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Ravinia Festival Orchestra 

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Canadian violinist James Ehnes has been to Ravinia twice already--giving a recital as part of the "Rising Star" series in 1994 and playing Lalo's Symphonie espagnole with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in '97. Now 27, he's performed in more than 20 countries and collaborated with artists such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. His CDs reveal an expressive, technically gifted musician with a sweet, lyrical tone. He can toss off etudes by Paganini and Kreisler and seems to have a flair for the virtuoso repertoire--but he never sounds flashy. I also hear real joy in his playing, an absolute requirement for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which he's scheduled to perform on Monday--a glorious, light-filled celebration of the violin and the Russian romantic tradition that's hard not to like. The melodies are poignant and generous in spirit, and the orchestration never lacks imagination. The first movement is majestic, the second refined and delicate--and perfectly exquisite when the flute and clarinet join the violin. The third movement isn't profound, but it's exhilarating. The other warhorses on this all-Tchaikovsky program with the Ravinia Festival Orchestra include the Capriccio italien, Marche slave, and 1812, Festival Overture, complete with live cannons. Erich Kunzel conducts. $50, $40, $10. Monday, September 6, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.


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