December 16 & 17, 1892, program book cover

December 16 & 17, 1892, program book cover

During the Chicago Orchestra‘s second season, music director Theodore Thomas programmed Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 for the first time with his new ensemble. The performances were given on December 16 and 17, 1892, at the Auditorium Theatre.

According to an account in the Chicago Daily Tribune on December 18: “Like whistling winds broken by the blare of trumpets and the crash of cymbals and again like a sigh breathed upon the strings of a harp, Beethoven’s ninth symphony and his music to Goethe’s Egmont were listened to by nearly 4,000 music-lovers at the Auditorium last night. . . . The highest social circles of the city were in attendance. Chicago’s cultured and fashionable classes enjoyed a musical festival in honor of the 122nd anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. For the first time in the history of the city the great composer’s birth was fittingly celebrated. In 1870 the 100th anniversary was observed with a concert in old Farwell Hall, but as compared with the event of last evening it was insignificant.”

What the reviewer recounted next is nothing short of jaw-dropping: “Mr. Thomas had his men play the last movement of the Symphony a full tone lower than it is written—a proceeding without precedent in the entire history of the great work and which bids fair to call down upon him the wrath of musical purists and classicists. The subject was vigorously discussed by musicians present at the concert last night, and, although many liberal minds defended the director in his action, conservatives who bitterly assailed him were not wanting. The men of the orchestra covered themselves with glory by playing the movement with entire accuracy a tone lower than was indicated by the notes on the music parts before them. . . .

December 16 & 17, 1892, program page

December 16 & 17, 1892, program page

“When the Apollo Club chorus of 200 voices [prepared by William L. Tomlins], together with Miss Minnie Fish and Mrs. Minna Brentano and Charles A. Knorr and George E. Holmes, joined with the orchestra . . . the majesty and grandeur of the music were highly appreciated and greeted with almost boundless applause. The words of the ‘Ode to Joy‘ were sung with such precision and distinctness they they could be heard and appreciated in every part of the house. When the notes of the Choral Finale had died away the vast audience applauded for several minutes.”

The reviewer described Thomas’s “innovation”—surprisingly, not mentioned at all in Adolph W. Dohn’s program note (the complete program book is here)—as follows: “The last movement of the Symphony Mr. Thomas gave in C minor instead of D minor, the key in which Beethoven wrote it. It was an act which demanded no slight courage on the part of the great leader, and there were not lacking last evening musical conservatives who indignantly accused him of ‘taking unwarrantable liberties with music’s masterpieces,’ and ‘marring the works of the great composers.’ Mr. Thomas did not make the change, however, save after long and serious consideration. To make the change meant to break one of the ironclad, time-honored rules governing symphonic form, and possibly to lessen slightly the brilliancy of certain passages. On the other hand, the change freed the sopranos from the necessity of singing numerous high Gs and As, and could but result in marked gain in the volume and quality of the tone produced. He weighed these matters and decided upon the transposition, a decision that liberal thinkers in the musical world will uphold him in and approve of.”

Even with the modification, the reviewer was moved to write: “The rendition accorded the Symphony last evening by Mr. Thomas and his forces was worthy of the work itself, of the master whose greatest power it represents, of the event the concert celebrated, and of the great leader to whom musical Chicago is indebted for so much. The orchestra was in its best condition, and upon it Mr. Thomas played as does a master upon some perfect instrument. The result was a performance technically flawless, interpretatively superb. . . . And last night the choral finale brought with it no disappointment. A larger chorus might have been wished for, perhaps, but in the Allegro energico and the great climax that follows, but in the other portions of the work—and it is in these that the chorus after all finds opportunity for effective singing, the voice parts in the climax being buried under a mountain of orchestral tone—in these portions, the 200 singers from the Apollo Club acquitted themselves most creditably, their work being satisfactory and deserving of sincere praise.”

There is no evidence to indicate that Thomas’s later performances of the Ninth Symphony were performed in a similar manner.

(The complete Chicago Daily Tribune article—courtesy of Proquest via the Chicago Public Library—is here.)

To open the 124th season in September, Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The concerts currently are sold out, but check the website as last-minute tickets may become available.

in 1909

The Chapin & Gore Building in 1909

In 1994, in preparation for the Symphony Center expansion project, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association acquired and renovated the historic Chapin & Gore Building on East Adams Street.

Since Orchestra Hall opened in December 1904, the majority of the Association’s administrative offices had been located on multiple floors in the Hall. With the pending expansion, many of those spaces were designated to become additional patron amenities (larger lobbies, more washrooms, etc.), so the Chapin & Gore Building would be the future home to most of the administrative staff.

Gardner Spring Chapin and James Jefferson Gore

Gardner Spring Chapin and James Jefferson Gore

The complete story of liquor distillers and distributors Chapin & Gore is expertly told by blogger Jack Sullivan on his Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men! blog. (His excellent article is here.)

Sullivan describes the building: “. . . the 1904 structure combined warehouse and office space with a street-level liquor store and bar [called the Nepeenauk]. Hired for the design were noted Chicago architects Richard Schmidt and his partner Hugh Garden. According to one commentary, the pair demonstrated through this facility, ‘the aesthetic possibilities of the utilitarian building through the use of interior functions, fine brickwork and decorative terra cotta.'”

Inside the Nepeenauk Bar (undated image courtesy of Dick Bales's The Common Stuff blog)

Inside the Nepeenauk Bar (undated image courtesy of Dick Bales’s The Common Stuff blog)

Several vintage images and drawings of the building and its architectural details can be found on the Library of Congress’s website, where the significance of the building is described as follows: “This structure represents one of the few multi-story office buildings executed by this group known as the ‘Prairie School.’ The use of both cast iron and timber columns in the building is an unusual example of skeleton framing growing out of the Chicago architecture of the late nineteenth century, while the bold formal treatment of the brick façade with its original terra cotta ornament and the interior detailing of the Chapin & Gore Bar on the west side of the ground floor were designed in the best tradition of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.”

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A footnote: during the renovation of the building, a 1909 edition of The Chapin & Gore Manual was found. The manual provides guidance for the professional and amateur bartender, including recipes for many standard cocktails.

Chapin & Gore bar manual 1909

Harry W. Stiles, the author of the manual, contributed this to the introduction: “. . . It will be seen that most of the drinks in the book are as Mr. J. J. Gore always said of his whisky—as standard as flour—and I have no doubt they will continue to be popular as long as people drink, which, notwithstanding the energy of the reformers, may be several years. The only question regarding these standard drinks is as to the proper method of preparing them, and I think I may say without being considered very egotistical, that I have been fairly successful—at least, I am proud of the fact that Messrs. Chapin & Gore have thought well enough of my efforts to retain me in their employ for thirty-seven years. In this new issue I have added several new drinks which have become popular and have changed the formula of a number of the old ones which my experience told me might be improved. The book is not only for professional bartenders, but for the ever-increasing number of gentlemen, who, having their own den and sideboard, take some pride in showing their friends their proficiency in mixing their favorite. It has even been hinted to me that there is occasionally a lady who does not object to trying her hand at mixing a Martini. If such is the case I trust both the lady and gentleman will find the book of some use.”

The entrance to the Neep bar(ca. 1905) and the tesori

The entrance to the Nepeenauk Bar (ca. 1905, image courtesy of chicagogeek via SAIC Digital Libraries) and tesori (May 2014). Take a close look at the reflection in the door glass for past and present transportation options.

Schoen, William (SRS)

Last evening we received word that William Schoen, a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s viola section from 1964 until 1996, passed away yesterday, July 21, following a brief illness. He was 94.

Before coming to Chicago, Schoen served as principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra and was soloist with that ensemble under the baton of Eugene Ormandy. In 1964 he was invited by CSO music director Jean Martinon to be the Orchestra’s assistant principal viola, a post he held for twenty-four years. In 1988, he became assistant principal emeritus and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1996. Schoen made his debut as soloist with the CSO under Antonio Janigro, and also made solo appearances with maestros Martinon and James Levine.

Born in Czechoslovakia of Hungarian parents and raised in Cleveland, William Schoen received his bachelor of music degree from the Eastman School of Music. He was chosen by Leopold Stokowski to tour with the All-American Youth Orchestra and during the Second World War he served as a member of the United States Marine Band and Orchestra, was featured as a concerto soloist, and appeared numerous times with ensembles for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at The White House. After the war he was solo viola of the Columbia Broadcasting System in New York for eight years. While in New York, Schoen was a member of the Guilet and Claremont string quartets, with which he toured and made many recordings.

Schoen received his master of music degree from Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University and later also served as a member of the faculty and a member of the Roosevelt Trio. In 1991, he was invited to be a recitalist and lecturer at the International Viola Congress in Ithaca, New York.

Schoen, William ca1960s

An active chamber musician, he performed with many of his CSO colleagues, frequently as a member of the Chicago Symphony String Trio. Schoen was a founding member of the Chicago Arts Quartet, which in addition to performances at the Bruckner Festival in Linz, Austria and at the Tokyo School of Music, the quartet gave many college concerts, appeared on the CSO’s Chamber Music Series, and was featured on WFMT radio broadcasts. As a member of Indiana University’s Berkshire Quartet, he performed at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Connecticut for several summers, and he also was a participant at the Marlboro Festival in Vermont.

Schoen and his wife Mona Reisman Schoen, a former member of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, performed in duo concerts, as soloists with orchestra, at university concerts, and at the Frank Lloyd Wright estates in Wisconsin and Arizona. In their retirement, the Schoens were active members of the CSO Alumni Association, and in 1998, the Chicago Viola Society awarded William Schoen their lifetime achievement award.

He is survived by his beloved wife Mona. Funeral services will be held this Thursday, July 24, at noon at Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 North Broadway in Chicago. Interment will be at Memorial Park Cemetery, 9900 Gross Point Road in Skokie immediately following.

An obituary was posted to the Chicago Tribune website on July 22, 2014.

Lorin Maazel (Ben Spiegel photo)

Lorin Maazel (Ben Spiegel photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Lorin Maazel, a frequent and beloved guest conductor for forty years, from 1973 until 2013. Maazel died on July 13, 2014, at his Castleton Farms estate in Virginia. He was 84.

Maazel made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in February and March 1973, leading two weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall as well as a run-out to Milwaukee:

February 22, 23 & 24, 1973
February 26, 1973 (Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
BARTÓK Two Images, Op. 10
SCRIABIN The Poem of Ecstasy, Op. 54

March 1, 2 & 3, 1973
MARTIRANO Contrasts for Orchestra
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61

Mstislav Rostropovich and Lorin Maazel, following their performance of the first movement of Dvořák's Cello Concerto at the Centennial Gala on October 6, 1990

Mstislav Rostropovich and Lorin Maazel, following their performance of the first movement of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto at the Centennial Gala on October 6, 1990

During his forty-year collaboration with the Orchestra, Maazel’s repertoire covered a wide range of composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Hindemith, Holst, Kernis, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Penderecki, Prokofiev, Respighi, Strauss, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Wagner. He was one of several conductors invited to share the podium for the CSO’s Centennial Gala on October 6, 1990, and a few weeks later he led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Shchedrin’s Old Russian Circus Music (commissioned to celebrate the CSO’s centennial season) on October 25, 1990. A noted composer, Maazel also led the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of his own Farewells on December 14, 2000.

Maazel last led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall for two weeks of subscription concerts—including a run-out to the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois—in February 2005:

February 10 & 12, 2005
February 11, 2005 (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois)
BRAHMS Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16
BARTÓK Two Images, Op. 10
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

February 17, 18, 19 & 20, 2005
THOMAS Gathering Paradise
Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1
John Sharp, cello
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 39

His most recent appearance in Orchestra Hall was in March 2009 with the New York Philharmonic, during his final season as that ensemble’s music director:

March 9, 2009
BERLIOZ Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
TCHAIKOVSKY Suite No. 3 in G Major, Op. 55
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

Maazel’s last appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were tour concerts in January and February 2013, including stops in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Seoul.

A statement from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Lorin Maazel’s passing can be found here.

A February 2005 performance of Maazel leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Brahms’s Serenade no. 2 in A major, op. 16—including the maestro speaking on Brahms—may be listened to here.

Did you know that the name “Chicago Symphony Orchestra” was not the original name of the ensemble? Or even the second?

The Chicago Orchestra’s first program book cover, October 1891

October 1891

Our first name was actually the Chicago Orchestra. According to Philo Adams Otis in his book The Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Its Organization, Growth, and Development, 1891–1924: “The first meeting for the incorporation of The Orchestral Association was held at the Chicago Club, December 17, 1890, and a Board of five Trustees elected . . . The first season (1891–1892) of the Chicago Orchestra will consist of twenty concerts, each concert preceded by a public rehearsal, to be given a the Auditorium under the direction of Theodore Thomas. The talent engaged to make up the Chicago Orchestra is of the very finest order.”

Following Thomas’s unexpected death on January 4, 1905, Frederick Stock temporarily assumed the duties of music director as the Association began a search for a permanent replacement. But after a few months, it was evident that the more-than-capable successor to Thomas had already been in place.

First program book with the Theodore Thomas Orchestra name, from the beginning of the 1905-06 season

October 1905

“April 11, [1905] Tuesday: Meeting of the Trustees at 4 p.m. Frederick Stock unanimously elected Conductor. Trustees voted that the Orchestra should now be known as ‘The Theodore Thomas Orchestra.’ . . . During the ten years Mr. Stock had been with the Orchestra, first as viola player, later as Assistant Conductor, he had shown himself to be a thorough musician, a composer of unusual attainments, and as a Conductor, the logical successor to Theodore Thomas.” The final subscription concert programs for the fourteenth season on April 14 and 15 still indicated “Chicago Orchestra” on the cover (perhaps they already had been printed), so the first program of the fifteenth season in October was the first appearance of the ensemble’s new name.

First program book cover with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra name, February 1913

February/March 1913

Otis’s account of the twenty-second season completes the saga: “During the winter of 1912-1913 [Association] President [Bryan] Lathrop interviewed or wrote to every member of the Board of Trustees, suggesting important reasons for changing the name ‘The Theodore Thomas Orchestra’ to ‘The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.’ Mr. Lathrop had always held to the belief that an institution depending largely on the public for its support suffers in bearing the name of its founder or benefactor, however honored or distinguished that name may be.”

The Board’s executive committee met on Friday, February 21, 1913, and adopted the following: “Resolved, that hereafter the official name of the Orchestra shall be The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, founded by Theodore Thomas . . . indissolubly connect[ing] the name of our first great Conductor with that of the Orchestra, and indicat[ing] to the world what the present name fails to do, that he was the founder of our Orchestra, and it will commemorate the great work which he did in America for the cause of good music. The new name will also associate the Orchestra with the city and people of Chicago, and insure for it their continued aid and support.” The following week, the cover of the program book made it official.

A digital, searchable version of Otis’s book is available here.

Happy (almost) 100th birthday, maestro!

Bartok Bloch

Rafael Kubelík and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra made a series of landmark recordings in Orchestra Hall for Mercury Records during our fifth music director’s brief tenure. A complete list of those recordings is below.

BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
April 1951

BLOCH Concerto grosso No. 1
April 1951
George Schick, piano

Dvorak

BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
April 1952

DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)
November 1951

HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber
April 1953

MOZART Symphony No. 34 in C Major, K. 338
December 1952

Mussorgsky

MOZART Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 (Prague)
December 1952

MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition
April 1951

SCHOENBERG Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16
April 1953

SMETANA Má Vlast
December 1952

Tchaikovsky

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
November 1951

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)
April 1952

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On its From the Archives series, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also released several Kubelík-conducted works, all originally recorded for radio broadcast between 1950 and 1991.

BARBER Capricorn Concerto for Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, and Strings, Op. 21
December 2 & 5, 1982
Donald Peck, flute
Ray Still, oboe
Adolph Herseth, trumpet

BRITTEN Sinfonia da requiem, Op. 24
November 3 and 4, 1983

A Tribute to Rafael Kubelik

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major
December 9 & 11, 1982

DELLO JOIO Variations, Chaconne, and Finale
December 2 & 5, 1982

DVOŘÁK Husitzká Overture, Op. 67
October 18, 1991

DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88
December 8, 1966

HARRIS Symphony No. 5
December 2 & 5, 1982

KUBELÍK Sequences for Orchestra
November 9, 1980

MARTINŮ Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani
March 20 & 22, 1980
Mary Sauer, piano
Donald Koss, timpani

MOZART Finale (Allegro) from Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major, K. 447
September 27, 1950
Philip Farkas, horn

MOZART Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477
March 15, 1980

A Tribute to Rafael Kubelik II

MOZART Mass in C Major, K. 317 (Coronation)
March 15, 1980
Lucia Popp, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Alexander Oliver, tenor
Malcolm King, bass

RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin
November 3 and 4, 1983

ROSSINI Overture to Tancredi
November 27, 1951

ROUSSEL Symphony No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 42
November 3, 4, & 6, 1983
(Released on Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The First 100 Years)

SUK Meditations on an Ancient Czech Chorale, Op. 35 (Holy Wenceslaus)
December 25, 1951

WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
December 22 and 23, 1966

WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
March 30, 1952 (University of Illinois Auditorium; Urbana, Illinois)
Nelson Leonard, baritone
University of Illinois Choir and Men’s Glee Club
Paul Young, director
University of Illinois Women’s Glee Club
John Bryden, director
University of Illinois Brass Bands
Lyman Starr and Haskell Sexton, directors

On June 29, 2014, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rafael Kubelík, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s fifth music director and a beloved guest conductor, who was a presence on the Orchestra Hall podium from 1949 until 1991.

November 1949 program book biography

November 1949 program book biography

On November 17, 1949, thirty-five-year-old Kubelík made his United States conducting debut, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the first of three weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall. Those programs (*including a few first CSO performances) were as follows:

November 17 and 18, 1949
SMETANA Overture to The Bartered Bride
MOZART Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 (Prague)
*JANÁČEK Taras Bulba
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

November 17 and 18, 1949, program page

November 17 and 18, 1949, program page

November 24 and 25, 1949
*MÍČA Symphony in D Major
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219
Erica Morini, violin
*MARTINŮ Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

December 1 and 2, 1949
HONEGGER Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

October 12 and 13, 1950, program page

October 12 and 13, 1950, program page

Barely a month later, on December 29, the Chicago Tribune announced that Kubelík would “become musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra next fall.”

Kubelík began his tenure as the Orchestra’s fifth (and youngest) music director in October 1950, opening the sixtieth season with Bach’s Fourth Orchestral Suite; the Orchestra’s first performances of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta; and Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. During his three-season tenure, he introduced over seventy works to the Orchestra’s repertory, and his interpretations of works from his native Czechoslovakia drew critical praise.

April 23 and 24, 1953, program page

April 23 and 24, 1953, program page

His final concerts as music director, given on April 23 and 24, 1953, included a single work, a concert version of Wagner’s Parsifal with Set Svanholm in the title role. Margaret Harshaw, Sigurd Björling, Jerome Hines, Andrew Földi, and Frederich Lechner filled out the rest of the principal cast.

Following his music directorship, Kubelík returned to guest conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions. His final appearance with the Orchestra was on October 18, 1991, when he conducted Dvořák’s Husitská Overture concluding the Gala Centennial Finale concert, a re-creation of the Orchestra’s first concert on October 16, 1891.

Stay tuned for part 2 . . .

Rafael Kubelík acknowledging applause at the conclusion of the Gala Centennial Finale concert on October 18, 1991

Rafael Kubelík acknowledging applause at the conclusion of the Gala Centennial Finale concert on October 18, 1991

This week Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s First Symphony, almost exactly one hundred years since Frederick Stock first conducted it in Chicago.

Program page for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first performances of Mahler's First Symphony

Program page for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Mahler’s First Symphony

That first performance of the symphony (sandwiched between Handel’s Concerto grosso, op. 6, no. 2 and Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Josef Hofmann) on November 6, 1914, left Ronald Webster of the Chicago Daily Tribune a bit puzzled: “The Mahler symphony is less important but more interesting to talk about because it is strictly earthy. There is a suggestion in the program notes that Mahler was not wholly serious in this symphony. It was obvious yesterday that he was not serious at all. Even the finale is not serious, though it is tiresome, being too long. But it is the quality of the humor which is likely to cause people to turn up their noses. The humor is a little coarse, definitely ironical, of a barnyard kind and healthy. Mahler is himself partly to blame for such ideas about him. Definite conceptions such as his (though he may not have been serious about them either) are death to all mystic attitude toward this work. . . . He suggests that the first movement is nature’s awakening at early morning. One suspects that Mahler included in nature the cows and chickens as well as the cuckoo and the dewy grass.” The complete review is here.

Despite that critic’s early apprehensions, the symphony soon became a staple in the Orchestra’s repertoire and has been led—at Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, and on tour—by a vast array of conductors, including: Roberto Abbado, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Adam Fischer, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Irwin Hoffman, Paul Kletzki, Kirill Kondrashin, Rafael Kubelík, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Igor Markevitch, Henry Mazer, Eugene Ormandy, Seiji Ozawa, George Schick, Leonard Slatkin, Sir Georg Solti, William Steinberg, Klaus Tennstedt, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, Bruno Walter, and Jaap van Zweden.

And the Orchestra has recorded the work six times, as follows:

Giulini 1971Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Recorded by Angel at Medinah Temple in March 1971
Christopher Bishop, producer
Carson Taylor, engineer
Giulini’s recording won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance—Orchestra from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Abbado 1981Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon at Orchestra Hall in February 1981
Rainer Brock, producer
Karl-August Naegler, engineer

Solti 1983Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London at Orchestra Hall in October 1983
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer

Tennstedt 1990Klaus Tennstedt, conductor
Recorded by EMI at Orchestra Hall in May and June 1990
John Fraser, producer
Michael Sheady, engineer

Boulez 1998Pierre Boulez, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon at Orchestra Hall in May 1998
Karl-August Naegler, producer
Rainer Maillard and Reinhard Lagemann, engineers

Haitink 2008Bernard Haitink, conductor
Recorded by CSO Resound at Orchestra Hall in May 2008
James Mallinson, producer
Christopher Willis, engineer

For more information on Muti’s performances of Mahler’s First this week, please visit the CSO’s website.

Today we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss, a composer who has been a cornerstone to the performance history of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since our founding. At the invitation of our first music director—and a friend of the composer’s since the early 1880s—Theodore Thomas invited Strauss to guest conduct the Orchestra in 1904.

Program book advance advertisement for Strauss's guest conducting engagement

Program book advance advertisement for Strauss’s guest conducting engagement

According to William Lines Hubbard‘s newspaper account in the Chicago Tribune on March 31, 1904, during the Orchestra’s rehearsal at the Auditorium Theatre the previous day, Thomas introduced the composer/conductor with whom he would share the podium that week: “Gentlemen, Dr. Richard Strauss.”

Strauss went straight to work, leading the Orchestra in three of his well-known tone poems: Tod und Verklärung, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, and Also sprach Zarathustra. Halfway through the rehearsal, he paused to say: “Gentlemen, it is my pleasure and my pride to be able to direct today so faultless an orchestra and to hear my music played in a manner so completely in accordance with my every wish. Your organization is a model in all ways, and I feel proud to be associated with an orchestra which has been brought to such perfection by a man whom I have honored and wished to know for full twenty years—Mr. Thomas.”

Following the Friday matinee performance on April 1, Hubbard wrote: “That master musician of modern music, that wonderful combination of poet, painter, and composer, the man to whom pictures are audible and tones visible—Richard Strauss—appeared at the Auditorium yesterday afternoon, and for over two hours some 3,700 persons sat beneath the spell his great gifts weave and listened to the tonal tales they enable him to tell.”

The concert opened with Thomas leading the prelude to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and the Orchestra “gave a performance of the splendid number such as has rarely been heard from them, and their record is a brilliant one.”

April 1 and 2, 1904, program page

April 1 and 2, 1904, program page

Following the Wagner, Thomas escorted Strauss to the stage, accompanied by “a rousing fanfare from the whole orchestra and applause loud and long continued expressed to the celebrated conductor-composer Chicago’s cordial welcome. He bowed repeatedly, and then raised his baton for the first measures of Thus Spake Zarathustra.”

“The orchestra was on its mettle, and a more superb technical presentment of the intensely difficult scores than it gave could not be desired. Every wish of the conductor was instantly responded to, and Dr. Strauss’ pleasure in the work done by the men was unmistakable.”

Of course, Chicago audiences were familiar with all three orchestral works. Thomas first led Tod und Verklärung in February 1895, and he conducted the U.S. premieres of Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche in November 1895 and Also sprach Zarathustra in February 1897. Hubbard continued: “Interpretatively, the treatment of the works was not widely different from that to which we are accustomed when they are given under Mr. Thomas’ baton. There was a deepening of color here and there, the raising into prominence of certain details of the score, and a giving of all with an exaltation and enthusiasm that made the performances inspiriting and uplifting. Certain portions of the works which heretofore have been unclear in meaning took on clarity and beauty, but this may have been due not only to the remarkably finished and brilliant performances but also to the fact that the works were heard again—for each rehearing of a Strauss composition brings increase of understanding and fuller appreciation of its beauties.”

Strauss’s wife Pauline also appeared on the program, as soprano soloist in several of his songs. For her first entrance, escorted both by her husband and Thomas, she wore a gown that was “an elaborate creation of creamy lace and silk, which was distinctly becoming to her.”

Hubbard was kind in his critique of her performance. “Her singing proved interesting and satisfactory from an interpretive viewpoint. The voice has lost its richness in the upper middle register and in the high tones, but it is of no inconsiderable beauty in the lower half, and it is used throughout with so much of discretion and understanding that it seems adequate for all that is undertaken. The seven songs heard yesterday were beautifully interpreted, and the exquisite accompaniments played as they were in finest style by the orchestra, made the performance of them in high measure gratifying.”

The complete program notes for the performance of the Strauss compositions are here.

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Strauss Steinway ad

A postscript . . .

The back page of the April 1904 program book includes an endorsement by Strauss of Steinway pianos (then sold exclusively by Lyon & Healy in Chicago). The composer wrote: “The superb tonal qualities and perfection of mechanism of your instruments have had such a fascinating effect on my musical feelings that for the first time in many years I am drawn irresistibly again and again to my Steinway to indulge in improvising and musical inspirations, although I lay no claim to being a pianist. In accompanying my wife in her song recitals it is a constant source of pleasure to me to note the remarkable sustaining and blending qualities of the tone of your piano, which certainly are a great aid and benefit to the singer.”

Another unexpected donation arrived last week, and it is nothing short of spectacular: the first numbered set of a limited first edition printing of Theodore Thomas‘s autobiography.

Copy number one

Copy number one

Our founder and first music director completed his autobiography during the summer of 1904, just before the opening of the Orchestra’s fourteenth season. It was first published in two volumes—Life Work and Concert Programmes—on April 5, 1905, just three months after his unexpected death on January 4.

Inscription from editor George P. Upton to publisher Ogden Trevor McClurg

Inscription from editor George P. Upton to publisher Ogden Trevor McClurg

And what makes this donation all the more remarkable is that it bears an inscription from the editor to the publisher A. C. McClurg & Co. The inscription reads: “To Ogden Trevor McClurg / These memorials of the great conductor / with its very cordial regards of their compile[?] / Geo. P. Upton / Chicago May 2, 1905″.

In the preface, Thomas wrote: “. . . I never intended to write my autobiography, or anything else; I desired only to preserve my programmes—representing over half a century of a very important part of the history of music in America—in some permanent form, and this is the result. I am happy to say that at my request, Mr. George P. Upton, whose interest in the cause of good music has been of such marked benefit to Chicago for fifty years, has undertaken the laborious task of compiling and editing this publication, of selecting and classifying the programmes to be printed, and of writing such explanations as they have required.”

The limited edition open to the title page

The limited edition of the autobiography open to the title page of volume one

The standard issue of the book with volume two opened to an illustration of Thomas sitting at his desk

The standard issue of the autobiography with volume two opened to an illustration of Thomas sitting at his desk

From left to right: the 1905 two-volume limited edition, the 1905 two-volume standard edition, and the 1964 reprint

From left to right: the 1905 two-volume limited edition, the 1905 two-volume standard edition, and the 1964 reprint

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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