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Chicago Symphony Orchestra 

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra generally takes it easy over its summers at Ravinia, rehashing familiar classics that don't require too much rehearsal. But in each of this Saturday and Sunday's concerts the orchestra will perform a work new to it--though admittedly, neither piece is a heavyweight on the order of those the CSO premiered in its spring season. Instead both aim to please--an idea that seems to be catching on with composers these days. Cindy McTee's Circuits (1990) opens the program on Saturday. A professor teaching in Texas, McTee is hardly a household name; she studied with repentant Polish avant-gardist Krzysztof Penderecki, who she says gave her "the courage to break away from the notion that music need always express serious modes of thinking and feeling." Circuits moves quickly through repetitive segments, suggesting the course of an electrical current. The program then proceeds to Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 2 (with soloist Emanuel Ax) and Mahler's First Symphony. The conductor is Leonard Slatkin, an ardent champion of American music when he led the Saint Louis Symphony and even more so now that he's the head of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. He'll return to the dais on Sunday to unveil The Mannheim Rocket by John Corigliano. The title refers to a gimmick perfected by the orchestra at the court of Mannheim in the mid-18th century--a dramatic effect in which a scale or broken chord grows faster and louder as it ascends. Corigliano's whimsical 2001 piece is full of references to various Germanic styles--all fun and fireworks, it's appropriate for the holiday weekend. Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe Suite no. 2, a CSO staple, is also on the program, along with a few more showcases for Ax: Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 20 and Chopin's Andante spianato and Grande polonaise brilliante. The Mozart is justly celebrated, but the Chopin pair, which elevates a Polish dance form into the Romantic sublime, gets a rare revival. Slatkin and the CSO should make both the new and the tried-and-true sound enticing. Saturday, July 5, 8 PM, and Sunday, July 6, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lois Greenfield.

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