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.”

Jacqueline du Pré On January 26, 2015, we celebrate the seventieth birthday of the remarkable English cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who performed and recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1969 and 1970.

According to her husband—and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director from 1991 until 2006—Daniel Barenboim in his autobiography A Life in Music: “Jacqueline’s way of playing did not really change from the time she was a teenager . . . Even then, she played with incredible intensity and vivacity. Obviously she continued to develop, but the basic personality and character of her cello playing was established at a very early age. Of all the great musicians I have met in my life, I have never encountered anyone for whom music was such a natural form of expression as it was for Jacqueline. With most musicians you feel that they are human beings who happen to play music. With her, you had the feeling that here was a musician who also happened to be a human being. Of course, one had to eat and drink and sleep and have friends. But with her the proportions were different—music was the centre of her existence.”

Tragically, her performing career was cut short and she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 1973. Du Pré died in London on October 19, 1987, at the age of forty-two.

Du Pré only performed and recorded with the Orchestra on a handful of occasions, but those occasions were notable not only for her playing but also because of the conductors with whom she shared the stage.

In February 1969, Pierre Boulez made his first guest conducting appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The first week included Daniel Barenboim’s subscription concert debut as piano soloist, and on the second week’s program, Jacqueline du Pré made her debut with the Orchestra, as soloist in Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor.

Later that same year in November, Georg Solti made his first conducting appearances as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director. The centerpiece of that program was Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor with du Pré as soloist.

DB & du Pré Medinah Temple recording - Nov 11 1970

Barenboim and du Pré during a recording session break at Medinah Temple on November 11, 1970

In November 1970, du Pré and Barenboim appeared in a series of concerts at Michigan State University as part of a festival celebrating the bicentennial of Ludwig van Beethoven. The pair presented an evening of chamber music on November 2, and Barenboim gave an all-Beethoven piano recital the following night. On November 4, Barenboim made his conducting debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the first piece on the program was Dvořák’s Cello Concerto. Two days later, du Pré was soloist in Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto. The complete programs are here.

In the Lansing State Journal after the November 4 concert, Winnifred Sherburn commented: “Miss du Pré, cello soloist with the symphony, must be heard and seen to be believed. Her beautiful playing of the Dvořák Concerto for Violoncello enthralled the capacity audience. Barenboim, who conducted, gave the most sensitive support, perfectly controlling the ensemble. The effect was that of a large orchestra listening to a solo instrument with the closest attention. . . . Though loosely knit, the music was brilliant and dramatic and Miss du Pré played it gloriously with all her wonderful tone, technique, and style.” The complete review is here.

Dvorak CSO du Pré

Later that week in the Journal, Mary Perpich wrote: “But it was Miss du Pré that took the audience’s hearts with her unique rendering of the Saint-Saëns concerto. She is fascinating to watch. Looking almost childlike in her full-length evening gown of purple and green with her long, blonde hair pulled back from her face, the 25-year-old master musician perched on a chair next to her husband and began her thoroughly captivating performance. And while she played she seemed to go into a trance, caressing the cello lovingly as if it were a newborn child, head moving gently from side to side, she and her instrument produced beautifully tempered music. She broke the spell only twice to watch her husband a cue and smile triumphantly at the orchestra concertmaster. The audience brought her back for five bows before she finally left [the] stage.” The complete review is here.

On November 11, 1970, at Medinah Temple, du Pré recorded Dvořák’s Cello Concerto and Silent Woods with Daniel Barenboim leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For Angel Records, Peter Andry was the producer and Carson Taylor was the balance engineer. The recording has been in print ever since.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus onstage in March 1959, with Margaret Hillis, Fritz Reiner, and Walter Hendl.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus onstage in March 1959, with Margaret Hillis, Fritz Reiner, and Walter Hendl.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first performed Sergei Prokofiev‘s cantata Alexander Nevsky at Orchestra Hall on March 5, 6, and 10, 1959. Fritz Reiner conducted and Rosalind Elias was the mezzo-soprano soloist. The original program note is here.

Following the first performance, Dan Tucker in the American reported that Prokofiev’s score “may well be the finest movie music ever written. That does not mean it’s great music: you can’t write great music for a film because it would distract the audience’s attention and ruin the film. Prokofiev did a wonderful job, though, in writing music to heighten the moods of somber grandeur or heroic fervor. If it isn’t ‘great’ in itself, it is admirably suited to a great subject. There is a splendor about the mere sound of massed chorus and orchestra that this core exploits to the full.” The complete review is here.

In the Chicago Tribune, even though Claudia Cassidy lamented the absence of the film, she praised the work of the Chorus (only in its second season), “at its best in the enthusiasm of attack, a fresh, accurate, all-out attack which might actually have been defending Mother Russia.” The complete review is here.

And in the Daily News, Donal Henahan added: “The fever and excitement latent in this muscular music originally part of the score for the Sergei Eisenstein movie, was brought out by Reiner gradually with a slow-fuse sort of detonation. The climactic ‘Battle on the Ice’ was approached with expansive calm and deliberation, and thus aroused the audience’s martial blood properly. A conductor who tries to pile climax after climax into this work can never achieve the hair-raising thrust that Reiner drew from Margaret Hillis‘s Chicago Symphony Chorus [singing in English] at such a moment. No one can write a march like Prokofiev, and it was grand to hear this one played with power but without hysterics. The chorus, although called on for less heroic vocal effort that in some other works it has sung, produced a pleasing sound in all voices and a more homogeneous tone than at any time since Miss Hillis began her missionary work in Chicago.” The complete review is here.

Alexander Nevsky

The subsequent recording—the first collaboration with the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus—was made on March 7, 1959, at Orchestra Hall. Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer. It recently was re-released as part of a comprehensive box set of Fritz Reiner’s complete recordings with the CSO on RCA.

There will be a free screening of Eisenstein’s film on Tuesday, January 20. Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Prokofiev’s cantata on January 22, 23, and 24 at Orchestra Hall and on February 1 at Carnegie Hall.

Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra (as we were then called) gave the U.S. premiere of Edward Elgar‘s In the South (Alassio) at the Auditorium Theatre on November 4, 1904.

According to the program note, the work was “‘conceived on a glorious spring day in the Valley of Andorra,’ and that it is ‘meant to suggest the Joy of Living in a balmy climate, under sunny skies, and amid surroundings in which the beauties of nature vie in interest with the remains and recollections of the great past of an enchanting country.'”

The reviewer in the Chicago Tribune was not quite impressed with the premiere of Elgar’s overture: “The novelty of the afternoon was the concert overture ‘In the South’ by Edward Elgar, which on this occasion had its first performance on this side of the Atlantic. Mr. [Walter] Damrosch is to give it its initial hearing in New York tomorrow night, but yesterday marked its premiere in this country. It is a work of unusual magnitude for a composition in the overture form, and the estimate here placed on it after a single hearing can of course be but impressional and subject to future revision. Twenty minutes are required for the performance of the overture and there are many things in the score which may prove clearer and more significant when more familiar. Yesterday the impression received was that the music has nothing in particular to do with Italy or the south. . . . It was not as successful cacophony as Richard Strauss when at his most daring produces, but it will suffice. . . . The performance by Mr. Thomas and the orchestra was a splendid one, each man giving of his best powers, musical, temperamental, and technical.” The complete review is here.

Advance advertisement for Elgar's April 1907 conducting appearances

Advance advertisement for Elgar’s April 1907 conducting appearances

Less than three years later, Elgar himself fared much better, appearing with the Orchestra on a program of compositions all by living composers. The first half featured Vincent d’Indy‘s Wallenstein’s Camp, Alexander Glazunov‘s Spring from The Seasons, Frederick Converse‘s The Mystic Trumpeter, and Richard Strauss’s Love Scene from Feuersnot, all led by Frederick Stock. After intermission, Elgar took to the podium to lead his In the South (Alassio), Enigma Variations, and the first Pomp and Circumstance March.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the composer was greeted with “applause which compelled him to turn twice and bow his acknowledgements. . . . When the last number was ended the orchestra sounded a fanfare, and the audience remained applauding until Sir Edward had returned a second time to the center of the stage and bowed. It was an unusually spontaneous and hearty tribute to a man who has come to loom large in the musical world of today and in whom American music lovers take a kind of quasi-national pride. . . . Rarely has a musical lion impressed as so modest as did he yesterday.” The complete review is here.

Vasily Petrenko leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s In the South (Alassio) on January 8, 9, and 10, 2015.

From our CSO family to yours, all best wishes for a happy holiday season and a healthy, prosperous New Year!

And if you need any last-minute gift ideas, here’s some great (and timeless) World War I–era advice from our friends at Lyon & Healy . . .

Lyon & Healy holiday advertisement 1918

Happy holidays!

Boulez portrait 300dpi 00

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association congratulates Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez as a recipient of a 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The recognition is given to “performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.”

In a message sent to Maestro Boulez earlier today, Music Director Riccardo Muti said, “Dear Maestro, The news that you are the recipient of the 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award makes me and the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra family extremely happy and proud. You are a giant in the musical world, and we are all so grateful for your great contribution to Music. Congratulations with great admiration, affection, and friendship.”

CSO bass Stephen Lester, chairman of the Members Committee, added, “The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are very pleased that Pierre Boulez has been given this special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy. He is one of the most important and influential musicians and composers of our time. We in Chicago are proud to have had a rewarding and meaningful relationship with him for over thirty years. His contribution to music in Chicago, as well as the world, is important in many ways, helping to open all of our minds, and ears, at every opportunity. Congratulations, Maestro Boulez!”

“As peerless conductor, glittering composer, restless thinker, and polemical champion of the loftiest musical values, Pierre Boulez is simply sans pareil,” commented Gerard McBurney, the CSO’s creative director for Beyond the Score. “He has influenced, irritated, provoked, disturbed, and inspired us all, yes, even those sleepers who do not even dream, that they too have been touched by his ceaseless energy and powers of invention!”

With twenty-six Grammy Awards to his credit, Boulez—along with fellow Lifetime Achievement Award recipients the Bee Gees, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Flaco Jiménez, The Louvin Brothers, and Wayne Shorter—will be honored at a special ceremony in Los Angeles on February 7, 2015, as well as during the Grammy Awards telecast on Sunday, February 8 on CBS.

The CSO’s Beyond the Score series, which “weaves together theater, music, and design to draw audiences into the concert hall and into the spirit of a work,” recently honored Boulez’s upcoming ninetieth birthday. The show was entitled A Pierre Dream by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who designed the production. Click here for a discussion with the creative forces, the genesis of the immersive experience, and a gallery of images from the production.

For more information on Pierre Boulez, click here for a complete list of his Grammy Awards, 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.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich perform piano works of Boulez at Symphony Center on March 15, 2015.

Congratulations to our friends at the Auditorium Theatre as they celebrate 125 years! First opening its doors on December 9, 1889, the Auditorium hosted a gala program that evening that culminated with an appearance by soprano Adelina Patti, one of the most celebrated singers of the day. She performed, unaccompanied, John Howard Payne‘s Home, Sweet Home, “so well that President Benjamin Harrison rose from his seat and smote his right hand with his left as everybody else was doing” (according to the Chicago Tribune).

Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra onstage at the Auditorium Theatre in November 1897

Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra onstage at the Auditorium Theatre in November 1897

Less than two years later, the Auditorium Theatre became the first home of the Chicago Orchestra (as we were then called) when Theodore Thomas led our first concerts on October 16 and 17, 1891. It would remain the Orchestra’s primary venue until Orchestra Hall opened its doors on December 14, 1904.

To commemorate the anniversary, a gala concert this evening features members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, among many others.

Congratulations on your first 125 years!

Irwin Hoffman

On November 26, 2014, we celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Irwin Hoffman, a titled conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1964 until 1970.

On August 13, 1964, Merrill Shepard, then-president of The Orchestral Association, announced that Hoffman had been engaged as the CSO’s new assistant conductor, beginning with the 1964-65 season. Hoffman was to serve the Orchestra and assist music director Jean Martinon in a variety of capacities, including conducting rehearsals and concerts (including youth concerts), leading the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as new score review.

Hoffman’s debut program with the Orchestra was as follows:

December 17 & 18, 1964
VILLA-LOBOS Uirapurú
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Victor Aitay, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Program book announcement from January 1968

Program book announcement from January 1968

Martinon promoted Hoffman to associate conductor the following year. He would serve in that capacity for three seasons, and in January 1968, Association president Louis Sudler announced that Hoffman would be acting music director for the 1968-69 season. (On December 17, 1968, the Association announced that Georg Solti would become the Orchestra’s eighth music director, beginning with the 1969-70 season.)

For the 1969-70 season, Hoffman’s title was conductor and he led several weeks of subscription and popular concerts. In subsequent seasons, he returned as a guest conductor and most recently led the Orchestra in January 1977 with the following program:

January 12, 13, 14 & 15, 1977
January 17, 1977 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
KAY Of New Horizons
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Esther Glazer, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Irwin Hoffman with score

Hoffman made his conducting debut at the age of seventeen with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Robin Hood Dell. He also studied at the Juilliard School and later with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Hoffman has held titled positions with several orchestras, including the Grant Park Music Festival; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; Martha Graham Dance Company; Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, later the Florida Orchestra; Bogotá Philharmonic in Colombia; Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra; and the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra in Chile.

Happy birthday, maestro!

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