Richard Kanter headshot

Richard Kanter, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section from 1961 until 2002, passed away on Friday evening, October 10. He was 79.

A native Chicagoan, Kanter was born in 1935 and began studying the oboe at the age of fourteen with CSO oboe and english horn Robert Mayer. After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his teachers included Marcel Tabuteau and John de Lancie; he also studied with CSO principal oboe Ray Still and Robert Bloom. While a student, Kanter played principal oboe for the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra for one season and english horn with the Grant Park Symphony for several summers.

After graduation from Curtis, he served as first oboe for the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C. for four years, traveling to every state in the continental United States. Following his military service, Kanter joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section at the invitation of Fritz Reiner in 1961, where he served for forty-one years—under music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—before retiring in 2002. In his retirement, Kanter was an active member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association, serving several years a member and officer of the board of directors. He also was an oboe and english horn coach with the Asian Youth Orchestra, based in Hong Kong.

Ray Still and Richard Kanter onstage at Orchestra Hall in the 1970s

Ray Still and Richard Kanter onstage at Orchestra Hall in the 1970s

Richard is survived by his beloved wife of forty-six years, Janet; his children David (Rebecca) Kanter and Rachel (Eric) Hoglund; and grandchildren. There will be a chapel service Tuesday, October 14, at 12:15 p.m. at Shalom Memorial Funeral Home, 1700 West Rand Road in Arlington Heights. Interment will follow at Shalom Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Magen David Adom. For information and to leave tributes and condolences, please call 847.255.3520 or visit

Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director Theodore Thomas on the occasion of his 179th birthday!

Thomas at his desk

Theodore Thomas at home and at work in March 1896. (His desk, pictured here, currently resides in the CSO Association office of the president.)

Almost a year before the Chicago Orchestra (as we were then called) played their first concert, Thomas signed his first contract with the newly formed Orchestral Association in December 1890. Under the heading “The rights, powers, and duties of the Musical Director,” was the following clause:

The Musical Director is to determine the character and standard of all performances given by the Association, and to that end make all programmes, select all soloists, and take the initiative in arranging for choral and festival performances. The intention of the Association being to lodge in the hands of the Director the power and responsibility for the attainment of the highest standard of artistic excellence in all performances given by the Association.

“This clause delighted Thomas, and he exclaimed, ‘I never expected to see the day when I would be told I would be “held responsible” for maintaining the highest standard of artistic excellence in my musical work. All my life I have been told that my standard was too high, and urged to make it more popular. But now, I am not only to be given every facility to create the highest standard, but am even told that I will be held responsible for keeping it so! I have to shake myself to realize it.'”

How’s that for a gift? Happy birthday, Maestro!

— excerpt from Memoirs of Theodore Thomas by Rose Fay Thomas, 1911.

Ugly Symphony Headline

The Theodore Thomas Orchestra (as we were then called) under the baton of music director Frederick Stock first performed Mahler’s Symphony no. 5 on March 22 and 23, 1907 (the program page and notes are here). Critical reception was, shall we say, mixed.

“Ugly symphony is well played . . . Mahler of Vienna writes bad music,” proclaimed reviewer Millar Ular of the Examiner the morning after the first performance. He goes on to write that rather than title the symphony “The Giant,” it might be better titled “The Octopus” due to its ugliness, “The Dachshund” due to its length, or “Chaos” due to its purported lack of form. As the Chicago Journal dramatically stated in a separate review, Mahler’s Fifth is “A long and tedious work” and “Mahler is a musical allopath, and those who remained to hear him out suffered from an overdose.” And even the public expressed their opinion, as “before it was done, fully half the audience had fled.” (Both of the reviews are here.)

Long and Tedious Work Headline

In the words of Frederick Stock, “I do not believe that this symphony is the kind of music that will live,” with the reviewer concluding, “It is a symphony which, it is devoutly hoped, will never again be heard in Chicago . . . a verdict that is both cruel and true.” How wrong they both were, although it did take another generation for the music of Gustav Mahler to gain traction in the CSO’s programming. The symphony was not performed in full again until December 1950 under the baton of Rafael Kubelík during his first season as music director. (It does appear that Stock had a small change of heart; thirty years after the Chicago premiere of the full symphony, he conducted the Adagietto movement for strings and harp in December 1937.)

Mahler, well known for extensive stylistic direction in his compositions, received criticism from the Chicago Journal: “He is not so particular about what he says so long as he says it well.” Take this opinion from 1907 and consider the composer’s indications concerning the opening trumpet fanfare. At the bottom of the first trumpet part, Mahler designates Die Auftakt-Triolen dieses Themas müssen stets etwas flüchtig—quasi acc., nach Art der Militärfanfaren vorgetragen werden! (The pick-up triplets from this theme must be performed in a somewhat brief or fleeting manner in the style of a military fanfare!). Such a command is not unusual in Mahler’s music; however Ular in the Examiner remains critical, “Of originality, he has not the slightest trace. His themes are trivial, sometimes vulgar, always uninteresting and lacking utterly beauty of melodic curve.”

The opening bars of the first trumpet part of Mahler's Fifth

The opening bars of the first trumpet part of Mahler’s Fifth

The command indicated in the trumpet part has led to a long tradition of trumpeters to play these triplets slightly rushed; the particular manner of this affectation is a constantly discussed topic in the brass community. How was a Germanic military fanfare at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century played? It is possible the CSO’s principal trumpet at these concerts, German-born Paul Handke (principal trumpet 1903–1912) may have known firsthand the specific tradition intended.

In this case, we can determine precisely what affectation the composer commanded. In 1904 Mahler made multiple piano rolls of his own music for the Welte-Mignon piano company. Contemporary recordings of these rolls provide not only the reproduction the notes but also the dynamics of the original, giving us a close look into the composer’s interpretation of his own music. In Mahler’s recording of the first movement of his Fifth Symphony, the opening triplets are indeed rushed in a German militaristic manner, which is how you will often hear modern trumpeters perform these first notes.

Mahler’s Fifth Symphony: originally considered “trivial, sometimes vulgar, always uninteresting.” But just like, as Phillip Huscher describes in his program note, the symphony’s “struggle to rise from C-sharp to D, and from minor to major, underlines the music’s quest to rise from tragedy to victory,” so has risen appreciation for this now pillar of the repertoire.

Guest blogger Charles Russell Roberts is a trumpet player and an intern in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rosenthal Archives.

This week, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Donald Runnicles conducts.

Andrzej Panufnik acknowledges applause following the world premiere of his Symphony no. 10 in February 1990

Andrzej Panufnik acknowledges applause following the world premiere of his Symphony no. 10 in February 1990

This year we celebrate the centennial of composer and conductor Sir Andrzej Panufnik, one of Poland’s leading musicians of the twentieth century.

In February 1990, Panufnik debuted as guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, leading two of his works: his Concerto for Violin and Strings (with co-concertmaster Samuel Magad as soloist) and the world premiere of his Tenth Symphony, commissioned for the CSO’s centennial. On the second half of the program, Sir Georg Solti led Beethoven’s Second Symphony.

In the composer’s own words: “The commission was at once a great honor and a tremendous challenge. My first thought was to write a show-piece with virtuoso pyrotechnics to take fullest advantage of the celebrated technical possibilities of the Orchestra. However, I eventually decided that the best homage to these brilliant players would be a symphony, which, through various combinations of groups and instruments, would demonstrate their supreme sound quality, show off their collective musicianship and humanity, and their ability to convey their intense and profound feeling. . . .

“The symphony is written in one continuous movement consisting of fourteen sections. The first two have the character of an invocation. The following sections, meditative in character, build up gradually to a climax, which is suddenly cut short, leaving the vibration of the piano-strings from which emerges the prayer-like music of the last two sections.” The program page and notes are here.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Robert Marsh wrote: “The Symphony no. 10 produces mixed impressions and would be best evaluated in a second, and more subtle, performance. This one appeared to be quite episodic, but parts of the score are quite striking, and the quiet close is very beautiful. Panufnik is deeply influenced by Stravinsky, whose spirit haunts the score, but it is Stravinsky rethought by a keen and adventurous mind” (the complete review is here).

And in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein surmised that since the work bore no descriptive title, the composer “apparently wishes the listener to consider it as absolute music. Yet hearing the final section—its quietly flowing strings and harp evoking a vast stillness after the jagged rhythmic exertions of the middle pages—one cannot help but think of the recent relaxation of official controls on creative artists in Poland that is allowing Panufnik to return to his homeland for the first time since his departure in 1954. The music seems to carry a fervent (if implicit) message of reconciliation . . .” (the complete review is here).

In September 1990, Panufnik did indeed return to Poland for the first time in thirty-six years, and he conducted the European premiere of his Tenth Symphony. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in early 1991.

This week, Principal Trumpet Christopher Martin is soloist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Panufnik’s Concerto in modo antico. Riccardo Muti conducts.

The title page of Frederick Stock's post-1917 arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, the version currently used by the Orchestra.

The title page of Frederick Stock’s post-1917 arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, the version currently used by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

On September 14, 2014, we celebrate the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America. For many of us, most of the story is familiar, but did you know that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, like many American orchestras, played a role in promoting the song’s popularity?

The first flute part—slightly different from the score pictured above—indicates a minor rhythmic modification

The first flute part of Stock’s arrangement—slightly different from the score pictured above—indicates a minor rhythmic modification

In the midst of the War of 1812, thirty-five-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key witnessed the brutal twenty-five-hour attack on Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay by the British Navy that continued through the night of September 13, 1814. Early the next morning, Key’s sight of the U.S. flag—then fifteen stars and fifteen stripes—still flying over the fort inspired him to write the four-verse lyric Defence of Fort McHenry.

During the U.S. involvement in World War II (1941–1945), the forty-eight-star flag was a permanent fixture on the Orchestra Hall stage.

During the U.S. involvement in World War II (1941–1945), the forty-eight-star flag was a permanent fixture on the Orchestra Hall stage.

Contrary to many accounts, Key certainly had The Anacreontic Song (the song of a popular gentleman’s club in London), composed by John Stafford Smith, in mind when he wrote his lyric. After he completed it on September 16, it was printed as a broadside and initially distributed to the soldiers who had defended Fort McHenry. The first documented performance was a month later at the Baltimore Theatre.

Sir Georg Solti’s 1986 account of the National Anthem featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus

Sir Georg Solti’s 1986 account of the National Anthem featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus

Frederick Stock recorded his 1917 version with the CSO for the Columbia Graphophone Company

Frederick Stock recorded his 1917 version with the CSO for the Columbia Graphophone Company

During the nineteenth century, the song’s popularity grew and it was widely performed at public celebrations and as accompaniment to the raising of the flag. On the eve of U.S. involvement in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 ordered the song to be played at military and other notable events. Wilson also directed the U.S. Bureau of Education to compile an official version; the bureau tasked five musicians—Walter Damrosch, Will Earhart, Arnold J. Gantvoort, Oscar Sonneck, and John Philip Sousa—to develop and agree upon a standardized edition. (An appraisal of one of the standardization manuscripts, featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, can be seen here.) Damrosch conducted the premiere of that version with the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall on December 5, 1917.

Frederick Stock—the CSO's second music director from 1905 until 1942—on the podium in Orchestra Hall in the 1930s.

Frederick Stock—the CSO’s second music director from 1905 until 1942—on the podium in Orchestra Hall in the 1930s

Almost simultaneously, Frederick Stock—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s second music director from 1905 until 1942—made his own orchestration of the Banner along with America (My Country ’Tis of Thee) and recorded both of them with the Orchestra for the Columbia Graphophone Company on May 28, 1917. And keeping with the emerging popular custom (as evidenced in newspaper accounts and end-of-season indexes), the Orchestra performed the song at the beginning of all concerts during U.S. involvement in World War I, even though the song was rarely listed on program pages—a practice that continues today.

Although the tradition had become firmly established, President Herbert Hoover made it official on March 3, 1931, and signed into law that The Star-Spangled Banner was to be the national anthem of the United States of America. And during the U.S. involvement in the Second World War, Stock and later his successor Désiré Defauw continued the practice of performing The Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of every concert.

Program page from the first concert of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown CSO concerts following the end of World War II—at which music director Désiré Defauw conducted the national anthems of the Allied countries: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Program page from the first concert of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown CSO concerts following the end of World War II—at which music director Désiré Defauw conducted the national anthems of the Allied nations: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Currently, The Star-Spangled Banner generally is performed at the beginning of the first concert of both the Orchestra Hall and Ravinia Festival seasons in addition to Symphony Ball and Ravinia’s annual gala. One notable exception: Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were in Lucerne, Switzerland, on September 11, 2001, scheduled to perform Mahler’s Seventh Symphony that evening, only a few brief hours after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. At the beginning of the concert, Barenboim addressed the audience and announced that the Orchestra would begin the concert with the American National Anthem, “for tonight we are all of us Americans.”

Following the recording in 1917, Stock modified his orchestration, perhaps to conform to the standardized version. Stock’s version, with minor modifications, was later recorded by Fritz Reiner (the Orchestra’s sixth music director from 1953 until 1962) in 1957 by RCA; it was recently reissued as part of a comprehensive 63-CD set. The Banner was recorded a third time in 1986 for London Records, with Sir Georg Solti (our music director from 1969 until 1991) leading the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Margaret Hillis. (that same release included Bear Down, Chicago Bears and Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever). Stock’s orchestration—the one preferred by music director Riccardo Muti—is the version still used today.


In the community, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also have performed The Star-Spangled Banner for Chicago sports teams. The brass section, led by associate conductor Kenneth Jean, helped open the Chicago Bears’s sixty-eighth season on September 14, 1987, performing the National Anthem at Soldier Field. And CSO violas—performing Max Raimi’s arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner—opened a Chicago White Sox game on August 25, 1998, at (new) Comiskey Park. On both occasions, the Chicago teams went on to victory. The Bears beat the New York Giants 34–19, and the Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 6–4.


Kenneth Jean and members of the CSO brass at Soldier Field on September 14, 1987


CSO violas at Comiskey Park on August 25, 1998


A slightly abbreviated version of this article appears in the September/October CSO program book.

Thanks to Mark Clague, Ph.D.—associate professor at the University of Michigan (and a former member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago)—for his guidance, and a tremendous amount of information can be found online at the Star Spangled Music Foundation’s website. Also thanks to CSO librarians Peter Conover, Carole Keller, and Mark Swanson, and Rosenthal Archives intern William Berthouex.

Now, that’s a festival.

In May 1904, Chicago Orchestra founder and first music director Theodore Thomas led his final Cincinnati May Festival concerts at Music Hall. Since founding the festival in 1873, Thomas had regularly led concerts, inviting his Chicago Orchestra after its founding in 1891.

Cover of the 1904 Cincinnati May Festival program book

Cover of the 1904 Cincinnati May Festival program book

Programming for the five-concert festival was nothing short of epic and included orchestral works, opera excerpts, and large-scale choral works. The Orchestra had been expanded to over one hundred and ten players and the May Festival Chorus numbered over 500. And to conclude the final concert, Thomas had chosen Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

According to Philo Adams Otis in his book The Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Its Organization, Growth, and Development, 1891–1924: “The program was of the highest order . . . But with due regard to soloists and chorus, the strength of the Festival, to my mind, was Mr. Thomas and the Orchestra. Never have I heard the Beethoven eighth symphony played as at the first matinée! What a performance he gave us Friday evening of Death and Transfiguration!”

And in Memoirs of Theodore Thomas (edited by his widow Rose Fay Thomas): “The May Festival of 1904 brought the work of Thomas to a close in Cincinnati, and its programmes were of such a caliber that it was the artistic climax, not only of the long series of festivals in that city, but, perhaps, even of Thomas’ own career. One colossal work was piled on another, regardless of everything but the one object of making this festival surpass, in standard and perfection, all that had preceded it. . . . the chorus, under the able and musicianly training of its director, Mr. Edwin C. Glover, was in splendid condition, and Thomas had nothing to correct about its performance. . . . The performances at the Cincinnati Festival were, therefore, amongst the very finest that he ever gave in his life, and no one in his audience had the slightest idea of the strain under which he worked.”

The complete concert programs are below.

Wednesday evening, May 11, 1904
BACH Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067
Alfred Quensel, flute
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
William Green, tenor
Watkin Mills, bass
Wilhelm Middelschulte, organ
May Festival Chorus
(an intermission followed the conclusion of the Gloria)

Thursday afternoon, May 12, 1904
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
MOZART Nie wird mich Hymen (Non più di fiori) from La clemenza di Tito, K. 621
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
Joseph Schreurs, clarinet obbligato
SCHUBERT Entr’acte No. 1 from Rosamunde, D. 797
WEBER Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster from Oberon
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma)
ELGAR Pomp and Circumstance Marches No. 2 in A Minor and No. 1 in D Major, Op. 39
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
LISZT The Three Gypsies (Die drei Zigeuner)
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
Leopold Kramer, violin obbligato
WAGNER Bacchanale from Tannhäuser
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Agnes Nicholls, soprano

Friday evening, May 13, 1904
ELGAR Incidental Music and Funeral March from Grania and Diarmid, Op. 42
ELGAR The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38
Muriel Foster, contralto
William Green, tenor
Watkin Mills, bass
Wilhelm Middelschulte, organ
May Festival Chorus
STRAUSS Death and Transfiguration, Op. 24
BEETHOVEN Abscheulicher! from Fidelio, Op. 72
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
BERLIOZ Imperial Hymn, Op. 26
May Festival Chorus

Saturday afternoon, May 14, 1904
GLUCK Overture and Divinités du Styx from Alceste
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Unfinished)
BRAHMS Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
Men of the May Festival Chorus
WAGNER Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
ELGAR In Haven, Where Corals Lie, and The Swimmer from Sea Pictures, Op. 37
Muriel Foster, contralto
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28
STRAUSS Hymnus, Op. 33 No. 3
Muriel Foster, contralto
TCHAIKOVSKY 1812 Overture, Op. 49

Program page for the May 14, 1904, evening concert

Program page for the May 14, 1904, evening concert

Saturday evening, May 14, 1904
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
William Green, tenor
Watkin Mills, bass
Leopold Kramer, violin
Wilhelm Middelschulte, organ
May Festival Chorus
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
William Green, tenor
Watkin Mills, bass
May Festival Chorus

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

Talks About Beethoven's Symphonies

In 1930, Oliver Ditson and Company published Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies by Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock. Rose Fay Thomas, Thomas’s widow, was the editor.

Theodore Thomas, the Orchestra’s founder and first music director, had completed analyses of the first five symphonies, according to the editor, “not intended by their author for professional musicians or dilettanti, but simply to serve as an aid to students and concert-goers in understanding and listening intelligently to these masterworks.” Following Thomas’s death in 1905, Rose Fay eventually asked Stock, Thomas’s successor, to complete the volume, contributing essays for the final four symphonies.

Excerpts from Stock’s essay—written in quite grand style—on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony are below.

“If we were to classify the nine symphonies of Beethoven we might attribute the First to Haydn. Not only was it strongly influenced by Beethoven’s teacher, but it could also have been written in homage to him. The Second may go to Mozart, for it is so joyously festive, so permeated with glow and warmth, that it might well be glorified Mozart. The Third, the Heroic, belongs, with the Fifth and the Ninth, in the realm of eternity. Then the B-flat major Symphony, the Fourth, might be called the Lyric, and the Fifth, the Dramatic. The Sixth, as named by the composer, is the Pastoral. The Seventh is, according to Richard Wagner, the ‘Apotheosis of the Dance.’ The Eighth might be called the Jovial, or Frolicsome. The Ninth—dedicated to all Mankind.

“Embracing all phases of human emotion, monumental in scope and outline, colossal in its intellectual grasp and emotional eloquence, the Ninth stands today as the greatest of all symphonies. . . .


“Beethoven must have felt that he had exhausted the possibilities of instrumental expression and that nothing save the human voice could convey with sufficient eloquence the great thoughts he desired to set forth. . . .

“The Ninth is unquestionably the greatest of all symphonies not only because it is the final résumé of all of Beethoven’s achievements, colossal as they are even without the Ninth, but also because it voices the message of one who had risen beyond himself, beyond the world and the time in which he lived. The Ninth is Beethoven, the psychic and spiritual significance of his life.

“In the first movement we find the bitter struggle he waged against life’s adversities, his failing health, his deafness, his loneliness. The Scherzo depicts the quest for worldly joy; the third movement, melancholy reflection, longing—resignation. The last movement, the ‘Ode to Joy,’ is dedicated to all Mankind.”

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.

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.”


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.

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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