CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
At Ravinia this weekend the normally museum-minded CSO will express its belated appreciation of two of the true individualists of this century: Toru Takemitsu and Olivier Messiaen, whose idiosyncratic styles, at first considered exotic or just plain far-out, have recently invigorated the mainstream. Friday's featured selection, Takemitsu's concerto Riverrun, epitomizes his preoccupation with nature and water imagery--though he was among the first postwar Japanese artists to embrace cutting-edge Western aesthetics, by the time he'd completed the concerto in 1984, Takemitsu had reclaimed his Japanese roots via John Cage. The ripples, swirls, and cascades in Riverrun flow Zen-like--mysterious, recurrent, at times turbulent, yet ultimately harmonious. The piano soloist will be Peter Serkin, a new-music advocate who has turned this concerto into a crusade for Takemitsu's place in the pantheon. There are a number of connections between Messiaen and Takemitsu, both stylistic and philosophical, but for you trivia buffs, Messiaen's Turangalila-symphonie, featured on Sunday's program, has a special link to Riverrun: it refers to the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Isolde, which James Joyce appropriated in Finnegans Wake, which in turn lends Riverrun its title. Despite the obvious precedent, Messiaen's monumental ten-movement symphony is only fitfully Wagnerian; the primary source of its inspiration lies East, in Hindu and Balinese music. Its title--a composite of two Sanskrit words that translate as "a hymn to the rhythm of life"--suggests that a variety of rhythmic patterns is in store, and indeed that's the case; Messiaen relied on a veritable battalion of percussion instruments to approximate a large gamelan. A piano figures prominently, and so does the ondes Martenot, an electronic keyboard instrument from the 20s that's capable of very low pitches and eerily high-toned glissandi. Here the piano will be handled by Marc-Andre Hamelin, a Canadian specialist in the 20th-century repertoire, and the ondes Martenot by one of its few virtuosos, Jean Laurendeau. The remainder of both programs consists of standard summer fare; Christoph Eschenbach conducts. Friday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 7 PM, pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Peter Serkin photo by Regina Tauney; Jean Laurendeau uncredited photo.