Sir Georg Solti conducted his beloved Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the last time in March 1997. His performance on March 29 was his 999th time conducting the Orchestra.
The program included Mussorgsky’s Prelude to Khovanshchina, Shostakovich’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with bass Sergei Aleksashkin, and Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 15.
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote that Solti “is a latecomer to Shostakovich’s music and he is trying to make up for lost time. He has recorded three of the composer’s symphonies with the CSO in recent seasons and these performances are being taped for London Records. He resisted the composer’s music because of Shostakovich’s seeming cooperation with the Soviet regime but has changed his mind as details about the composer’s politics became known. As is usually the case with Solti, details were neatly in place Thursday night.”
And John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune wrote: “Solti’s response to the symphony was to lay everything out with the utmost clarity and precision and to assign each climax its proper weight, so that the listener was free to decide what it all means. At his jaunty tempo, the opening Allegretto was all forced jollity, just right, while the scherzo masked its sardonic intentions behind a poker face. If the funeral march was more brazenly loud than deeply disturbing, the finale was as equivocal as Shostakovich meant it to be.”
For the recording, Michael Woolcock was the producer, James Lock and Philip Siney were the balance engineers, Duncan Mitchell was the location engineer, and Simon Bertram and Matthew Hutchinson were the recording editors.