On May 9, 2014, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carlo Maria Giulini, a beloved presence on the Chicago Symphony’s podium from 1955 until 1978, including his tenure as the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor from 1969 until 1972, during which he shared conducting duties with Georg Solti for the first overseas tour to Europe in 1971.

Giulini headshot

In October 1955 “Fritz Reiner delivered an unusually flattering message to the musicians assembled around him on Orchestra Hall’s stage. The orchestra would have a guest conductor the following week, Reiner said, but it would not be any run-of-the-mill substitute. ‘A very special person,’ is how Reiner described Giulini. That Reiner would heap praise upon a potential competitor caught his players off guard. ‘That’s the only time he ever made any comment like that, and boy was he right,’ said Adolph Herseth, the orchestra’s principal trumpet” (excerpt from Thomas D. Saler’s excellent biography of Giulini, Serving Genius).

Giulini made his United States debut in November 1955, leading two weeks of concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The first subscription week originally was to include Debussy’s La mer, but it was replaced at the last minute with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The programs for that first week were as follows:

November 3 & 4, 1955

Original program for the November 3 & 4, 1955, subscription concerts

November 2, 1955 (television concert filmed in WGN’s Studio Theatre)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord

November 3 & 4, 1955 (Orchestra Hall)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord
PIZZETTI Prelude to Fedra
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

November 8, 1955 (Orchestra Hall)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord
PIZZETTI Prelude to Fedra
DEBUSSY La mer

In the Chicago Tribune, Claudia Cassidy wrote: “For a time last night it looked as if we might remember Carlo Maria Giulini as the man who introduced Antonio Vivaldi’s enchanting music of ‘The Four Seasons’ to the Chicago Symphony’s repertory in Orchestra Hall. Then it became plain that we will remember Giulini as himself. This tall, slender young Italian from Milan’s La scala has sensitivity, imagination, and skill, and he has that extra, enkindling thing, the Promethean gift of fire” (the complete review is here).

On November 9, the Tribune printed an announcement that “Mr. Giulini’s ‘La mer’ [from Tuesday evening] was a performance of such distinction, being large, comprehensive, sweeping, and inspired, that the Thursday-Friday program have been altered to include it.” As a result, the Orchestra’s first performances of Giovanni Salviucci’s Introduction, Passacaglia, and Finale was delayed [Giulini would introduce the work to Chicago audiences in September 1969]. The programs for the second week were:

November 3 & 4, 1955, program bio

November 3 & 4, 1955, program bio

November 9, 1955 (television concert filmed in WGN’s Studio Theatre)
ROSSINI Overture to L’italiana in Algeri
HAYDN Symphony No. 94 in G Major (Surprise)
RAVEL Five Children’s Pieces from Mother Goose

November 10 & 11 (Orchestra Hall), & 14 (Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee), 1955
ROSSINI Overture to L’italiana in Algeri
HAYDN Symphony No. 94 in G Major (Surprise)
DEBUSSY La mer
RAVEL Five Children’s Pieces from Mother Goose
FALLA Three Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat

For Giulni’s second week, Cassidy wrote: “The orchestra played for him with the mobility in equilibrium that let him say what he had to say, whether that communication came in the Debussy, in the sunny charms of Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony, in the pale shimmer of Ravel’s fairy tale palette, or the black, boiling furies of the dances from ‘Tricorne,’ whose farruca had the fierce pride only the young Escudero could have hoped to rival” (complete review is here).

Giulini in Stockholm

Giulini leading the Orchestra at the Folkets Hus in Stockholm, Sweden on September 15, 1971

Giulini’s final residency with the Orchestra was in March 1978, when he led three weeks of concerts. According to his program biography: “Next season Maestro Giulini begins a three-year term as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.” (He went on to serve as the Philharmonic’s eighth music director until 1984.) The programs for his last appearances were as follows:

March 2, 3 & 4, 1978 (Orchestra Hall)
SCHUBERT/Webern Six German Dances, D. 820
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 (Unfinished)
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Isaac Stern, violin

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978

March 6, 1978 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D. 417
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Isaac Stern, violin

March 9, 10 & 11, 1978
GABRIELI Canzon à 4
GABRIELI/Thomas Sonata, pian’ e forte
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Sir Clifford Curzon, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978
BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Pina Carmirelli, vioin
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D. 417

Oh yeah, he made some recordings with the Orchestra too. Stay tuned for part 2 . . .

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