Gershwin and Bernstein

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Christoph Eschenbach, Conductor
Tzimon Barto, Piano
Time For Three

Friday, July 24, 2009
4:30 PM
Donor Gates Open
5:00 PM
Public Gates Open
8:00 PM
Concert Starts
Reserved $65/$45/$25
Lawn $10


Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Concerto 4-3
    The Shallows
    Little River
    Roaring Smokies

Time for Three


Concerto in F
    Andante con moto
    Allegro agitato

Tzimon Barto

About The Artist

Mentored by George Szell and Herbert von Karajan, conductor and pianist Christoph Eschenbach went on to serve as chief conductor and artistic director of the Tonhalle Orchestra (1982-86). He is currently in his ninth season as music director of the Orchestre de Paris and in great demand as a guest conductor with the finest orchestras and opera houses throughout the world. Recently named the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra as well as music director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Eschenbach will play a key role in planning future seasons, international festivals, and special projects for these institutions beginning in fall 2010. He is also the principal conductor of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival International Orchestral Academy, a position he has held since 2004. Last season Eschenbach conducted the Orchestre de Paris and BBC Proms and led the Philadelphia Orchestra on a tour of Europe. He also appeared with the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden, London Philharmonic and NDR Symphony in Hamburg, where he served as music director from 1998-2004. In addition he made his conducting debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and had a reengagement with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia Festival, where he was music director from 1994 to 2003. As a pianist he continues his collaboration with baritone Matthias Goerne, with whom he will record and perform Schubert’s three song cycles over the next two years. His many honors include the Légion d’Honneur, Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Officer’s Cross with Star and Ribbon of the German Order of Merit. Christoph Eschenbach made his Ravinia Festival debut as pianist in 1973 and as conductor in 1978.

Born and raised in Eustis, Florida, Tzimon Barto began his piano studies at age 5. He was a student of Adele Marcus at The Juilliard School, where he won the Gina Bachauer Competition for two consecutive years as well as the school’s concerto competition. Having made his United States debut with the Boston Symphony, Barto has since enjoyed major successes with the New York Philharmonic; the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras; the Chicago, Houston, National and San Francisco symphonies; and orchestras in El Paso, Anchorage, Evansville and Orlando. Barto also enjoys a distinguished career in Europe, where he has performed with such orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Kirov Orchestra, London Philharmonic and l’Orchestre National de France. More recently he appeared with the Staatskapelle Dresden, Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, NDR Hamburg, ONE Madrid, Orchestre de Paris, Czech Philharmonic and Wiener Symphoniker, as well as at the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, where he performed with the Kirov Orchestra under Valerie Gergiev. Other recent highlights include a tour of Switzerland with the orchestra of the Musikkollegium Winterthur as well as duo piano recitals with Christoph Eschenbach. Barto’s numerous recordings for EMI include concertos by Ravel, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Bartók, Liszt and Chopin. He has also recorded Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain and solo works by Schumann and Liszt, as well as a disc of popular encores. New releases in 2009 include works by Haydn and Brahms. In addition to his active performing and recording career, Barto is an accomplished conductor, composer, author and poet. Tzimon Barto made his Ravinia Festival debut in 1989 and has performed at the festival nearly every year since.

What started as a trio of musicians who played together for fun while students at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute for Music evolved into Time for Three, or Tf3 for short. Violinists Zachary De Pue and Nicolas Kendall first discovered their mutual love of fiddling in the country/Western and bluegrass styles before bassist Ranaan Meyer introduced them to his deep roots in jazz and improvisation. After considerable experimentation, the three formed Tf3, which transcends traditional classification, with elements of classical, country/Western, gypsy and jazz idioms forming a blend all its own. Tf3 sets itself apart not only with its varied repertoire, but also through its approach. Its high-energy performances are free of conventional practices, drawing instead on the members’ differing musical backgrounds. The trio also performs its own arrangements of traditional repertoire, and Meyer provides original compositions to complement the trio’s offerings. To date the group has performed more than 200 engagements as diverse as its music—from being featured guest soloists with the Philadelphia Orchestra to opening for k.d. lang at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. The trio is committed to reaching younger audiences and has participated in a number of educational residencies and outreach concerts, including Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Fox’s Good Morning Philadelphia telecast from the Kimmel Center and the Liberty Awards Ceremony honoring Colin Powell. The group recorded the soundtrack to the History Channel’s production The Spanish-American War and will soon release its third CD. Their first recording, Time for Three, was released in October 2002 and was followed in January 2006 by We just burned this for you! Tonight marks Time for Three’s Ravinia Festival debut.

Program Notes


Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Scored for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, one E-flat, two B-flat and bass clarinets, alto saxophone, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, a battery of percussion, xylophone, vibraphone, celeste, chimes, harp, piano and strings

West Side Story began as the brainchild of writer Arthur Laurents, choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein. Robbins proposed that this musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet be given a modern, slum setting during Easter/Passover with a violent conflict between Catholics and Jews. However, a struggle along religious lines quickly lost its appeal. The three men dropped the idea and went their separate ways. This was 1949.

Six years later the Romeo and Juliet idea resurfaced during a poolside conversation at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In the aftermath of gang warfare in the Mexican community, Laurents and Bernstein introduced a new spin: a clash between Hispanic and Anglo gangs. Laurents then suggested “the blacks and Puerto Ricans in New York, because this was the time of the appearance there of teenage gangs, and the problem of juvenile delinquency was very much in the news. It started to work.” Lyricist Stephen Sondheim, the final member of the creative team, joined in 1955. The plot continued to evolve. Several permutations of the title reflected changes in geography and emphasis: first East Side Story, then Gangway! and finally the finger-snapping West Side Story. The show opened on August 19, 1957, at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., and later moved to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theater on September 26, 1957, where it ran for 732 performances.

Direct parallels with Romeo and Juliet abound. Two battling factions suggest the Capulets and Montagues. A generic Anglo gang, the Jets, defends its turf against the influx of Hispanic youths, the Sharks. The tragic lovers Maria (Juliet), a Puerto Rican girl, and Tony (Romeo), a member of the Jets, meet and fall in love at a school dance (the ball). Bernardo (Tybalt), Maria’s brother, kills Tony’s best friend, Riff (Mercutio). Tony exacts revenge by murdering Bernardo. In the end Tony dies in Maria’s arms. West Side Story was nominated for a Tony Award, but lost to Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. A film adaptation appeared in 1961 and went on to win 10 Oscars, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the same year Bernstein compiled the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story with orchestration assistance from Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal (a Chicago native), both of whom enjoyed successful careers arranging and orchestrating for stage and film.


Concerto 4-3

Scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, marimba, temple blocks, sand paper blocks, tambourine, bass drum, Chinese suspended cymbal, tamtam, vibraphone, glockenspiel, guiro, cabasa, egg shaker or small maraca, suspended cymbal, strings and solo string trio (two violins and double bass)

Born in Brooklyn, raised in Georgia and Tennessee and now a resident of Philadelphia, Jennifer Higdon has emerged during the past decade as one of America’s most distinctive and prominent compositional voices. Higdon began composing while a student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where she majored in flute performance (though self-taught as a flutist, her compositions, particularly Rapid Fire for solo flute, reveal an extraordinary mastery of the instrument). After receiving an artist’s diploma from The Curtis Institute of Music, Higdon completed master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied with George Crumb. She currently serves on the composition faculty at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as holder of the Milton L. Rock Chair in Compositional Studies. 

Higdon has garnered numerous prestigious awards (Academy of Arts and Letters, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Guggenheim Fellowship, Indiana State University/Louisville Orchestra Orchestral Competition, International Alliance of Women in Music Composition Competition, Ithaca College’s Heckscher Prize, Pew Fellowship in the Arts and University of Delaware New Music Competition) and grants (American Composers Forum, Mary Flagler Charitable Trust, Meet the Composer, Musical Fund Society, National Endowment for the Arts and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts). Additionally she has served as guest composer with several organizations, among them the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, Ithaca College, Mannes College’s The New School for Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Philadelphia Singers, Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and University of Texas at Austin. In 2004 at Ravinia’s Gala Benefit Evening, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed the world premiere of her work Loco, one of a series of train-related works Ravinia commissioned as part of the park’s centennial.

Recordings of Higdon’s music by Eighth Blackbird and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Robert Spano have received two Grammy Awards and three more Grammy nominations. Higdon also earned the Critic’s Choice for Best New Piece of Classical Music from USA Today for her orchestral work Shine (1996), and Gramophone magazine named her Composer of the Year in June 2008. Recent compositions include a series of concertos for orchestra (2002, The Philadelphia Orchestra), oboe (2005), percussion (2005), trombone (2005), piano (2006), soprano saxophone (2007, Tim McAllister); for violin, chorus and orchestra (The Singing Rooms, 2008, Jennifer Koh), string trio (2008, Time for Three) and violin (2008, Hilary Hahn). Other new works of note are Blue Cathedral for orchestra (1999), City Scape (2002, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) and a forthcoming composition for harp and flute quartet (2009).

Higdon composed Concerto 4-3 for the classical/bluegrass/jazz/country-fusion string trio Time for Three (violinists Zachary De Pue and Nicholas Kendall and double bassist Ranaan Meyer), which gave the premiere on January 10, 2008, with conductor Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The score was commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Wheeling Symphony Orchestra as part of the Meet the Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program.

This exhilarating new work has enjoyed numerous performances since its premiere, inspiring enthusiastic audience and critical acclaim. “For those still attempting to define what American music is,” wrote a reviewer in the IAWM [International Alliance for Women in Music] Journal, “they need look no further. Concerto 4-3 conveys an extreme energy that complements the music’s excitement.”

In the words of Jennifer Higdon: “Concerto 4-3 is a three-movement work that uses the language of Classical music, with dashes of bluegrass technique, to highlight the virtuosity and energy of this inspiring group. I have known Zach, Nick and Ranaan for quite some time, first as students at Curtis and now as professionals working in the music field. Being aware of all of the types of music that they play (bluegrass, rock, Bach, Beatles) gave me a starting point of inspiration for creating a piece that would spotlight their joy in performing, soulful musicality and prodigious skill.

“The work is divided into three movements, with the option for the group to perform cadenzas between each movement. In these performances, Tf3 will be performing a cadenza between movements one and two. The movement titles refer to images from the Smoky Mountains (where I grew up in East Tennessee): ‘The Shallows,’ ‘Little River’ and ‘Roaring Smokies.’ I wanted to reference the Smokies because East Tennessee was the first place that I really experienced bluegrass (or, as they call it there, mountain music).

“The first movement, ‘The Shallows,’ incorporates Time for Three’s unique string techniques, which constitute extended techniques that mimic everything from squeaking mice to electric guitars. They are able to shift quickly between these techniques and a straight bluegrass style without hesitation. Their ability to do this so smoothly reminded me of the parts of the mountain rivers that move in shallow areas, where small rocks and pebbles make for a rapid ride that moves a rafter quickly from one side of the river to the other.

“The second movement, ‘Little River,’ is slow-moving and lyrical, very much in hymn-like fashion. This movement reflects the beauty of Little River as it flows through Townsend and Walland, Tennessee. At times there is real serenity and a majestic look to the water, with no movement obvious on the surface—it resembles pure glass. I was sitting on the back porch of Little River Barbecue during a gentle rain when I thought of the design and ‘sound’ of this movement.

“The third movement, ‘Roaring Smokies,’ is a fire-like virtuosic movement that shifts and moves very much like a raging river (those wild mountain waters that pour out of the Smokies). It is fun to swim in those cold waters, but your attention must always be alert, as danger lurks—the water goes where it wants and will take you with it.

“While Concerto 4-3 (referring to the Time for Three name) is written in the classical vein, certain bluegrass techniques have been incorporated into the fabric of the piece: emphasis on offbeats, open strings and slides. But the language is definitely tonal, 21st-century and American-sounding in style.”


Concerto in F

Scored for three flutes, three oboes, three clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, strings and solo piano

Gershwin’s music for solo piano and orchestra received mixed reviews. Critic Paul Rosenfeld judged rather harshly: “It is only very superficially a whole, actually a heap of extremely heterogeneous minor forms and expressions.” Others recognized the significance of Gershwin’s music to a distinctly American tradition. Henry O. Osgood found these pieces “representative of a successful attempt to graft upon the great tree of legitimate music little offshoots of that vigorous sapling which is the only really original thing America has produced in music—jazz.”

Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra, admired Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue enough to commission a large-scale piano concerto for the 1925-26 season at Carnegie Hall. Damrosch also possessed an astute business sense. A new piece by Gershwin, who was featured in a Time magazine cover story (July 20, 1925), was sure to draw an audience. Contracts were signed, and Gershwin began sketching his New York Concerto, later renamed Concerto in F. Previous obligations took him out of the country for a London production of his musical Tell Me More. Back in New York Gershwin composed and orchestrated the Concerto in F between July and November. He scheduled a run-through two weeks before the premiere, hiring the orchestra out of his own pocket. The first performance took place on December 3, 1925, with Gershwin as soloist. 

Broadly speaking, the Concerto in F adheres to the traditional three-movement design of the Classical concerto. However, the musical details originate in a different musical world, that of dance and song. From the sketch stage, Gershwin viewed his concerto as a sequence of musical elements—rhythm, melody, rhythm—rather than forms. “The first movement employs the Charleston rhythm. It is quick and pulsating, representing the young, enthusiastic spirit of American life. The second movement has a poetic nocturnal atmosphere that has come to be referred to as the American blues, but in a purer form than that in which they are usually treated. The final movement reverts to the style of the first. It is an orgy of rhythms, starting violently and keeping to the same pace throughout.” Gershwin borrowed the first theme from an earlier prelude for piano.

—Program notes © Todd E. Sullivan 2009

Park Details

Meet Time for Three (starting at intermission) for a signing outside Ravinia Gifts, located in front of the Dining Pavilion.

Autographs are at the discretion of the artist who may elect to end the signing at any point. 
Purchase of official licensed merchandise is highly recommended for artist signings, and in some cases, artists require in-park purchase. Your purchase does not guarantee autograph.


Friday, July 24, 5:45 p.m. — Bennett • Gordon Hall
  Preview Concert
Artists from Ravinia’s Steans Institute