Program page for the January 1, 1904, concert

During the Chicago Orchestra’s last full season at the Auditorium Theatre, first music director Theodore Thomas had programmed the U.S. premiere of Sibelius’s Second Symphony for January 1 and 2, 1904, during the ninth subscription week.

On November 23, 1903, the 1,600-seat Iroquois Theatre (located on the north side of West Randolph Street, between State and Dearborn) opened its doors with a production of Mr. Blue Beard starring Eddie Foy. Barely a month later, the December 30 matinee of the popular musical had a standing-room audience of well over 2,000, mostly women and children on holiday break. An additional 300 actors, technicians, and stagehands were backstage.

Just after the beginning of the second act, sparks from a stage light set fire to a muslin curtain and began to spread to the fly space. Very quickly, sections of burning curtains and set pieces began to fall to the stage, and even though Foy attempted to calm the audience, panic ensued (Foy’s account of the event is here). Patrons rushed to the exits—none of which were identified by illuminated signage and some were even hidden behind curtains—only to find that many opened inwardly or had been locked to prevent gatecrashers.

Chicago Tribune, January 3, 1904

Over 600 people lost their lives—more than twice as many casualties as the Great Chicago Fire in 1871—in this, the deadliest single-building fire in U.S. history.*

“Had Mr. Thomas known some six weeks ago of the great sadness that was to rest like a pall over the city of Chicago on New Year’s Day he could scarcely have arranged a program better suited to the occasion than was that which he and the Chicago Orchestra offered yesterday afternoon at the Auditorium,” wrote the critic in the Chicago Tribune on January 2, referring also to the Funeral March from Elgar’s Grania and Diarmid as well as the Transformation Scene and Glorification from Wagner’s Parsifal.

“The new symphony of Sibelius—[no. 2] in D major, and which yes­terday was played for the first time in America—proved a composition heavy with the mournful melancholy of the northern land whence its writer comes. . . . Mr. Thomas and his men threw themselves with exceptional enthusiasm and vigor into the perfor­mance of the new composition, which is of uncommon difficulty in many places, and the result was a rendition technically com­plete and interpretatively powerful.”

The Saturday evening concert on January 2 was canceled, as Mayor Carter Harrison had ordered all the­aters closed for mandatory inspection. The Orchestra’s next concerts were given on January 15 and 16, since the Auditorium Theatre only needed minor modifica­tions to meet the regulations. The January 2 concert was rescheduled for Monday, January 18, and Sibelius’s Symphony no. 2 received its second performance. The program was revised (likely because the piano soloist, George Proctor, was no longer in town) as follows:

Program insert itemizing schedule for postponed concerts

WAGNER Huldigungsmarsch
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
ELGAR Incidental Music and Funeral March from Grania and Diarmid
WAGNER Good Friday Spell and Transformation Scene and Glorification from Parsifal

In spite of the tragedy, the trustees of the Orchestral Association continued with plans for the construction of Orchestra Hall—ground was broken on May 1 and the hall opened on December 14, 1904. The Iroquois reopened as the Colonial Theatre in October 1905, but in 1924 it was torn down to make way for the Oriental, which opened in 1926. It was renamed the Nederlander in 2019.

*The tragedy at the Iroquois Theatre was a catalyst for the implementation of increased safety standards and ordinances for public buildings, including clearly marked exits, doors of egress that open outward, and doors equipped with “crash” or “panic” bars.

A version of this article appears in the program book for the December 1, 2, 3, and 6, 2022, concerts.

Ned Rorem in 1984 (Jack Mitchell photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of American pianist, diarist, and Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Ned Rorem. He died at his home in Manhattan on November 18, 2022, at the age of ninety-nine.

Rorem was born in Richmond, Indiana, on October 23, 1923, and his family soon moved to Chicago. He expressed a talent for music at a young age and attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and the American Conservatory of Music. As a young musician, he regularly attended concerts in Orchestra Hall, where he “was exposed to contemporary music simultaneously with the standard classics. From the very start, I saw—heard—that the present was every bit as vital as the past, a truth made obvious when the two were interlarded.” Rorem later attended Northwestern University, the Curtis Institute, and the Juilliard School.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed a number of Rorem’s works, including the world premiere of Goodbye My Fancy, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of its centennial season. “Goodbye My Fancy finds, both musically and expressively, the inner coherence it strives for,” John von Rhein wrote in the Chicago Tribune, following the first performance on November 8, 1990. “Rorem’s music remains blissfully oblivious to the blandishments of what used to be called modernism: the score is dated 1988 but sounds as if it could been written thirty years earlier. No American composer sets American words more sensitively; no composer is more alive to Whitman’s fierce passions. Rorem’s choral writing savors leanness, elegance and subtlety, even when it roars. The deployment of massed and solo voices with instruments is telling, the cumulative impact affecting. . . . the shining stars of the occasion were the Chicago Symphony Chorus. As prepared by director Margaret Hillis, the CSO contingent sang with firm consonants, clear vowels, full and forward tone and fervent dedication. They were magnificent to hear. Goodbye My Fancy is a work that deserves to be in the repertory of America’s best symphony choruses. But I doubt that any of them will be able to make its Whitmanesque music leap off the page more exactly or vividly than Hillis’s sterling ensemble.”

A complete list of his works performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus is below:

August 4, 1959, Ravinia Festival
ROREM Symphony No. 3
Alfred Wallenstein, conductor

November 12 and 13, 1959, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Design for Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor

July 14, 1962, Ravinia Festival
ROREM Eagles
William Steinberg, conductor

Leonard Slatkin, Margaret Hillis, Ned Rorem, John Cheek, and Wendy White following the world premiere of Goodbye My Fancy on November 8, 1990 (Jim Steere photo)

June 15 and 16, 1972, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Piano Concerto in Six Movements
Irwin Hoffman, conductor
Jerome Lowenthal, piano

January 6, 7, and 9, 1977, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Air Music, Ten Variations for Orchestra
Guido Ajmone-Marsan, conductor

April 24, 25, and 26, 1986, Orchestra Hall
ROREM An American Oratorio
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Donald Kaasch, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 8, 9, and 10, 1990, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Goodbye My Fancy (world premiere)
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Wendy White, mezzo-soprano
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

On June 3, 1990, Rorem made a rare appearance as a pianist in Orchestra Hall, accompanying soprano Arleen Augér. “The idea of pairing Augér, one of the few American singers who really care about American vocal music, with composer-pianist Rorem, who has done more than any other living American to cultivate the art of native song, was an inspired one,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “Fully half of the program was given over to his songs. Throughout the program, Rorem’s accompaniments were rich in the special insights perhaps only a composer who happens to be a skilled pianist can bring to them.”

Numerous tributes have been posted online, including AP News, NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among several others.

Ned Rorem and former CSO Composer-in-Residence John Corigliano give a pre-concert conversation in Orchestra Hall’s ballroom on November 8, 1990

This article also appears here.

Daniel Barenboim (Don Getsug photo)

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director, Daniel Barenboim!

Barenboim’s history in Chicago began on January 19, 1958, when the fifteen-year-old pianist first performed a solo recital in Orchestra Hall. When he returned that fall for a second engagement, he attended his first CSO concert, which included sixth music director Fritz Reiner leading Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. In his autobiography A Life in Music, Barenboim recounted that, “nothing I had heard in Europe or elsewhere had prepared me for the shock of the precision, the volume, and the intensity of the Chicago orchestra. It was like a perfect machine with a beating human heart.”

In June 1965, Barenboim made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with André Previn, and in February 1969, he first appeared with the Orchestra in Orchestra Hall in Bartók’s First Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez. He first conducted the Orchestra in November 1970 at Michigan State University, and the first work on the program was Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Jacqueline du Pré; a week later, they recorded it in Medinah Temple. Over the next two decades, Barenboim regularly appeared with the Orchestra, as a guest conductor—in Orchestra Hall, on tour, and in the recording studio—and piano soloist.

In January 1989, it was announced that Daniel Barenboim would succeed Sir Georg Solti to become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director, beginning with the 1991-92 season. His music directorship was distinguished by the opening of Chicago’s new Symphony Center in 1997, operatic productions in Orchestra Hall, appearances with the Orchestra in the dual role of pianist and conductor, and numerous international tours (see hereherehere, and here). Barenboim continued the cultivation of the composer-in-residence program and led the CSO in more than 30 world and U.S. premieres. In 1994, he appointed Duain Wolfe as director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, succeeding founding director Margaret Hillis, and he collaborated with the Civic Orchestra, including leading the ensemble’s debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2000.

Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré during a recording session for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in Medinah Temple on November 11, 1970 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Barenboim amassed an extensive discography with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (see hereherehere, and here), including works by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Falla, Mahler, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schumann, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner; and concertos with Jacqueline du Pré, Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Pinchas Zukerman, and several members of the Orchestra.

As a piano recitalist and chamber musician, Barenboim collaborated with an extraordinary roster of instrumentalists and singers in Orchestra Hall. He performed a dizzying array of repertoire, including Albéniz’s Iberia; Bach’s Goldberg Variations and The Well-Tempered Clavier (books 1 and 2); Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion; Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and cello; Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Piano, Violin and Thirteen Wind Instruments; Brahms’ cello sonatas; Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time; Mozart’s violin sonatas; and song cycles by Mahler, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, and Wolf; along with countless piano works by Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Schoenberg, and Schubert, among others.

In May and June 2006, during his final residency as music director, Barenboim led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a number of valedictory works, including Carter’s Soundings; Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 27 (conducting from the keyboard); the final act of Wagner’s Parsifal; and the ninth symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, and Mahler. He most recently appeared with the Orchestra in November 2018, leading Smetana’s Má vlast.

Happy birthday, maestro!

This article also appears here.

by Linda Wolfe

Frederick Stock (George Nelidoff photo)

My parents were Frederick and Lorraine Wolfe. My father was the eldest of two sons of Vera and Alfred Wolfe, my grandparents. Vera was the only daughter of Frederick and Elisabeth Stock, my great-grandparents.

I have often been asked if I heard a lot of Frederick Stock stories growing up in Colorado, but unfortunately not. Stock was a formal photo on the wall with intensely piercing eyes. After my father died on March 13, 1989, I found a bundle of photographs and a packet of letters from Stock to my grandmother, his daughter Vera. The letters were full of cartoon characters and love. I was intrigued and wondered if Chicago knew that side of Stock.

A short time later, I was listening to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic on the radio. Henry Fogel, then executive director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was in town hosting their radiothon fundraiser. I reached out to him, and he said the CSO was preparing for its centennial season (1990–91), and they had been searching for my grandmother to invite her to Chicago for the festivities. I let him know that, unfortunately, she had died in January 1975. So, instead, Henry invited me to attend several events to celebrate the conclusion of the CSO’s centennial.

I traveled to Chicago for the first time with my oldest son, and we had the privilege of representing the Stock family. It was a whirlwind of activities, from attending the gala dinner with Theodore Thomas’s grandson and his wife, seeing three CSO music directors—Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti, and Rafael Kubelik—conducting on the same concert, having lunch with Lady Solti, attending the rededication of the Spirit of Music statue (the Theodore Thomas memorial, at the corner of Balbo and Michigan), seeing Stock’s full-size painting in the stairwell that leads up to the ballroom, and standing on the stage to see Orchestra Hall as Stock saw it. I was practically speechless.

Elisabeth and Frederick Stock in May 1896 (Linda Wolfe collection)

I discovered that a biography about Stock had not been written, so I began a project to gather as much information as I could. The Glessner journals were an incredible source of information, as Stock wrote hundreds of letters to them. While Stock was music director, he and his wife Elisabeth were guests at the Glessner home on an almost weekly basis, joining them for holidays and special events. Frederick and Elisabeth also often spent time at the Glessner farm, The Rocks, in New Hampshire.

It has been a wonderful experience doing research and I am honored to present another side of Stock, his family story.

Frederick Wilhelm August Stock was born on November 11, 1872, in Jülich, Germany, a small fortress town about thirty miles west of Cologne. He was the second son of Frederick Wilhelm Carl Stock, a Kapellmeister in the Prussian Army and Maria Lein. Frederick’s mother died on June 9, 1874, apparently never recovering from complications during his birth. His father remarried in 1887 to Johanna Maria Louise Bister and they had three more children—Maria, Louise, and Wilhelm.

In 1887, at the age of fourteen, Frederick won a scholarship to the Cologne Conservatory. His teachers included conductor Franz Wüllner and composer Englebert Humperdink, and one of his fellow students was Wilhelm Mengleberg, the famous Dutch conductor. While a student, he also became a member of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.

In 1895, Theodore Thomas—the CSO’s founding music director—was in Germany, and twenty-two-year-old Frederick auditioned for him in Cologne, playing Bruch’s First Violin Concerto. Thomas told Stock if he made his way to America, he would have a position in the Chicago Orchestra. On September 22, 1895, Stock sailed from Hamburg to New York on the ship Prussia, and on that same voyage was Elisabeth Musculus, who would become his wife in May 1896. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Stock was given the position of assistant principal viola.

Vera and Elisabeth Stock (Linda Wolfe collection)

In Chicago on May 8, 1902, Frederick and Elisabeth welcomed a daughter, Vera Fredericka Stock. She would be their only child.

According to ocean liner passenger lists, Frederick returned to Europe at least twenty-five times. He met with the musical leaders of the European scene, reviewed new scores, and visited family. Most often Elisabeth accompanied him on his travels, and Vera also joined them several times.

In late September 1912, Frederick traveled on the Lusitania from Liverpool to New York. In a letter to the Glessners, he wrote “This is the finest boat I ever travelled on, very comfortable indeed. A trip on a boat like this spoils one for anything else, because it is the most delightful thing imaginable.”  And in a letter dated September 15, 1920, “One of the novelties I brought from London is called The Planets composed by Gustav (von) Holst . . . Don’t be afraid of all those novelties. I shall stick them into the programs at places where you won’t find them, but they will be there just the same.”

On April 8, 1924, in what was described as the “social event of the year,” Vera married Alfred Morris Wolfe, and Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue was filled to capacity. Soprano Claire Dux, a frequent CSO soloist, sang Stock’s “A Love Letter” with Eric DeLamarter at the organ. The reception was held nearby at the Drake Hotel.

On January 18, 1928, Frederick and Elisabeth’s first grandson, Frederick Stock Wolfe (my father), was born. On June 28, 1929, their second grandchild was born, Alfred “Murph” Morris Wolfe, Jr.

In 1927, the Stocks started building a vacation home in Door County, Wisconsin, overlooking Sister Bay. It was designed by Chicago architect, William Bernhard, who the Stocks undoubtedly met at the Glessner home. This beloved home was a welcome retreat from life in Chicago where the Stock family would spend summers and holidays.

The CSO’s 1942-43 season began with Stock’s usual robustness and enthusiasm, but on October 20, he died suddenly of a heart attack at home at 1325 North Astor Street. During the intermission of the New York Philharmonic’s broadcast on November, 1, Deems Taylor spoke the following: “Let us not again let men like this go, without telling them that we love them. They would appreciate our love. We use many words on Hitler and like creatures, but never the least word to men who have made us better human beings, who have given us a bulwark against cruelty, bigotry, and stupidity. We have all, all good and bewildered people, died a little with Mr. Stock.”

Plaque in Jülich, Germany, dedicated in June 1994

Vera’s husband Alfred Wolfe was originally from Colorado Springs, and after Frederick’s death, they moved Elisabeth and the grandchildren to Colorado. Elisabeth died on August 15, 1951, and Vera and Murph brought her ashes to Chicago. She was interred in the crypt with her beloved husband in the mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery.

In June 1994, Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were on tour in Europe, and several musicians traveled to Jülich to attend a plaque unveiling at the Citadel, commemorating Stock’s birth. The mayor of Julich and I unveiled the plaque, which read:

In memory of the conductor and composer
Friedrich Wilhelm August Stock
November 11, 1872 (Jülich) – October 20, 1942 (Chicago)
The son of a Prussian military band master stationed in the citadel, he studied at the Cologne Conservatory (1891) and then joined the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne as a violinist.
In 1895 he was hired as a violist at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 1905 he became music director and, over the next 37 years, led the CSO to international fame.
The City of Jülich

Linda Wolfe is the great-granddaughter of Frederick Stock.

This article also appears here.

Theodore Thomas (Max Platz photo)

Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director, Theodore Thomas, on the occasion of his 187th birthday!

Below is an excerpt from a review in the Chicago Tribune, following the Chicago Orchestra‘s first concert (the first performance of a subscription week, usually a matinee, was sometimes referred to as a “public rehearsal”):

“Chicago’s Orchestra the Peer of Any in the Land . . . It has been stated that the Orchestral Association‘s contract with Mr. Thomas stipulated that he should in the Chicago Orchestra give to the city an organization the peer of the finest in the United States. Yesterday’s public rehearsal at the Auditorium by that orchestra showed that Mr. Thomas has filled his contract. In this company of eighty-six players, Chicago now possesses an orchestral organization of which its people may indeed be proud, and the day is only a few months distant when they will be able to say to the similar organizations possessed by older sisters in the East, ‘Here is your new equal!’ . . . Theodore Thomas has long been known for his ability to quickly bring newly formed orchestras into condition for satisfactory work, but in this instance he has fairly surpassed himself, the results being simply astonishing. . . . The body of the tone produced is superb, possessing a vitality, a fullness, and volume such as been heard from no orchestra ever before in Chicago. The unity and precision in attack were also surprising because of an excellence far superior to what had been even hoped for.”

Chicago Tribune, October 17, 1891

This article also appears here.

Jorja Fleezanis in 1975 (Terry’s Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the passing of Jorja Fleezanis, a member of the Orchestra’s violin section during the 1975-76 season and a passionate, lifelong educator. She passed away at her home in Lake Leelanau, Michigan on September 10, 2022, at the age of seventy.

Born on March 19, 1952, in Detroit, Michigan, Fleezanis began violin instruction at the age of eight, and as a teenager, attended the Interlochen Center for the Arts on scholarship and performed with the Detroit Youth Orchestra. She furthered her studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Fleezanis’s teachers included Mischa Mischakoff (CSO concertmaster from 1930 until 1937) in Chicago; Donald Weilerstein and David Cerone in Cleveland; and Walter Levin in Cincinnati. She was assistant concertmaster of the Cleveland Concert Associates Orchestra, concertmaster of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and concerto soloist with the University of Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra.

According to a 1975 program book biography, “Of Greek descent and the only musician in her family, Detroit-born Jorja decided to shoot for the Chicago post as the test of her talent. She made it to the finals on three separate occasion, each time told by Maestro Solti personally that he would like her to audition again. Even after her third audition, Solti still wavered, calling for some further test. So she sat in with the Orchestra for a week—comfortable, exhilarated, totally in her element. At last Sir Georg was convinced and hired her on the spot.”

Following her season in Chicago, she later served as associate concertmaster with the San Francisco Symphony. In 1989, she won the audition as concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, becoming (at the time) only the second woman in the United States to hold that title in a major orchestra when appointed. Fleezanis remained in that position for twenty years until her retirement in 2009, as the longest-tenured concertmaster in the Minnesota Orchestra’s history. During her time as concertmaster, two works were commissioned for her: John Adams’s Violin Concerto and John Tavener’s Ikon of Eros.

Jorja Fleezanis (Indiana University photo)

A passionate educator, Fleezanis was professor of orchestral studies at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music from 2009 until her retirement last year. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s School of Music from 1990 until 2009; at the Round Top International Festival Institute in Texas from 1990 until 2007; artist-in-residence at the University of California, Davis; guest artist and teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory from 1981 to 1989; and artist and mentor at the Music@Menlo Festival from 2003 until 2010. Fleezanis had been teacher and coach with the New World Symphony since 1988 as well as on the faculty of the Music Academy of the West since 2016. She was a visiting teacher at the Boston Conservatory, the Juilliard School, the Shepherd School of Music, and the Interlochen Academy and Summer Camp, along with serving as a frequent guest and clinician at the Britten Pears Centre at Snape Maltings in England.

A longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association, Jorja Fleezanis was preceded in death by her husband, American music critic and author Michael Steinberg.

This article also appears here.

Sir Georg Solti (Yousuf Karsh photo)

As the summer of 1997 drew to a close, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association was putting the finishing touches on Symphony Center, culminating a three-year, $120 million project. To celebrate the renovation of Orchestra Hall and facilities expansion, a three-week festival was planned that included gala concerts and the first Day of Music, twenty-four hours of free, live performances across all genres in multiple Symphony Center venues.

One of the gala concerts was scheduled for Saturday, October 25, with Music Director Laureate Sir Georg Solti leading the Orchestra in an all-Beethoven program: the Seventh Symphony and the Emperor Piano Concerto with Music Director Daniel Barenboim as soloist. The concert would celebrate not only Solti’s 85th birthday (October 21, 1997) but also his 1,000th concert with the Orchestra. In November, he was scheduled to return for two weeks of subscription concerts, leading Ives’s Decoration Day, Schumann’s Symphony no. 3, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 3, along with a full program of choruses from Wagner’s operas with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, to be recorded live by London.

Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, the world had been rocked with the news of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on Sunday, August 31. Barely a week later on the morning of September 5 (the day before Diana’s funeral), news outlets reported the death of Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India. And late that same evening, we heard the unthinkable. While on holiday with his family in Antibes, France, Sir Georg Solti had taken ill and died peacefully in his sleep.

Michigan Avenue entrance of Orchestra Hall on September 6, 1997 (Marilyn Arado photo)

“I had just returned hours earlier from Europe, where I was working with Daniel Barenboim on Solti’s 85th birthday celebration concert,” remembered Martha Gilmer, former vice president for artistic planning. After confirming with Charles Kaye, Solti’s longtime assistant, she called Barenboim in Bayreuth, waking him to relay the news.

“I was stunned,” recalled Henry Fogel, then president of the CSO Association. The following morning, senior staff met to determine how to proceed with the plans for the festival, among several other issues. As some of them approached the entrance, “We were very touched because when we came to Orchestra Hall, one person had left a bouquet of flowers at the Michigan Avenue entrance.”

Daniel Barenboim leads Mozart’s Requiem on October 22, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

The festival would continue mostly as planned. The Symphony Center inaugural gala opened with Barenboim leading Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, performed in Solti’s memory. A special, free memorial concert was added on October 22 with Barenboim leading Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, followed by Mozart’s Requiem with Emily Magee, Anna Larsson, John Aler, René Pape, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Duain Wolfe.

Richard L. Thomas receives one of Solti’s batons from Lady Valerie Solti on October 25, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

The program for the celebration concert on October 25 changed slightly, and Barenboim led Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto from the keyboard along with the Seventh Symphony. At the beginning of the concert, Lady Valerie Solti presented Richard L. Thomas (chairman of the CSO Association from 1986 until 1991) with one of Solti’s batons.

A special commemorative program book for the memorial and celebration concerts was prepared, and it included tributes from President Bill Clinton, Illinois governor Jim Edgar, and Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, along with Solti’s colleagues from all over the world, members of the Orchestra, and administrative staff. (The program book is available here.)

The block of Adams Street between Michigan and Wabash avenues was named honorary Sir Georg Solti Place on October 24, 1997. The following spring (just before the beginning of the fifteenth European tour with concerts in Paris and Berlin), a small contingent of Orchestra family traveled to Budapest for a ceremony on March 28, 1998, in which Solti’s ashes were interred next to the grave of his teacher, Béla Bartók. During the ceremony, Charles Pikler, then–principal viola, performed Ravel’s Kaddish.

Fogel continued, “One thought that I did keep having was how sad it was that Maestro Solti would never see the renovated hall, with which I believe he would have been thrilled.”

“Solti, so vibrant, such energy, such magnetism, such a life force,” added Gilmer. “It was impossible to believe that it ended so quietly and in a place so far away. . . . He was a young 84-year-old and what occurred to all of us is that we had all been robbed of wonderful musical memories that were yet to be made.”

This article also appears here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the eminent British conductor and pianist Bramwell Tovey, who died yesterday, July 12, 2022, following a long illness. He was sixty-nine.

“The music world has lost a true renaissance man with the passing of Bramwell Tovey, and I have lost a dear, dear friend,” wrote CSOA President Jeff Alexander. “We began our tenures at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra the same week in September 2000. For the subsequent fourteen years, we were joined at the hip in our daily quest to advance all artistic and administrative aspects of the organization, and many advancements we indeed made. Bramwell’s concerts were always extremely enjoyable. His many compositions, about which he was so humble, were intricate, thoughtful, meaningful additions to the repertoire. His piano playing a joy to listen to. His unyielding support of my work and the well-being of the institution forever appreciated. In the eight years that have passed since I left the VSO for the CSO, we were simply friends. And he was a wonderful friend. He will be missed by the tens of thousands of people who benefited from experiencing his great talent each concert season. Even more so by his family and his friends, who were very much a part of his family.”

A frequent guest to the Chicago Symphony podium in recent years, Tovey also appeared with the Orchestra as a pianist, most notably leading Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue from the keyboard in all-Gershwin concerts in March 2017.

Bramwell Tovey speaks about Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, in advance of his March 2017 performances

“Elgar’s Enigma Variations does not lack for concert performances, but Tovey’s stood out,” wrote Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, following Tovey’s most recent appearances with the Orchestra in January 2019. “From the statement of the main theme, which the conductor delivered with unusual care and deliberation, it was clear that this was going to be a singular interpretation. Sure enough, Tovey turned these vignettes—each depicting someone in Elgar’s circle of friends—into vividly imagined portraits.”

A complete list of his appearances with the Orchestra is below.

August 10, 2014, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS/Juon Hungarian Dance No. 4 in F Minor, WoO 1, No. 4
BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No. 10 in E Major, WoO 1, No. 10
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Miriam Fried, violin
LEHÁR Gold and Silver Waltz
J. STRAUSS, Jr. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314
R. STRAUSS Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

Thomas Hampson and Bramwell Tovey onstage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 10, 2019 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

August 20, 2016, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Itzhak Perlman, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

February 3 and 4, 2017, Orchestra Hall
WALTON Orb and Sceptre
BRITTEN The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34
TCHAIKOVSKY Act 2 from Sleeping Beauty

March 24 and 25, 2017, Orchestra Hall
GERSHWIN/Rose Overture to Strike Up the Band
GERSHWIN/Tovey A Foggy Day
GERSHWIN Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess
GERSHWIN/Grofé Rhapsody in Blue
Bramwell Tovey, piano
GERSHWIN An American in Paris

January 10, 11, and 12, 2019, Orchestra Hall
IVES/Schuman Variations on “America”
IVES/Adams At the River
COPLAND Selections from Old American Songs
STILL In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy
DAMROSCH Danny Deever
DAUGHERTY Letter to Mrs. Bixby from Letters from Lincoln
CORIGLIANO One Sweet Morning from One Sweet Morning
Thomas Hampson, baritone
ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma)

Most recently, Tovey had accepted the position of music director of Sarasota Orchestra, continued artistic leadership positions with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and BBC Concert Orchestra, and was appointed as principal guest conductor with Orchestre Symphonique de Québec.

This article also appears here.

Herbert Blomstedt (Juergen M. Pietsch photo)

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to the legendary Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt, today celebrating his ninety-fifth!

“A first-rate conductor was in charge,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune, following Blomstedt’s debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in January 1988. “Blomstedt gives the impression of being a serious seeker of musical truth, a kind of Diogenes of the baton. In the process of communicating what he perceives as the composer’s intentions, he has stripped his music making of frills and fustian, showing you the clean, shining surface beneath. Every orchestra should have such a musician on the premises.”

Over the past thirty-five years, Maestro Blomstedt has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on several occasions, as follows.

January 7, 8, 9, and 12, 1988
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Ivan Moravec, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major

February 22, 23, 24, and 27, 1990
HADYN Symphony No. 86 in D Major
LADERMAN Cello Concerto (world premiere)
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
DVORÁK Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70

January 24, 25, 26, and 29, 1991
SIBELIUS The Swan of Tuonela from Four Legends of the Kalevala, Op. 22
Grover Schiltz, english horn
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Rubén González, violin
NIELSEN Symphony No. 3, Op. 27 (Sinfonia espansiva)
Jane Green, soprano
William Diana, baritone

Herbert Blomstedt (Martin Lengemann photo)

March 5, 6, 7, and 11, 1998
MENDELSSOHN The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26
DUTILLEUX Tout un monde lointain . . .
Lynn Harrell, cello
DVORÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

June 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2007
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Annalena Persson, soprano
Ingeborg Danz, contralto
Robert Künzli, tenor
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

March 1, 2, and 3, 2018
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major (Eroica)

March 5, 6, and 7, 2020
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Bertrand Chamayou, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

Herbert Blomstedt leads the CSO in Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony on March 10, 2022 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

March 10, 11, and 12, 2022
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453
Martin Helmchen, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)

Under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents, Blomstedt has appeared as conductor with visiting orchestras, as follows.

March 12, 1986
WAGNER Prelude to Lohengrin
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Claudio Arrau, piano
NIELSEN Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 (The Inextinguishable)
San Francisco Symphony

November 30, 1988
MOZART Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550
LIDHOLM Kontakion for Orchestra
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
San Francisco Symphony

October 22, 2001
NIELSEN Violin Concerto, Op. 33
Nikolaj Znaider, violin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Happy, happy birthday!

Herbert Blomstedt appears with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on March 9, 11, and 12, 2023, leading an all-Dvořák program: the Cello Concerto with Andrei Ioniţă and the Eighth Symphony.

This article also appears here.

Vladimir Ashkenazy (Wayne J. Shilkret photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family wishes the magnificent pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy a very happy eighty-fifth birthday!

Ashkenazy catapulted onto the world stage in 1955 after winning second prize in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. He was awarded first prize in both the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1956 and the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962.

“Pound for pound, he may be the most pyrotechnic pianist in the whole world,” wrote Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune, following Ashkenazy’s Orchestra Hall recital debut, presented under the auspices of Allied Arts on October 19, 1958. Seven years later, after his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, Thomas Willis (also in the Tribune) commented, the “volcanic [pianist], whose two previous recitals here marked him as a man to watch, had everything it takes to get the locomotor going full speed and most of the qualities to sustain momentum. The big tone for melodies framed the structure in iron. The bravura technique took in stride the hammering octaves, scales which sweep the keyboard, and arpeggio lightning which galvanizes the Russian bear intermezzo into a furious climax. . . . This combination of work, soloist, and orchestra could lift you right out of your seat more than once.”

During the first tour to Europe in 1971, Ashkenazy joined the Orchestra on the first leg in Edinburgh on September 5, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 under Georg Solti. In May 1971 and 1972, he recorded Beethoven’s five piano concertos with the CSO, again with Solti conducting. Recording sessions took place at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and for London Records, the recording was produced by David Harvey and Kenneth Wilkinson was the recording engineer. The set of all five concertos won the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance—Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with orchestra).

For nearly fifty years, Vladimir Ashkenazy was a regular visitor to the stage in Orchestra Hall. In January 2020, he announced that he would be retiring from public performance, capping a career that spanned nearly seventy years.

A complete list of his appearances—with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as a piano recitalist, and as a guest conductor with visiting orchestras—is below.

October 28, 29, and 30, 1965, Orchestra Hall
November 1, 1965, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

March 27, 1967, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
30 and 31, 1967, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Jean Martinon, conductor

July 25, 1968, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Alfred Wallenstein, conductor

Ashkenazy, Solti, and David Harvey listening to playbacks of Beethoven’s piano concertos in May 1971 at the Krannert Center (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

December 5, 6, and 7, 1968, Orchestra Hall
December 9, 1968, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
William Steinberg, conductor

October 30, 31, and November 1, 1969, Orchestra Hall
November 3, 1969, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
MOZART Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466
Eliahu Inbal, conductor

July 16, 1970, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16
István Kertész, conductor

May 7 and 8, 1971, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Georg Solti, conductor

July 20, 1971, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
István Kertész, conductor

September 5, 1971, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
MOZART Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466
Georg Solti, conductor

May 20, 1972, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

May 21, 1972, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

March 1, 2, and 3, 1973, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Lorin Maazel, conductor

November 7, 8, and 9, 1974, Orchestra Hall
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 5 in G Major, Op. 55
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

January 18 and 20, 1980, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents, Ashkenazy has appeared as piano recitalist, chamber musician, and guest conductor, as follows (*program book not on file; repertoire culled from advertisements and newspaper clippings).

October 19, 1958

October 19, 1958, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24
CHOPIN Nocturne in B Major, Op. 9, No. 3
CHOPIN Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54
LISZT Mephisto Waltz No. 1
RACHMANINOV Variations on a Theme by Corelli, Op. 42
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

*November 18, 1962, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Sonata No. 9 in D Major, K. 311
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 82
CHOPIN Etudes, Op. 25

*May 16, 1971, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:52
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)
CHOPIN Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58

March 4, 1973, Orchestra Hall
DOHNÁNYI String Quartet No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 33
SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 68
SCHUMANN Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44
Chicago Symphony String Quartet
Victor Aitay, violin
Edgar Muenzer, violin
Milton Preves, viola
Frank Miller, cello

*February 17, 1974, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 3 in C Major, Op. 2, No. 3
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
CHOPIN Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49
CHOPIN Impromptu in F-sharp Major, Op. 36
CHOPIN Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52
CHOPIN Scherzo in E Major, Op. 54

Vladimir Ashkenazy (Wayne J. Shilkret photo)

*March 20, 1977, Orchestra Hall
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp Minor, Op. 19
SCRIABIN Two Poems, Op. 32
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 7, Op. 64 (White Mass)
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 10, Op. 70
SCRIABIN Four Pieces, Op. 56
RACHMANINOV Études-Tableaux, nos. 2 (Allegro in C major), 6 (Allegro con fuoco in E-flat major), 7 (Moderato in G minor), and 3 (Grave in C minor)
RACHMANINOV Selections from Ten Preludes, Op. 23 and Thirteen Preludes, Op. 32

*January 21, 1979, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Op. 31, No. 1
SCHUMANN Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6
CHOPIN Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49
CHOPIN Ballade in A-flat
CHOPIN Nocturne in F-sharp Minor, Op. 48, No. 2
CHOPIN Scherzo in C-sharp Minor

*February 20, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111
CHOPIN Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58
CHOPIN Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2

*March 20, 1983, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
SCHUBERT Klavierstücke No. 1 in E-flat Minor and No. 2 in E-flat Major, D. 946
SCHUBERT Fantasy in C Major, D. 760 (Wanderer)

*April 29, 1984, Orchestra Hall
SCHUBERT Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960
SCHUMANN Papillons, Op. 2
SCHUMANN Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13

December 9, 1990, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111
BRAHMS Klavierstücke, Op. 119
BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24

Vladimir Ashkenazy (Ben Ealovega photo for Decca)

November 15, 1992, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61
BAX Tintagel
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

November 10, 1997, Orchestra Hall
KODÁLY Dances of Galánta
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Christian Tetzlaff, violin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin

March 31, 2000, Orchestra Hall
JANÁČEK Suite from The Cunning Little Vixen
DVOŘÁK Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53
Kurt Nikkanen, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100
Czech Philharmonic

March 7, 2003, Orchestra Hall
SHOSTAKOVICH/Barshai Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110a
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
Lukáš Vondráček, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70
Czech Philharmonic

Happy, happy birthday!

This article also appears here.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

csoarchives twitter feed

chicagosymphony twitter feed


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


  • 480,613 hits
%d bloggers like this: