Ravinia Music Director James Conlon Leads CSO with Star Soloist Joshua Bell and More, Now thru 7/29

Ravinia Music Director James Conlon Leads CSO with Star Soloist Joshua Bell and More, Now thru 7/29

At 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, Ravinia Music Director James Conlon leads an all-Tchaikovsky program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev. The concert includes Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36; Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23; and the annual Ravinia presentation of the "1812" Overture, which includes live cannons timed to the music.

Since his triumph at the 11th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1998, Matsuev has collaborated with the world's greatest orchestras, appeared in numerous recitals and become laureate of the prestigious Shostakovich Prize in music and state prize of the Russian Federation in literature and arts.

Prior to the concert, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on July 29, Ravinia will host a special family space on the north lawn, where families can engage in activities that include music-related crafts, storytelling and an "instrument petting zoo" where kids can experience and play instruments.

Adults over 21 years of age can experience Ravinia's Wine Club, a partnership with Ravinia and Terlato Wines including formal wine tastings at 3:30 p.m. before the 5 p.m. concert. Pavilion packages include entry to the tasting and a reserved ticket for $80-$50, and entry to the tasting and a lawn ticket for $20.

Also on July 29, the festival will also host its second annual informal free teen night pre-concert get together for high school students from 3 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. "Cannon Ball 2012" will include free snacks, refreshments and activities in the Santa Fe Tent.

This event is part of Ravinia's summer-long high school student CSO concert attendance contest through which students not only can gain free lawn access to any CSO concert throughout the season by showing their school I.D. at the box office, but also win points for their high school. At the end of the summer, Ravinia will tally the points, and the school that accumulates the most points will win a $5,000 grant for its music programs from the Ravinia Associates. Students can win double points for their school on this special July 29 date. To RSVP for the pre-concert teen party, students can visit Ravinia.org and click on "Cannon Ball." Visit www.ravinia.org/ClassicalYouthInitiative.aspx for more information.

The CSO performs an orchestral showcase of favorites under the Maestro Conlon's baton at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 26. The concert will feature three pieces from Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette; the Overture to Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco; Dvorák's Slavonic Dance in E Minor, Op. 72 No. 2; Mendelssohn's The Hebrides ("Fingal's Cave"); and the Overture to Rossini's Guillaume Tell.

Soloists from the CSO appear in an intimate Martin Theatre concert at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 23, led by Conlon and featuring soprano Rachel Schutz in her Ravinia debut. This concert includes Bach's "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major, BWC 1051; Zemlinsky's Maiblumen blüten überall; and Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20. Welsh-born Schutz made her orchestral debut in 2006 with the Boston Pops Orchestra and returned to tour with the orchestra in 2008. She has performed at Carnegie's Zankel Hall, the Ojai Festival, Stony Brook Opera and The New Opera Company and is a two-time Tanglewood Music Center fellow and Santa Fe Opera apprentice artist.

Violin virtuoso Joshua Bell returns to perform with the CSO at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25. The program will include the Overture to Barber's The School for Scandal, Op. 5, and Violin Concerto Op. 14; Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70; and Ravel's Tzigane Concert Rhapsody. Bell, who debuted with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 14, is a Grammy Award-winner and a Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame inductee.

The Tokyo String Quartet takes the Martin Theatre stage at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 24, to perform Haydn's Quartet in G Minor, Op. 74, No. 3 ("The Rider"); Webern's Langsamer satz and Five Movements Op. 5; and Beethoven's Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3 ("Razumovsky"). The quartet, which announced its retirement this year, will mark its last Chicago performance with this Ravinia appearance. The concert also features a ticket and dining package for a special price of $75.

Piano duo Misha Dichter and Cipa Dichter return to the festival for an 8 p.M. Martin Theatre recital on Sunday, July 29. The program will include Barber's Souvenirs, Hyman's Danzas Tropicales, Copland's El salón México, Debussy's Two Nocturnes, Brahms's Hungarian Dances and Infante's Three Andalusian Dances. The Dichters' careers have included numerous performances with major orchestras throughout the world, two-piano premiere performances of compositions such as Robert Starer's Concerto for Two Pianos, and a distinguished discography that includes a three-disc album of the complete four-hand piano works by Mozart.

Well known the world over for such classic hits as "Carolina On My Mind," "You've Got a Friend," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)"and the first top-ten hit of his career, "Fire and Rain," five-time Grammy-winner James Taylor returns for two nights on July 27 and 28. Both 7:30 p.m. concerts are completely sold out in the pavilion and on the lawn.

Ravinia's summer music conservatory, the Steans Music Institute, brings together talented young musicians from around the world to make music coached by an internationally renowned faculty. Conlon presents a free master class at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, featuring artists from the program for singers. Prior to the CSO concert on July 29, Steans singers will appear in a free concert at 2 p.m. in Bennett Gordon Hall.

Laurie Berkner, known for her appearances on the Nick, Jr. TV channel, has produced multiple CDs, DVDs, and two picture-book-with-CDs to great acclaim, and returns to Ravinia for a special solo performance as part of The You & Me Tour at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 28. This concert is part of the festival's family-friendly shows, the Kraft Great Kids Concert series.

Ravinia Festival is located at Lake Cook and Green Bay roads in Highland Park. Tickets are available by visiting Ravinia.org or calling the Ravinia Festival Box Office at 847-266-5100. A $7 service fee is added to all online and phone ticket orders. Ravinia welcomes all festival fans to follow, connect and interact online at backstage.ravinia.org, Facebook (search Ravinia Festival) and twitter.com/raviniafestival. Ravinia Festival is a not-for-profit organization.