Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

Saturday, July 13, 2019
4:30 PM
Donor Gates Open
5:00 PM
Public Gates Open
7:30 PM
Concert Starts

Tickets: $95 / $35
Lawn: $15

Lineup Change: Conductor Lionel Bringuier is recovering from an illness and therefore is unable to conduct tonight's concert. Ravinia is grateful to the Grammy Award-winning Andrew Litton, who will conduct.


Ravel:   Mother Goose Suite
Stravinsky:   The Firebird Suite (1919 version)
Gershwin:   Cuban Overture
Gershwin:   Concerto in F

Program Notes

  • When Walt Disney produced the original Fantasia in 1940, his vision included releasing new editions with different musical selections every few years, but the onset of World War II (and underwhelming box office returns) stymied those plans. Nonetheless, narrator Deems Taylor had already recorded introductions for several works that Disney wanted to feature in future Fantasias, including The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky, whose The Rite of Spring was part of the 1940 release.
  • Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird finally made an edition of Disney’s Fantasia when a new film was produced for the new millennium, featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the soundtrack. Four sections of the popular 1919 Firebird Suite were ultimately selected to be the closing segment of Fantasia 2000, achieving an emotional climax similar to the combination of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Schubert’s Ave Maria that concluded the original 1940 film.


  • Igor Stravinsky was frequently a focus in Leonard Bernstein’s work as America’s music teacher, including in his Young People’s Concerts, his appearances on the Omnibus TV series, and two of his lectures as the Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard (the “Norton Lectures”).
  • During a vacation to Havana that George Gershwin described as “two hysterical weeks … where no sleep was had,” he was roused one morning by a 16-piece rumba band. Fascinated with the rhythms, Gershwin returned to New York with several of the instruments in tow and set to writing the Cuban Overture. He even sketched them into the title page for his score, indicating where he thought the players should be on stage: “right in front of the conductor’s stand.”
  • George Gershwin couldn’t escape reminders of his fame. After the 1932 premiere of his Cuban Overture—at an athletic stadium that doubled as an amphitheater, on a program devoted to his music—the composer/pianist commented that it was “the most exciting night I have ever had. … 17,845 people paid to get in, and just about 5,000 were at the closed gates trying to fight their way in—unsuccessfully.”
  • Gershwin would have a similar experience four years later in his lone appearance at Ravinia, where concertgoers scaled the trees in hopes of catching a glimpse of him over the capacity crowd. He again gave a glowing account of the experience: “A more delightful spot for a concert I cannot imagine. I have never seen so distinguished a crowd at a summer concert, and their response was heartwarming. That evening at Ravinia will have a niche all its own in my pleasant memories.” The program featured Gershwin playing both the Rhapsody in Blue and his Concerto in F.
  • With his New York Symphony Orchestra famed for performances of expressive French and Russian repertoire, conductor Walter Damrosch found much to like in George Gershwin’s music. After Rhapsody in Blue became a resounding sensation, he commissioned a new piano concerto from Gershwin, which became the Concerto in F. Unlike in the Rhapsody, Gershwin completed all the music himself, making it clear that he had grown beyond Tin Pan Alley tunesmith and was a bona-fide classical composer.
  • Ever attuned to making his music essentially American, George Gershwin infused the Concerto in F not only with the vivacious and enthusiastic spirit of the Charleston dance, but also the poetic repose of the blues at its center.
  • Though belonging to different artistic circles in France and America, Maurice Ravel and George Gershwin shared a unique bond through jazz. During the time Gershwin was abroad writing An American in Paris, Ravel resisted the composer/pianist’s request to study with him, stating, “Why become a second-rate Ravel when you’re already a first-rate Gershwin?” In fact, jazz underpinned Ravel’s Piano Concerto, which was written around that same time, in part because of his admiration of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F. Good friends Lionel Bringuier and Jean-Yves Thibaudet have this repertoire in their DNA, presenting “rollicking hijinks … and jazzy outbursts [with] incredible lightness of touch” (Seen and Heard International).

Park Details

Performance shown on lawn video screen