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Ravinia: See the CSO for a nice price

The Chicago Symphony OrchestrRavini| Courtesy RaviniFestival

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia | Courtesy of the Ravinia Festival

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Updated: August 12, 2013 6:55AM

Do you want the best bargain of the summer? Chicago Symphony Orchestra seats are only $25 all summer at the Ravinia Festival.

The Ravinia Festival pavilion seats 3,400 and tickets for 2,500 of the 14 CSO concerts there will be sold for $25 each. That includes the Gala Benefit evening, starring piano superstar Lang Lang on July 27 and a concert version of Verdi’s “Aida” on Aug. 3. Called “2500 @ 25,” tickets are available at Lawn tickets for these CSO concerts are $10 and free to students with IDs at the box office the night of the program.

This is an astonishing price reduction, as CSO pavilion tickets at Ravinia cost as much as $80 per person.

President and CEO of the Ravinia Festival, Welz Kauffman, said he was inspired to set the $25 price by this summer’s celebration of 25 years of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. “In this hectic world where so many cultural opportunities compete for audience time and money, we didn’t want price to be an obstacle to experiencing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia,” Kauffman said.

This bargain will hold for at least one more summer. “Next year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Ravinia Associates board,” he continued, “so we’ll keep the $25 price in 2014. That means you can see and hear one of the world’s finest ensembles for less than what you might expect to pay for tickets to a local performance group.”

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be at Ravinia from July 11 to Aug. 16. James Conlon, Ravinia’s music director since 2005, will conduct eight of the pavilion concerts and two Martin Theatre programs from July 17 until Aug. 4.

Giant video screens were installed in the pavilion permanently in 2009 and to sweeten the deal for the groundlings, this year there will also be a giant screen on the lawn for the CSO’s opening pair of all-Beethoven programs July 11 and 12. Christoph von Dohnanyi will conduct the composer’s “Eroica” symphony the first night, followed by the Fourth symphony the next evening. Emanuel Ax will be soloist in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto and “Emperor” Concerto, respectively.

This summer, for the first time, unsold pavilion seats will be covered, so that the large hall will appear less empty.

We probably don’t need to sell anyone on the merits of the internationally acclaimed Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which dates from 1891 and has made its summer home at the Ravinia Festival since 1936.

But it might be fun to note that since the Grammy Awards were established in 1958 to honor excellence in recording, the CSO and Chorus has won a whopping 62 of them. In fact, the late Sir Georg Solti, music director of the Chicago Symphony from 1967 to 1991, holds 31 Grammy Awards, more than any other recording artist, and 24 are with the CSO and Chorus.

On a different note, last year the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was chosen by director Steven Spielberg to record John Williams’ sound track for the 2012 film “Lincoln,” under the composer’s baton. This summer, included in the $25 pavilion price are two showings on Aug. 15 and 16 of the 2002 film “Lord of the Rings: Two Towers,” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing Howard Shore’s score live to projection, under the baton of Ludwig Wicki, the Swiss conductor who has made a career out of conducting live orchestral film scores as the movie plays. The cost is $10 and includes a giant screen on the lawn for these showings.

For details of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2013 summer residency at the Ravinia Festival, visit

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