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Ravinia Festival Orchestra 

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RAVINIA FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA

Baritone Thomas Hampson is cast in the mold of the veteran crowd pleaser Samuel Ramey--a versatile, personable American singer who manages to simultaneously project confidence and intimacy. A popular fixture at Ravinia, Hampson returns this week for a concert that features exemplary American vocal music. Backed by the Ravinia Festival Orchestra--an ad hoc collection of Chicago Symphony Orchestra regulars and top-notch local freelancers--the tall, brawny Spokane native will lend his enviable blend of elegance, polish, and erudition to performances of Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, Bernstein's Opening Prayer, and Copland's Old American Songs. The Bernstein piece, to be presented at Ravinia for the first time, was composed in 1986 as part of the four-movement Jubilee Games, a commission celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. As a stand-alone, it's a melancholic blessing that ends in a brief baritone solo sung in Hebrew. It should stand in stark contrast to Bernstein's ebullient Symphonic Dances From West Side Story, also on the program. Included in Hampson's selections is "Simple Gifts," the now ubiquitous Shaker hymn that defines Yankee rectitude. Samuel Barber is represented with Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance. In 1946 he collaborated with Martha Graham on the ballet Cave of the Heart, a retelling of the Medea myth, and later excerpted the concert piece from the orchestral suite, encapsulating the music's lyricism and psychological astuteness. The inclusion of Mahler among these eminent Americans makes a lot of sense: Bernstein, after all, staked his conducting career on rehabilitating Mahler's reputation. Christoph Eschenbach, who's done wonders at Ravinia this summer, wields the baton. Sunday, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 728-4642.

TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Thomas Hampson.

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