Alban Gerhardt/Sergio Tiempo/Julia Fischer | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Alban Gerhardt/Sergio Tiempo/Julia Fischer


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The Ravinia Festival relies on heavy hitters like Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma to pack its pavilion, but it also has a farm system of sorts: the "Rising Stars" chamber concerts. This decade-old series, which runs from October to April each year, has showcased 144 young musicians; many have gone on to join major orchestras, and a few--such as violinists Gil Shaham and Sarah Chang--really have become stars. For this main-stage Chicago Symphony Orchestra show, conductor Christoph Eschenbach has booked three promising soloists, all alumni of the series, to play classics of the 19th-century Romantic repertoire: cellist Alban Gerhardt, pianist Sergio Tiempo, and violinist Julia Fischer. Gerhardt, born in Berlin in 1969, didn't perform publicly with an orchestra until he was nearly 18, but since then he's shown off his sturdy, colorful playing in front of top-notch symphonies all over Europe. His contribution to the program will be Tchaikovsky's graceful Variations on a Rococo Theme. The 27-year-old Tiempo, a native of Venezuela, has recorded works of Chopin, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky; here he'll balance the technical flash and subtle sonorities of Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 1. Of the evening's three soloists, the German-born Fischer has the best chance to become an international headliner, in part because she's got a head start: last November, when she made her "Rising Stars" appearance, she was only 15. In her native country she's been compared to Anne-Sophie Mutter, and though she's not quite that versatile, at her Ravinia debut she augmented dazzling technique with charisma and poise, coaxing a wiry, brittle sound from her violin that brought to mind the young Gidon Kremer. Here her intelligence should rescue the potentially maudlin folksy stretches in Dvorak's Violin Concerto. Sunday, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. Fischer, Gerhardt, and Eschenbach (on piano) regroup later, at 9:30 PM in the Martin Theatre, for a pair of Brahms sonatas. TED SHEN

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