It is a one-time-only event at the Ravinia Festival to hear the two remarkable masterworks on the program — Osvaldo Golijov’s “Rose of the Winds,” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish),” where women’s voices are the tether to the highest powers, examining the essential, eternal questions of humanity and faith. Performed to breathtaking effect by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, along with the Chicago Children’s Choir, and a brilliant assemblage of instrumental and vocal soloists, the concert is marvelously led by Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s chief conductor.
The CSO is joined by a number of renowned guest instrumentalists for Golijov’s 2007 work with its five distinctive yet intriguingly hybrid movements: They include David Krakauer on klezmer clarinet, Cristina Pato on gaita (Galician bagpipes), Kayhan Kalhour on the kamanchen (an Iranian bowed instrument), and Michael Ward-Bergeman on accordion. Joining them from Highland Park and the nearby Glencoe community are players of several different shofars, the instrument made from rams’ horns that is traditionally sounded on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The second half of the evening is devoted to Bernstein’s “Kaddish” symphony. A crucial component of this work is its many narrative segments, which are ideally performed by Jaye Ladymore, adding to the rich tones of the piece was soprano Janai Brugger. “Kaddish” is the hymn praising God that is recited during Jewish prayer services, and is of crucial importance as it is chanted as part of funerals and mourning rituals. But in many ways, in addition to extolling a heavenly power, Bernstein clearly used this work to argue with himself as he explored the complicated nature of a higher power who oversees mortality and the often painful destruction of life on Earth.
Rose of the Winds
Symphony No. 3 “Kaddish“
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Chicago Children’s Choir
Marin Alsop, conductor
David Krakauer, klezmer clarinet
Cristina Pato, gaita
Kayhan Kalhour, kamanchen
Michael Ward-Bergeman, accordion
Janai Brugger, soprano
Jaye Ladymore, narrator