Martinon RCA set

RCA Red Seal Records (now a division of Sony Masterworks) recently released the complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings—some available for the first time on CD—led by our seventh music director Jean Martinon. (The set has not yet been released in the United States but is available from several European and Japanese distributors.)

“It’s always a very delicate and perilous business for a conductor to take over a renowned orchestra that has just passed through a glorious and legendary era under a charismatic predecessor,” writes Christoph Schlüren in the accompanying booklet, referring to Martinon succeeding Fritz Reiner. “Martinon was not blessed by fate in Chicago. The problem was not that the orchestra failed to appreciate him, nor that the ensemble’s outstanding level dropped under his leadership. The surviving recordings are no less brilliant than Reiner’s. . . . In any event, the standard view that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra did not really get going until Martinon gave way to Georg Solti is true only with regard to its commercial success and resultant worldwide fame, not to the perfection of its playing.”

Clark Brody, Williard Elliot, Donald Peck, Dale Clevenger, Jean Martinon, Ray Still, Adolph  Herseth, Donald Koss, Jay Friedman -

CSO principals Clark Brody (clarinet), Williard Elliot (bassoon), Donald Peck (flute), Dale Clevenger (horn), Martinon, Ray Still (oboe), Adolph Herseth (trumpet), Donald Koss (timpani), and Jay Friedman (trombone) backstage in February 1966 before a performance of Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra

The set includes a number of works, most notably Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra (featuring several CSO principal players); Mennin’s Symphony no. 7; Varèse’s Arcana; and Weber’s Clarinet Concertos nos. 1 and 2 with Benny Goodman. Additionally, two very special works are heard: an arrangement of Paganini’s Moto perpetuo as arranged by the CSO’s second music director Frederick Stock (according to Schlüren, “wittily peppered with fragments from the finale of [Beethoven’s] Eroica“) as well as Martinon’s own Symphony no. 4 (Altitudes), commissioned for the Orchestra’s seventy-fifth season. And similar to the previously issued Reiner set, the booklet includes numerous images from the collections of the Rosenthal Archives.

Welles announcement

On May 6, 2015, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Orson Welles—actor, writer, director, and producer in theatre, radio, and film—who appeared at Orchestra Hall on one occasion on January 9, 1939. He gave a special lecture entitled “As I See the Stage,” presented under the auspices of a Northwestern University lecture series.

At the time of his appearance in Chicago, Welles was known primarily as the director and narrator of the radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds, an adaptation of H.G. Wells‘s novel. The show had been broadcast on October 30, 1938 (local coverage of the aftermath of the event is here and here), just a few short months before his Chicago appearance.

“As I see the stage,” Welles told the audience at Orchestra Hall, according to an account in the Chicago Herald & Examiner, “it has been supplanted by the movies and the radio. There is no place for it in American life.”

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s commercial recording legacy began ninety-nine years ago on Monday, May 1, 1916, shortly after the close of the twenty-fifth season. Those first recording sessions were led by our second music director Frederick Stock for the Columbia Graphophone Company at an undocumented location in Chicago. Four works were recorded that first day: Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre, and Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies (Heart Wounds and The Last Spring).

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first recording: Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Stupendous recordings by entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra. By far the greatest achievement of the day . . .,” raved an October 1916 Columbia Records brochure. “The first offerings are two masterfully played compositions. The deepest glories vibrant in such a familiar composition as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March are unguessed until interpreted by such an orchestra as this. From the first trumpet fanfare to the great central crescendo is very joy and glory articulate! The resistless rhythm is filled with pulsing emotion and each instrument of the mighty orchestra throbs with life.

“Only a love of divine harmony is needed to appreciate the unrivaled beauties of the coupling, Grieg’s tone-sketch Spring. All the dream imagery of Grieg’s Norwegian soul seems to live in the exquisite modulations of this gem. There can be no pleasure beyond enjoying such music as the Chicago Symphony here brings to every music-loving home.”

The next day (Tuesday, May 2), Stock and the Orchestra recorded the following: Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah, Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty, Järnefelt’s Praeludium, and Stock’s arrangement of François Schubert‘s The Bee.

They returned to the studio the following week on Monday, May 8 for one more day of recording in 1916: Dvořák’s Largo from the New World Symphony, Bizet’s Entr’acte to Act 4 of Carmen and the Farandole from L’arlésienne, and Wagner’s Procession of the Knights of the Holy Grail from Act 1 of Parsifal and the Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin.

Frederick Stock and the Theodore Thomas Orchestra (as we were then called) first introduced the music of Gustav Mahler to Chicago audiences on March 22 and 23, 1907, performing the composer’s Fifth Symphony. Reviews were, shall we say, mixed.

As written about here this past October, “Ugly symphony is well played: Thomas Orchestra shows director Mahler of Vienna writes bad music,” proclaimed the headline of Millar Ular’s review in the Examiner. He continued 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. A writer in the Chicago Journal agreed, calling the symphony a “long and tedious work,” and most of the public agreed, as “before it was done, fully half the audience had fled.”

Undaunted, Stock programmed Mahler’s First in November 1914, the Fourth in March 1916, and three performances of the massive Eighth—with just under one thousand performers onstage at the Auditorium Theatre—in April 1917.

Cover of one of two first edition Symphony no. 7 scores in the Rosenthal Archives collection

Detail from the cover of one of two first editions of Mahler’s Symphony no. 7 from the Rosenthal Archives collection.

According to Phillip Huscher’s program note, “Stock heard Mahler’s Seventh Symphony for the first time in Amsterdam in 1920. He got a copy of the score in Paris and programmed the work for the penultimate concert of the 1920–21 season in Chicago. Perhaps fearing that the Chicago public would not share his enthusiasm for the Seventh Symphony, Stock announced that he had cut out eleven minutes of music, paring the playing time down to one hour and four minutes.”

For April 15 & 16, 1921, Stock had programmed Smetana’s Overture to Libussa followed by the Mahler (the original program note is here); the second half of the program consisted of a single work, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with American violinist Amy Neill.

The April 15 performance was the symphony’s first in the U.S., and the Chicago Evening Post reported that “the orchestra played with astonishing virtuosity. There was nothing Mahler could write which they could not play, as they demonstrated to full satisfaction. At the close of the symphony there was a great demonstration for Mr. Stock, in which he had all the players rise and join.”

Headline for Herman Devries review in the Sunday, April 17, 1921, Chicago American

Headline for Herman Devries’s review in the Sunday, April 17, 1921, Chicago American

And Herman Devries in the American reported: “We were prepared to hear something out of the ordinary, for nothing banal, commonplace, cheap, or artificial could emanate from a brain that produced the marvelous Symphony of a Thousand presented by Mr. Stock at the memorable Spring Festival in the Auditorium [in April 1917]. With the first bars of the orchestral score yesterday, one might have imitated Schubert’s famous phrase and said, ‘Hats off! A genius!’

“The entire symphony, which for due understanding and assimilation of its beauty and richness requires far more than a single hearing, is so evidently a work of supreme and dominating intelligence that it seems presumptuous, importunate, for me to attempt any criticism. Mahler’s name today is being mentioned as a sort of twentieth-century reflection of the Beethoven a century ago.

“His conception is of gigantic orchestral proportions. He knew the orchestra and played upon it as upon a mighty instrument. And this mighty vision, a vision too great, too immense for the mere span of human intellect, seems to crave reflection in his writing. . . . We devoutly hope for many more opportunities to hear this master work, for [it] demands absolute mental concentration, and one performance is simply a foretaste.”

Following that first performance, Frederick Stock, summing it up better than anyone, was reported as saying, “Mahler is one of the coming composers and the musical world is just beginning to understand him.”

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Seventh Symphony on April 9, 10, 11, and 14, 2015, at Symphony Center.

Wishing a very happy birthday to Chicago Symphony Orchestra Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday from all of your friends here in Chicago!

Pierre Boulez leading a rehearsal with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on December 8, 2003 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Pierre Boulez leading a rehearsal with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on December 8, 2003 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Boulez recently was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. With twenty-six awards to his credit—including eight with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus—he is the third all-time Grammy Awards champ. (Sir Georg Solti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director, won thirty-one Grammy Awards, more than any other recording artist. Alison Krauss and Quincy Jones tie for the number two slot with twenty-seven awards each.) A complete list of Boulez’s Grammy awards can be found here.

For more information on Pierre Boulez, click here for a complete list of his recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a timeline of his extensive partnership with the CSO, details of his debut with the CSO in 1969, and a select bibliography. A video of the world-premiere performances of the Beyond the Score presentation of A Pierre Dream can be viewed here.

Happy, happy birthday, dear Pierre!

Adrian Da Prato (1)

Adrian Da Prato, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s violin section from 1946 until 1996, died on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Chicago. He was 94.

Born in Barga in 1920, in the region of Tuscany, Da Prato became fascinated with the sound of the violin while attending silent movies as a child in his native Italy. The films were accompanied by piano and violin, and his attention invariably would turn from the motion picture to the violinist in the pit.

Da Prato began violin lessons at age nine after his family arrived in America. In Chicago he attended Lane Technical High School and the American Conservatory of Music, two schools he remembered warmly for instilling enthusiasm through their mutual support and continuous exchange of ideas among talented students. His first teacher was Pellegro Pacini, and he later studied with Scott Willits and CSO concertmaster John Weicher.

After being inducted in the 33rd Infantry Division in World War II, Da Prato later was assigned to special services in Hawaii, where he was active in all facets of performing for the troops throughout the islands. He was a member of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before music director Désiré Defauw invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1946.

Da Prato cherished his friendship with Carlo Maria Giulini, the Orchestra’s principal guest conductor from 1969 until 1972, which dated back to 1955 when the Italian maestro arrived in Chicago for his American debut. He spoke little English and Da Prato was asked to help translate for him; but, as he recalled, “There was no real problem, because the rapport between the Orchestra and Maestro Giulini was such that words really were not necessary.”

Da Prato also was a member of the Chicago Strings, which toured throughout the United States and Europe. Additionally, he performed in chamber ensembles and in many schools throughout Chicago. His violin was a Peter Guarnerius of Mantua, dated 1710.

After forty-nine years with the Orchestra and serving under seven music directors—Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—Da Prato retired in 1996. In his retirement, Da Prato was a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association for many years.

Adrian Da Prato (2)

In an interview from the 1970s, Da Prato reflected on his time with the Orchestra. “When the players perform well—having been together, played together, lived together on tour, and seen each other every day—it helps enormously because we fit in. It’s just like a string quartet. You can have the four greatest players in the world, individually great, who will play together, but there must be that unity of purpose. Like an old bottle of wine, it has to have a good vintage to start out with, then it reaches a point where its fullness is realized. When an orchestra works together it grows; that is the beautiful experience. It is magic. It is a great orchestra.”

He is survived by his niece Paula Bertolozzi and several grandnieces, great-grandnieces, and great-grandnephews. There will be a funeral service on Friday, March 20, 2015, at Cumberland Chapels (8300 West Lawrence Avenue in Norridge) from 9:00 until 11:30 a.m., followed by mass at Our Lady Mother of the Church (8701 West Lawrence Avenue). In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

Sam Denov, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s percussion section from 1954 until 1985, passed away on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Des Plaines, Illinois. He was 91.Sam Denov

Born in Chicago in 1923, Sam Denov attended Lane Technical High School and, following service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he spent a year in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before joining the San Antonio Symphony in 1947. Three years later he joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra where he remained for two seasons before returning to Chicago to operate his own high-fidelity equipment business. In 1954, he was invited by music director Fritz Reiner to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s percussion section. Denov also later attended Roosevelt University, earning a bachelor’s degree in labor studies.

A tireless activist for musicians’ rights, Denov was a major force in the founding of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, serving at various times as chairman, vice-chairman, and editor of the ICSOM newsletter Senza Sordino. Following his retirement from the Orchestra in 1985, he became a labor relations consultant, representing clients before the National Labor Relations Board. At the ICSOM annual conference in 2009, the delegates passed a resolution by unanimous consent honoring Denov for “his many contributions as an early leader in the orchestra field” and expressing “ICSOM’s respect and admiration as an ICSOM founder.” At the 2012 conference, he addressed the group’s fiftieth anniversary along with several of his CSO colleagues.

Widely known among percussionists, Denov authored three books: The Art of Playing Cymbals: A Complete Guide and Text for the Artistic Percussionist (1966), Symphonic Paradox: The Misadventures of a Wayward Musician (2002), and Boom and Crash Musician: A Percussive Memoir (2012). He also contributed numerous articles to professional journals.

Sam and Lorraine Denov at the CSO Alumni Association reunion in November 2012 (Dan Rest photo)

Sam and Lorraine Denov at the CSO Alumni Association reunion in November 2012 (Dan Rest photo)

In his retirement, Denov was an active member of the CSO Alumni Association, serving as its first president from 1993 until 1996, as a board member, and as secretary-editor.

Denov is survived by his beloved wife Lorraine, his son Ernie, and several nieces, nephews, step-children, and step-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife Charlotte and his son Tyrone Walls. A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at the Brookdale Plaza (800 South River Road, Des Plaines, Illinois) on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 11:00 a.m.

Dishpan Symphony - April 1934

Another fantastic donation arrived in the mail earlier this week: this publicity photograph from April 1934, promoting a very special concert.

In order to secure the continued financial stability of The Orchestral Association, a “deficit fund” campaign to raise $70,000 (the anticipated shortfall of the 1933-34 season) was launched in the spring of 1934. After $58,000 of that amount had been raised, music director Frederick Stock and his musicians organized a concert to express their appreciation to the subscribers who had pledged their support.

On the reverse of the image, the following was indicated: “Chicago Symphony to present Dishpan Concert. In celebration of the raising of a deficit fund, the subscribers will be given a special concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 will be played with all of the members of the percussion section using pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils, carefully selected for quality of tone. Dr. Frederick Stock, left, director of the Orchestra, is appraising the tone of a frying pan in the hands of Edward Kopp during a rehearsal.”

Program page for the April 9, 1934, concert

Program page for the April 9, 1934, concert

In an advance notice, Edward Moore in the Chicago Tribune commented that the upcoming concert would be outside the normal routine and “the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can never be considered a conventional organization. . . . Before an invited audience consisting of those public spirited citizens who have subscribed to the deficit fund it will present an entertainment called ‘The Orchestra at Play.’ Here will be a complete program of the orchestra in its light-hearted and comic moments. No advance program has been issued, but it is understood that the spirit of parody and burlesque is running high. Extra and seldom heard instruments will be brought into play, certain revered and decorous compositions have been re-orchestrated in a startling manner, individuals and groups from the orchestra will demonstrate that the most earnest practitioners of music are not always the most solemn in their practice, a master of ceremonies will make running comment thereon.” The complete article is here.

Chicago Herald-Examiner headline from April 10, 1934

Chicago Herald-Examiner headline from April 10, 1934

Another Tribune account by Cousin Eve indicated that music director Frederick Stock’s “merry men have combed the city with tuning forks, tuning in on all kinds of kitchen ware, crockery sets, kegs, kettles, and metal implements to find the desired sound vibration. Often they have been taken for escaped lunatics.” The complete article is here.

Needless to say, the concert was a smashing success. In the Chicago Daily News, Margot Jr. reported “The symphony concerts will never be the same again. No matter how restrained the conduct of the orchestra itself, no matter how reserved the audience, shades of a bassoon quartet, a kitchen symphony and a fan dancer will hereafter forever inject their own particular charms into interpretations of Wagner, Beethoven, or Brahms. . . . [The audience was] packed into every available inch of seating and standing space from footlights to galleries [who] have subscribed to the deficit fund of the orchestra.”

Image from The Daily News - Frederick Stock and members of the percussion section

Frederick Stock and members of the percussion section from an image featured in the Chicago Daily News

A variety of shenanigans were reported: Frederick Stock entering the stage to the tune of “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?”; Orchestra members dressed as monks, cooks, and in drag as ballet and fan dancers; manager Henry Voegeli arrested onstage; and, of course, the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony performed on “a huge stove covered with tin skillets and two long tables laden with pans and bowls. . . . The audience wouldn’t let them stop after one number, so with equal agility they played Schubert’s ‘Moment Musicale’ à la dishpan.” Three articles describing the antics are here and here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra first performed Mozart’s Requiem on subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall on March 29 and 30, 1951. Bruno Walter conducted and the soloists were Nancy Carr, Nan Merriman, Eugene Conley, and Cesare Siepi, along with the combined choral organizations of Northwestern University, prepared by George Howerton. And in 1957 when Walter—a frequent and beloved guest conductor as well as a highly regarded Mozart specialist—informed CSO management that his March 1958 appearances would be his last in Chicago, Eric Oldberg, president of The Orchestral Association, insisted that he should conduct the Requiem again with the newly formed Chicago Symphony Chorus.

The Chicago Symphony Chorus's formal debut on March 13 and 14, 1958

March 13 and 14, 1958

On March 13 and 14, 1958, the Chorus made its official debut in Mozart’s Requiem. Walter, in his final appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted, and the soloists were Maria Stader, Maureen Forrester, David Lloyd, and Otto Edelmann. (According to Erik Ryding and Rebecca Pechefsky‘s excellent biography of Bruno Walter, “the two female soloists [made] an amusing picture onstage: the diminutive Maria Stader stood beside the towering Maureen Forrester, then in an ‘advanced’ stage of pregnancy. To make the discrepancy in their appearance less striking, Walter placed Stader on a platform.”)

In the Chicago Tribune, Claudia Cassidy was critical of the work itself. She wrote that Mozart’s Requiem “is not a fully satisfying work—like all things finished by another’s hand it leaves the tantalizing question of what it might have been had Mozart’s haunted, tormented spirit found whatever haven it sought of peace, whether of joy or of oblivion. When [Franz] Suessmayer takes over much beauty remains, but the aura of this special Mozart, which is unlike any other, has vanished. The Requiem ends, but the toll of the bell has lost its terror.”

Walter Mozart Requiem

But of the concert, she continued: “It was a wonderfully strong performance Mr. Walter gave us, deploying his forces with a direct, powerful simplicity of style. In the Mozart Requiem, the chorus is the focal point, the orchestra and soloists of the highest quality are taken for granted. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is in high estate, with the kind of clairvoyance that gives a conductor what he wants in sound. The four soloists, three of them new to the orchestra, were tiny Maria Stader of the soprano that sounds like an angelic flute, stately Maureen Forrester of the contralto so big, warm and gentle it makes you feel rested just to listen, David Lloyd of the musicianly tenor, and Otto Edelmann, who could give no more than a tempting sample of the big bass-baritone so renowned in the opera realms of Hans Sachs and Baron Ochs. They made a wonderful Mozart quartet.

Margaret Hillis

Margaret Hillis

“None of this was surprising. The evening’s card up the Mozartean sleeve was the new Chicago Symphony Orchestra chorus of about 100 voices, expertly chosen and admirably trained by Margaret Hillis. It had balance and hints of brilliance, it was adroit in attack and it had moments of reassuringly imaginative song. The Confutatis in particular caught the haunted terror that was Mozart’s when the mysterious commission for the Requiem convinced him that the death knell he wrote was his own.” The complete review is here.

A recording of the Lacrimosa from those performances was released on Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration (volume 13 from the CSO’s From the Archives series) in 1998. The complete story of the Chorus’s founding was included in a CSO program book feature article in the fall of 1997.

Chausow, Leonard

Leonard Chausow, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s cello section from 1956 until 2003, passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 24. He was 86.

Chausow was one of four musical brothers (his brother Oscar was a member of the CSO’s violin section from 1938 until 1946). Although his parents were not musical, they loved having music in their home. After high school, Chausow joined the Minneapolis Symphony and, while there, served on the faculties of Carleton College and Saint Olaf College. He studied cello with Karl Fruh and Harry Sturm and later with Frank Miller in New York.

After service in the army during the Korean War, Chausow returned to Chicago. In 1956, he was invited by music director Fritz Reiner to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and in 1964 he was promoted by music director Jean Martinon to serve as assistant principal cello. In addition, Chausow served as acting principal cello for two seasons during Sir Georg Solti’s tenure as music director. In 1993, he became assistant principal emeritus and served in that capacity until his retirement in 2003.

Chausow was active as a teacher not only in Minnesota, but also at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and he also taught privately. He regularly coached Civic Orchestra cellists and gave master classes and seminars at universities across the country.

Chausow, Leonard (3)

Also dedicated to chamber music, Chausow performed with the Chadamin Trio, Chicago Symphony String Quartet, and the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players. He was a founding member of the Evanston Chamber Ensemble for sixteen years. Chausow appeared as soloist on Chicago Symphony Orchestra subscription concerts under the baton of Sir Georg Solti, with many local orchestras, and on CSO Youth Concerts.

Chausow is survived by his beloved wife of sixty-three years Miriam (“Mickey”), daughters Lynn Chase and Carol Zens (Tim), and several grandchildren. His daughter Sharon Chausow (Michael Phillips, survived) passed away in 2013.

There will be a memorial service on Tuesday, January 27 at 12:00 noon at the Weinstein Funeral Home in Wilmette. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Endowment Fund.

Upon his retirement in 2003, Chausow reflected on his forty-seven years in the Orchestra: “As a native Chicagoan, spending most of my professional career with this great orchestra has been a dream come true. The opportunity to sit alongside my teacher, the legendary Frank Miller, as his assistant principal cellist was at once personally gratifying and a tremendous learning experience.”

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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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