Leila Josefowicz at Ravinia / by Doyle Armbrust

A still-stagnant economy is forcing music lovers to trade beloved LPs for rent money. So a night out at Ravinia may seem extravagant after parting ways with one’s von Karajan collection. But on Wednesday 25, the festival serves up seats—not lawn—to one of the most exceptional concerts of its season…for $10.

While articles on violinist Leila Josefowicz invariably focus on either her Carnegie Hall debut at 16 or her appearance alongside President Reagan in a TV tribute to Bob Hope at 10, it’s the Ontario, Canada, native’s more recent championing of works by living composers that’s most remarkable. For her Ravinia recital, in the structurally diminutive but acoustically capacious Bennett-Gordon Hall, Josefowicz performs (living) Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür’s dialogue for violin and piano, “Conversio.”

Joining the MacArthur “genius” grant recipient is John Novacek, a pianist for whom the term accompanist would be an injustice, given the collaborator’s ability to weave in and out of his roles in the sonata literature. Brahms’s scurrying scherzo “Sonatensatz” and Stravinsky’s lovely ode to the double stop, “Duo concertante,” will serve as a showcase for the sumptuous touch of the 32-year-old’s right hand.

The program’s pinnacle arrives with Shostakovich’s amalgam of broken concrete, discarded corpses and steel-gray skies, his Sonata, Op. 134. If there’s a jumping-in point for the uninitiated, this alternatingly ferocious and bleak work is it. With a sonic palette that includes the grit necessary to convey the Russian’s torment, Josefowicz won’t temper any of the score’s jagged edges.

- Doyle Armbrust

published in Time Out Chicago on August 18th, 2010