Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to the remarkable soprano Kathleen Battle! She has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of occasions, in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in Carnegie Hall, as follows:

June 27, 1974, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
James Levine, conductor
Edda Moser, soprano
Clarice Carson, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, contralto
Gwendolyn Killebrew, contralto
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Lawrence Shadur, baritone
Justino Díaz, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

June 26, 1975, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Mass in C Minor, K. 427
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle
Maria Ewing, soprano
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Ara Berberian, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 17, 1976, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Bella mia fiamma . . . Resta, o cara, K. 528
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 2, 1977, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 23, 1977, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio, K. 418
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 24, 1977, Ravinia Festival
HADYN The Creation
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Benita Valente, soprano
Seth McCoy, tenor
Donald Gramm, bass-baritione
Arnold Voketaitis, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 24 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Claudine Carlson, mezzo-soprano
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 30, 1978, Ravinia Festial
BERLIOZ Les Troyens, part 1
James Levine, conductor
A Trojan Soldier, Pantheus John Cheek, bass
Cassandra Nadine Denize, soprano
Chorebus Lenus Carlson, baritone
Aeneas Guy Chauvet, tenor
Helenus David Kuebler, tenor
Ascanius Kathleen Battle, soprano
Hecuba Patricia O’Neill, soprano
Priam, The Ghost of Hector Ara Berberian, bass
A Greek Captain Philip Kraus, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 1, 1978, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Les Troyens, part 2
James Levine, conductor
Dido Shirley Verrett, soprano
Anna, Ghost of Cassandra Claudine Carlson, mezzo-soprano
Iopas David Kuebler, tenor
Ascanius Kathleen Battle, soprano
Pantheus, Mercury, Ghost of Priam John Cheek, bass
Narbal, Ghost of Hector Ara Berberian, bass
Aeneas Guy Chauvet, tenor
Hylas Philip Creech, tenor
First Sentry, Ghost of Chorebus James Kalkbrenner, bass
Second Sentry Philip Kraus, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 9, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
James Levine, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Jessye Norman, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Kirk Stuart, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 16, 1978, Ravinia Festival
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
David Kuebler, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Arthur Thompson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

July 3, 1980, Ravinia Festival
SCHUBERT Mass No. 6 in E-flat Major, D. 950
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano
Vinson Cole, tenor
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 13, 1980, Ravinia Festival
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano
Vinson Cole, tenor
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Arthur Thompson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 30, 1983, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Brahms’s Requiem was recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 5 and 6, 1983, for RCAThomas Z. Shepard was the producer, Paul Goodman the recording engineer, and John Newton and Thomas MacCluskey were engineers. The recording won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance from the  National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

July 3, 1983, Ravinia Festival
HANDEL L’Allegro ed il Penseroso from L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Mary Sauer, harpsichord
Chicago Symphony Chorus
James Winfield, associate director

April 25, 26, and 27, 1985, Orchestra Hall
April 29, 1985, Carnegie Hall
VERDI Falstaff
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sir John Falstaff Guillermo Sarabia, baritone
Ford Wolfgang Brendel, baritone
Fenton Yordi Ramiro, tenor
Dr. Caius Heinz Zednik, tenor
Bardolph Francis Egerton, tenor
Pistol Aage Haugland, bass
Mistress Alice Ford Katia Ricciarelli, soprano
Nannetta Kathleen Battle, soprano
Mistress Quickly Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Mistress Meg Page Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 29, 1986, Ravinia Festival
BACH Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
VILLA-LOBOS Bachiana Brasileira No. 5
MAHLER Symphony No. 4
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
Lynn Harrell, cello

July 3, 1987, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60
James Levine, conductor
A Music Master Hermann Prey, baritone
The Major-Domo Nico Castel, tenor
The Composer Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano
The Tenor, Bacchus Gary Lakes, tenor
An Officer Edward Ozaki, tenor
A Dancing Master Andrea Velis, tenor
A Wig Maker David Huneryager, bass
A Lackey Richard Cohn, baritone
Zerbinetta Kathleen Battle, soprano
Prima Donna, Ariadne Margaret Price, soprano
Harlequin Christopher Trakas, baritone
Scaramuccio Allan Glassman, tenor
Truffaldino James Courtney, bass
Brighella Philip Creech, tenor
Naiad Gail Dobish, soprano
Dryad Hillary Johnsson, mezzo-soprano
Echo Dawn Upshaw, soprano

February 4, 5, and 6, 1988, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Alfred Muff, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

July 8, 1988, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Don Giovanni, K. 527
James Levine, conductor
Leporello Renato Capecchi, baritone
Donna Anna Karen Huffstodt, soprano
Don Giovanni Thomas Hampson, baritone
Commendatore Jeffrey Wells, bass-baritone
Don Ottavio Vinson Cole, tenor
Donna Elvira Patricia Schuman, soprano
Zerlina Kathleen Battle, soprano
Masetto Julien Robbins, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 21, 1991, Ravinia Festival
DONIZETTI The Elixir of Love
James Levine, conductor
Giannetta Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Nemorino Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Adina Kathleen Battle, soprano
Belcore Mark Oswald, baritone
Dulcamara Paul Plishka, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 24, 1993, Ravinia Festival
PREVIN Honey and Rue
DONIZETTI C’en est donc fait . . . Par le rang et par l’opulence from The Daughter of the Regiment
John Nelson, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 29, 1994, Ravinia Festival
GOUNOD Je veux vivre from Romeo and Juliet
BERLIOZ Je vais le voir from Beatrice and Benedict
VILLA-LOBOS Bachiana Brasileira No. 5
Hugh Wolff, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

September 16, 1994

September 16, 1994, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
STRAUSS Ständchen, Op. 17, No. 2
STRAUSS Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4
STRAUSS Ich schwebe, Op. 48, No. 2
GERSHWIN Summertime from Porgy and Bess
BERNSTEIN Somewhere from West Side Story
PREVIN Take My Mother Home from Honey and Rue
ELLINGTON/Sadin Come Sunday
Daniel Barenboim, harpsichord, piano, and conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

August 5, 1995, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Deh vieni non tardar from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
MOZART Misera! dove son . . . Ah! non son io che parlo, K. 369
MOZART Un moto di gioia mi sento, K. 579
STRAVINSKY No word from Tom from The Rake’s Progress
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 11, 1998, Ravinia Festival

July 11, 1998, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Sul fil d’un soffio estesio from Falstaff
ROSSINI Una voce poco fa from The Barber of Seville
ROSSINI Dunque io son from The Barber of Seville
MOZART Crudel! perchè finora from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
GOUNOD Je veux vivre from Romeo and Juliet
KORNGOLD Glück, das mir verblieb from Die tote Stadt
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone

July 12, 2003, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Deh vieni non tardar from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
GOUNOD Amour ranime mon courage from Romeo and Juliet
GABRIEL/Sadin His Eye is on the Sparrow
TRADITIONAL/Smith Witness
TRADITIONAL/Bonds He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Bobby McFerrin, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director

Between 1993 and 1996, James Levine led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in recording sessions at Medinah Temple for Fantasia 2000, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s classic 1940 Fantasia. One of the works recorded was excerpts from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches featuring Battle and the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

Under the auspices of Allied Arts, CSO Presents, and Symphony Center Presents, Battle also gave recitals in Orchestra Hall on the following dates:

  • April 20, 1986
  • December 13, 1991
  • April 24, 1996
  • April 18, 1999
  • April 11, 2001

Happy, happy birthday!

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You never know what might arrive in the mail.

A few days ago, we received a package from our friends at the New York Philharmonic Archives, and it contained a number of early Theodore Thomas programs, pre-dating his founding of the Chicago Orchestra. A few of these fantastic items are described below.

October 23 and 24, 1871

October 18-24, 1871

In early October 1871, Thomas was on tour with his orchestra—the Theodore Thomas Orchestra—on its way to Chicago. According to Memoirs of Theodore Thomas, completed in 1911 by his widow Rose Fay: “At the close of the summer season, Thomas and the orchestra started westward on their customary fall tour over the ‘highway.’ The Chicago engagement on this trip was to have been an unusually long and important one, for the Crosby Opera House there had been handsomely renovated and Thomas was to open it with a two-weeks’ series of orchestral concerts.

“As the train, bearing the orchestra, neared the city on the morning of October 9, 1871, Thomas was paralyzed by the announcement that Chicago was burning, and the Opera House already in ashes! In short, they had arrived just in time to witness the terrible conflagration which so nearly wiped Chicago off the map altogether, and, of course, the concerts which Thomas had expected to give there for two years to come, were canceled. . . . he and the orchestra stayed [in Joliet] until it was time for the next engagement in Saint Louis.”

In addition to the five concerts originally scheduled at DeBar’s Opera House in Saint Louis—not even two weeks after the Great Chicago Fire—a “grand extra concert” was added on Monday, October 23, “for the benefit of the Chicago sufferers, for which occasion all the members of Mr. Thomas’ troupe have volunteered their services.”

March 31–April 3, 1893

April 2 and 3, 1873

Thomas and his orchestra were later in New York in the spring of 1873 for a series of concerts at Steinway Hall. These concerts were billed as “the greatest concert combination on record” and the “last joint appearance” of Thomas; composer, pianist, and conductor Anton Rubinstein; and violinist and composer Henryk Wieniawski. Rubinstein’s 1872-73 tour was his first and only visit to the United States, and he later communicated to William Steinway of Steinway & Sons (who had sponsored his journey): “I shall take away with me from America one unexpected reminiscence. Little did I dream to find here the greatest and finest orchestra in the wide world . . . never in my life have I found an orchestra and a conductor so in sympathy with one another, or who followed me as the most gifted accompanist can follow a singer on the piano.”

Wagner’s Centennial March cover

In addition to several other concert programs, the donation also included a piano version of Richard Wagner’s Centennial March, arranged by Thomas. The work had been commissioned by Thomas for the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, for which he served as music director. According to Chicago Symphony Orchestra program annotator Phillip Huscher, “The premiere took place in Philadelphia as part of the exposition opening ceremonies, before President [Ulysses S.] Grant, members of Congress, and justices of the Supreme Court. The New York Tribune called Wagner’s Centennial March a masterpiece and the Herald critic found it noble and grand. But the New York Times concluded that it was ‘altogether devoid of pomp and circumstance,’ and that its impressive orchestral writing did not make up for its ‘lack of thought.’ Wagner later confided to his friends that the best thing about the piece was his [$5,000] fee.” Huscher’s complete note from the Orchestra’s October 2010 performances is here.

Wagner’s Centennial March first page

Wagner’s Centennial March title page

To our friends and colleagues in New York . . . thank you for these amazing additions to our Theodore Thomas collection!

 

Ruggiero Ricci in Prague in 1958 (CTK/Alamy photo)

On July 24, 2018, we celebrate the centennial of the birth of the remarkable American violinist Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012), a frequent soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

A student of Louis Persinger, Ricci played his first solo recital at Carnegie Hall at the age of eleven and was a noted interpreter of Paganini. A celebrated teacher himself, Ricci also taught at the universities of Michigan and Indiana, the Juilliard School, and Salzburg Mozarteum.

Between 1951 and 1972, Ricci appeared with the Orchestra on numerous occasions in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in Milwaukee, and a complete list of his appearances is below (all concerts in Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted):

November 8 and 9, 1951
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

August 5, 1954, Ravinia Festival
PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6
Georg Solti, conductor

August 7, 1954, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Vioin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Paul Tortelier, cello
Georg Solti, conductor

July 5, 1962, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, Op. 47
STRAVINSKY Violin Concerto in D
Walter Hendl, conductor

Ruggiero Ricci in 1965 (Getty Images)

December 19 and 20, 1963
GINASTERA Violin Concerto, Op. 30
Walter Hendl, conductor

December 21, 1963
PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6
Walter Hendl, conductor

June 30, 1964, Ravinia Festival
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 2, 1964, Ravinia Festival
LALO Symphonie espagnole in D Minor, Op. 21
André Previn, conductor

February 27, 1971
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

January 6 and 7, 1972
January 10, 1972 (Pabst Theater, Milwaukee)
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
John Pritchard, conductor

On July 18, 2018, Riccardo Muti led the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini in a concert at the Ravenna Festival, in tribute to Ricci’s centennial. The program included Rossini’s Overture to Il viaggio a Reims, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and Paganini’s Violin Concerto no. 4 in D minor, featuring Wilfried Hedenborg—a violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic for almost three decades and a student of Ricci’s at the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1989—as soloist.

 

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the classical music community in mourning the loss of Oliver Knussen, the British composer and conductor. He died earlier today at the age of 66.

Oliver Knussen in rehearsal with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Maida Vale studio 1 on March 30, 2012 (Photo by Mark Allan for the BBC)

Knussen made his debut conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on two weeks of subscription concerts, as follows:

March 12, 13, 14, and 17, 1998
STRAVINSKY Canon on a Russian Popular Tune
STRAVINSKY The Faun and the Shepherdess
Lucy Shelton, soprano
LIEBERSON Drala
KNUSSEN Horn Concerto
Gail Williams, horn
STRAVINSKY Suite from The Firebird

March 19, 20, 21, and 24, 1998
MUSSORGSKY/Stokowski A Night on Bare Mountain
KNUSSEN Songs and a Sea Interlude and The Wild Rumpus from Where the Wild Things Are
Rosemary Hardy, soprano
KNUSSEN The Way to Castle Yonder
MUSSORGSKY/Stokowski Pictures at an Exhibition

Knussen also led the Civic Orchestra during that residency, on March 15, 1998, with the following program:

KNUSSEN Flourish with Fireworks
RESPIGHI Fountains of Rome
LIEBERSON Fire from Five Great Elements
BRITTEN Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes

Most recently, Knussen was in Chicago to conduct the following works on a MusicNOW concert in Orchestra Hall on April 3, 2006:

GLANERT Secret Room: Chamber Sonata No. 3
THOMAS Carillon Sky (world premiere)
BEDFORD 5 Abstracts
KNUSSEN Requiem–Songs for Sue (world premiere)

That program also included performances of his A Fragment of Ophelia’s Last Dance and Secret Psalm for Solo Violin.

In December 1988, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented five performances of Knussen’s opera adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, in conjunction with Chicago Opera Theater at the Auditorium Theatre. While in Chicago for the production, the composer spoke with Studs Terkel, and the interview—part of the newly available Studs Terkel Radio Archive—can be heard here.

Most recently, Leila Josefowicz was soloist with the Orchestra in Knussen’s Violin Concerto on January 24, 25, 26, and 27, 2008, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting. On MusicNOW, members of the Orchestra performed the composer’s Songs without Voices on March 16, 2001, and January 28, 2008; along with his Coursing (Etude 1) on March 10, 2008.

Numerous tributes have appeared at The Guardian (here and here), Faber Music, and the BBC, among many others.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky (Wladimir Polak photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the classical music community in mourning the loss of Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who passed away on June 16. He was 87.

Rozhdestvensky made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall in October 1974, leading Tchaikovsky’s Suite no. 3 in G major and Scriabin’s Symphony no. 3 (The Divine Poem). At the Ravinia Festival, he made his debut in July 1987, conducting Haydn’s Symphonies nos. 70 and 71, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto no. 1 with Frank Peter Zimmermann, and Massenet’s Suite no. 4 (Scènes pittoresques).

Stephen Williamson solos in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto on February 11, 2016, under Rozhdestvensky’s baton (Todd Rosenberg photo).

Most recently, Rozhdestvensky was in Chicago in February 2016 for two weeks of concerts with the Orchestra, first with Shostakovich’s Symphonies nos. 1 and 15, followed by Sibelius’s Rakastava, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with Stephen Williamson, Pärt’s Orient and Occident, and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C major.

Numerous tributes have been posted online, including The New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Guardian, among many others.

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the wonderful Welsh bass, Gwynne Howell!

Gwynne Howell (Guy Gravett photo)

Howell has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions and on several award-winning recordings between 1974 and 1990. A complete list is below (concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted).

April 12 and 13, 1974
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Jerry Jennings, tenor
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

April 24 and 26, 1975
April 30, 1975 (Carnegie Hall)
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

January 29, 30, and 31, 1976
STRAVINSKY Oedipus Rex
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Peter Pears, tenor
Josephine Veasey, mezzo-soprano
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mallory Walker, tenor
Dominic Cossa, baritone
Werner Klemperer, narrator
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

May 5, 6, and 7, 1977
May 13, 1977 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded in Chicago’s Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer and Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The recording won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

May 10 and 12, 1979
May 19, 1979 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Peter Hofmann, tenor
David Kübler, tenor
Theo Adam, baritone
Hans Sotin, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Robert Johnson, tenor
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director
The opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

April 7, 9, and 12, 1983
April 18, 1983 (Carnegie Hall)
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Siegmund Nimsgern, bass-baritone
Hermann Becht, baritone
Gabriele Schnaut, mezzo-soprano
Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor
Robert Tear, tenor
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Malcolm Smith, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mary Jane Johnson, soprano
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Dennis Bailey, tenor
Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Emily Golden, mezzo-soprano

September 27, 28, and 29, 1984
HANDEL Messiah
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Anne Gjevang, contralto
Keith Lewis, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
David Schrader, harpsichord
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded in Orchestra Hall on October 1, 2, and 9, 1984. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were balance engineers.

January 25, 26, and 28, 1990
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Felicity Lott, soprano
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
William Shimell, baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990, in Orchestra Hall. For London Records, Michael Haas was the recording producer, and Stanley Goodall and Simon Eadon were the balance engineers. The recording won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Performance of a Choral Work from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Check out the video below, produced by Wild Plum Arts, in which Howell talks about working with Solti and many others.

Happy, happy birthday!

Ida Klein

The surviving programs from the Chicago Orchestra’s first seasons’ tours show founder and first music director Theodore Thomas’s enthusiasm for promoting talented young women at a time when it was still rare for them to appear as instrumental soloists. Vocalists appeared regularly, and during the 1891-92 season, Katherine Fisk, Ida Klein, and Christine Nielson traveled with the Orchestra, singing a mix of operatic and popular repertoire (a common practice at the time and likely part of Thomas’s desire to entertain audiences).

Julia Rivé-King

Composer and pianist Julia Rivé-King—who already had a well-established career as a soloist, having toured the U.S. with Thomas and his orchestra in the 1880s—also appeared frequently with the Chicago Orchestra and traveled to the Metropolitan Opera House in Saint Paul, Minnesota in March 1892 to perform Saint-Saëns’s Rhapsodie d’Auvergne. The Saint Paul Daily Globe reported that “the applause which followed [her performance] was so persistent that the famous pianist was forced to return with an encore.” In her book Unsung: A History of Women in American Music, Christine Ammer estimates that by the time Rivé-King would have appeared in Saint Paul, she would have performed in nearly 1,800 concerts since her 1873 debut. She became a fixture of Chicago’s musical life, teaching for over thirty years at the Bush Conservatory of Music.

Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler

Also featured on that Saint Paul program was local violinist Marie Louise Paige, performing a polonaise by Henryk Wieniawsi (it’s not clear in the program whether it is the Polonaise de concert, op. 4 or the Polonaise brillante, op. 21). The same article praised Paige’s technical prowess: “[H]er execution is brilliant, her tone clear. . . . She was recalled again and again, but refused an encore.” Little else seems to be known of Paige; like many women of this period, perhaps she gave up her performing career after marriage. (The complete review is here.)

Maud Powell

Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler also was a frequent soloist with the Chicago Orchestra, both at home and on tour. She made her premiere on subscription concerts at the Auditorium Theatre on March 25 and 26, 1892, and later that spring accompanied the Orchestra to Louisville, Kansas City, and Omaha. Returning the following season, the Chicago Tribune review of her December 2, 1892, subscription concert performance demonstrates the high regard in which she was held as a performer: “Mme. Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler was the soloist in the Saint-Saëns Concerto [no. 4] . . . She has for several seasons stood first among the women pianists of America, but her work last evening proved that now she need acknowledge as her superior none of her brother artists residents[sic] in this country. . . . The audience received her work with merited enthusiasm, recalling her five times and resting satisfied only when an encore was given.”

The rest of the Orchestra’s second season saw many female violinists, including Maud Powell’s Chicago debut as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Powell was the only solo female violinist programmed by Thomas in that series, and in a review of her performance of Bruch’s G minor concerto on July 18, 1893, the Musical Courier wrote that “her conception of the concerto was equal to that of any of the great violinists whom I have heard.”

Central Music Hall, November 30, 1892, program

Augusta S. Cottlow

The support of the Orchestra also was given to fourteen-year-old pianist Augusta S. Cottlow on November 30, 1892, for a “testimonial concert” at the Central Music Hall in Chicago. It is unclear how Thomas met or learned of Cottlow (perhaps through her teacher, the Chicago-based Carl Wolfsohn) or why he was willing to throw the full might (and cost) of the Orchestra behind a concert for her. It might have been a benefit concert to fund her impending trip to Europe; however, as late as 1895, she was still appearing in concerts around Chicago.

Amphitheatre Auditorium, Louisville, Kentucky, January 7, 1893

While Rivé-King, Bloomfield Zeisler, and Powell had long careers as performers, the story of violinist Mary Currie Duke is perhaps more representative of the professional trajectory for many women musicians of this period. There are few data points about her, but her appearance with the Chicago Orchestra at the Amphitheatre Auditorium in Louisville, Kentucky on January 7, 1893, is noteworthy and likely led to her invitation to perform for the World’s Congress of Representative Women at the World’s Columbian Exposition later that year. The Californian Illustrated Magazine of November 1893 indicates that she spent some time studying music abroad in Europe, even claiming that she became “one of [Joseph] Joachim’s idols” and had performed Bruch’s First Violin Concerto with the composer accompanying at the piano. Duke married William Matthews in 1899, and it is unclear if she continued her musical career following her marriage. However, according to Gary Matthews’s biography of her father General Basil Wilson Duke, her husband died in 1910, putting her in a precarious financial position. While she might have returned to the stage in order to earn an income, she developed arthritis soon after her husband’s death, definitively ending her performing career.

Electa Gifford (Chicago Tribune, August 4, 1899)

As discussed in part 1, the Orchestra’s third season saw a drastic reduction in the number of tour concerts and, as a result, fewer performing opportunities for women. However, two unusual concerts in Chicago helped launch the careers of several singers. A “Grand Concert” was given by soprano Electa Gifford at Central Music Hall on November 27, 1893, where she was accompanied by Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra. The concert was a mix of vocal works performed by Gifford along with standards from the Orchestra’s tour repertoire, including the Forest Murmurs from the second act of Wagner’s Siegfried. Once again, it is unclear how Thomas came to know Gifford, but this act of patronage had an important impact on her career. In August 1899, the Chicago Tribune announced her engagement with the Grand Opera of Amsterdam, where she sang the lead soprano roles in many of the company’s performances that season.

Central Music Hall, Chicago, May 8, 1894

Similarly, a benefit concert was given for pianist Laura Sanford and mezzo-soprano Fanchon H. Thompson with the Chicago Orchestra supporting the two young soloists. In this instance, the connection from performers to Thomas is much easier to draw: both were students of Amy Fay, the sister of Thomas’s second wife, Rose Fay. While little is known of Sanford, Thompson went on to a successful career as a singer in Paris, where she debuted at the Opéra-Comique in 1899. According to a 1929 New York Times obituary appearing in the New York Times in 1929, “she twice sang before Queen Victoria at Windsor in Cavalleria rusticana and Romeo and Juliet.

The lives and careers of female performers at the end of the nineteenth century are often difficult to assemble, punctuated as they were by long periods of absence due to marriages and births in ways that did not similarly affect the careers of male musicians. However, following the clues offered in the surviving programs of the Orchestra’s initial seasons demonstrates that Chicago was rapidly becoming a hub for the musical education of men and women at this time, and illuminates the direct role that Theodore Thomas and the Orchestra often played in launching many a career.

Jenna Harmon is a doctoral candidate in musicology at Northwestern University and an intern in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s Rosenthal Archives.

Theodore Thomas

The opening of the first season of the Chicago Orchestra in October 1891 was a momentous occasion not only for the city whose name the Orchestra bore, but also, as the collections in the Rosenthal Archives show, for towns all over the Midwest. Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas was passionately devoted to bringing music to people of all means, not just those who lived in the metropolitan centers and could afford tickets. This isn’t to say, of course, that Thomas wasn’t interested in the opinions of those same well-off people. Part of the reason for the expansive tour schedule the Orchestra observed that first season was to spread the word that Chicago was no longer a backwards slaughterhouse town, a stereotype the city was actively fighting in the lead up to, and even after having won the privilege of, hosting the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Thomas eagerly, and ambitiously, sought to show off the talents and achievements of his new hometown, while also sharing those accomplishments with smaller cities around the Midwest and the South.

Grand Opera House in Rockford, Illinois, October 19, 1891

Following the inaugural concerts at the Auditorium Theatre on October 16 and 17, Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra traveled to Rockford, Illinois for a concert at the Grand Opera House on October 19, and through end of May 1892, they journeyed to eighteen different cities. While there was significant overlap in the repertoire performed, the Orchestra rarely played the same exact program twice, requiring them to have a large amount of music prepared for performance at all times.

Academy of Music in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, December 22, 1891

Many of these concerts were a mix of “high” and “low” repertoire, with the Orchestra performing standards, like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, along with lighter fare, including Arthur Goring Thomas’s A Summer Night. Neither were these light affairs; one concert in Milwaukee on March 22 featured an extended Wagner-only second half with many of the most difficult pieces in the orchestral repertoire, including overtures to The Flying Dutchman and Lohengrin and the infamous Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre. Other common works in the repertoire included Thomas’s orchestral arrangement of the third movement—the slow Marche funèbre or Funeral March—from Chopin’s Piano Sonata no. 2, Mendelssohn’s Overture to The Fair Melusina, and the intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana (fresh from its September 1891 U.S. premiere in Philadelphia).

The first known image of the Chicago Orchestra on the steps of the Saint Louis Exposition Hall on March 14, 1892

The Orchestra’s ability to perform such demanding music becomes even more astonishing upon looking at the tour schedule, where players were frequently given only one day off between concert sets, and likely that time was spent traveling by train from city to city. Many of the same musicians regularly were featured as soloists—concertmaster Max Bendix, along with several principals: cello Bruno Steindel, clarinet Joseph Schreurs, and flute Vigo Andersen—sidestepping the issue of finding local talent or soloists willing to travel, while also giving Thomas the chance to showcase the tremendous talents at his disposal.

Chicago Orchestra tour schedule, 1891-92 season

Many of the theaters that welcomed the Orchestra were themselves quite new, many calling themselves “opera houses,” since opera was considered more “respectable” than mere theater. While opera was sometimes performed in these venues, more often than not they welcomed touring music groups like the Chicago Orchestra, as well as vaudeville and minstrel shows. Many of these theaters have since been demolished, but in their day, they were architectural jewels, as many of the surviving photos and drawings can attest. In the first season, it seems that the Orchestra relied on local event organizers to print up programs, leading to occasionally humorous mis-hearings of titles. For example, Delibes’s suite from the ballet Sylvia frequently concluded a program, and its last movement is Les chasseuses or The Huntresses; the name of this movement was subjected to many different spellings, including Les chesseresses, Les chausseures, and even The Shoes.

Temple Theater in Alton, Illinois, March 16, 1892

By the second season (1892-93), many of these rough edges had been smoothed out. Having noticed the inconsistencies in the titles, Chicago Orchestra management began printing the program books, each bearing Thomas’s face on the front cover and with standardized titles. The concerts themselves also became more consistent, with much less variety in programmed music from city to city. However, the Orchestra’s out-of-town trips would soon become far less frequent: from a grand total of fifty-five concerts in the first season, to forty-five in the second, and a mere fifteen in the third season. Deficits that hounded the Orchestra’s early seasons are most likely to blame, as the expense of such frequent tours could no longer be justified; though the exhaustion of the musicians surely had an effect as well.

DuBois Opera House, Elgin, Illinois, November 1, 1892

Thomas’s personal drive to bring music to the masses soon found other outlets. Having been named the the director of the Bureau of Music for the World’s Columbian Exposition, he was ready to become the city’s chief musical ambassador to the millions of people who would visit. Thomas also implemented a series of “workingmen’s concerts,” where ticket prices were significantly reduced in order to allow those who could not otherwise afford to attend the Orchestra’s subscription concerts.

But wait, there’s more . . . stay tuned for part 2 of this dive into the Orchestra’s early touring days, which will focus on female guest soloists!

Jenna Harmon is a doctoral candidate in musicology at Northwestern University and an intern in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s Rosenthal Archives.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony were given on April 6 and 7, 1950, in Orchestra Hall under the baton of guest conductor George Szell. Since then, the work has been led by music directors Rafael Kubelík, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim; principal conductor Bernard Haitink; principal guest conductors Carlo Maria Giulini and Pierre Boulez; and Ravinia Festival music directors James Levine and James Conlon; along with guest conductors Sir John Barbirolli, Lawrence Foster, Michiyoshi Inoue, Hans Rosbaud, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

The Orchestra has recorded the work on three notable occasions, as follows.

Carlo Maria Giulini, the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor, led Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in December 1971 and March 1975 before returning in April 1976 to perform and record the work. Following the first concert of that residency, Karen Monson in the Chicago Daily News wrote that “each time the aristocratic maestro meets the transcendent symphony, the relationship becomes more and more special, Giulini and the Orchestra have delved into the deepest secrets of this music, and Thursday evening they delivered a performance so rich and complete . . .”

In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis called the performance “one of Giulini’s great nights in Orchestra Hall.” Recording sessions were scheduled for the following week, and “by the time the tape is rolling, this could be the most heartfelt and compelling recorded version of Mahler’s grief-stricken penultimate symphony. . . . The Chicago Symphony players will take any risks for Giulini. If he wishes them to play softer than soft, applying bow to string, or breath to mouthpiece or reed, they proceed to just this side of bobble or discomfiting silence. . . . No other guest has such control over orchestral color and emotional variation.”

Deutsche Grammophon was on hand on April 5 and 6, 1976, to record the symphony in Medinah Temple. Günther Breest was the executive producer and Klaus Scheibe the recording engineer. The release won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti first led the Orchestra in Mahler’s symphony at Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall in April 1981 before taking it on the road to Lucerne, Paris, Amsterdam, and London later that year. Back in Chicago, Solti led a concert performance (benefiting the musicians’ pension fund) on April 28, 1982, and recorded the symphony on May 2 and 4 in Orchestra Hall.

Reviewing in Gramophone magazine, Richard Osborne noted: “When Solti conducted Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in London in the autumn of 1981 the critic of The Financial Times observed: ‘Solti obviously knew how this music should gobut not why.’ Such a reading would be an evident act of self-parody, for it is to this very theme—the modern world’s nightmarish preoccupation with sensation, spiraling, self-referring and impossible to assuage—that Mahler so fearlessly addresses himself in the symphony’s third movement, the Rondo Burleske. It’s clear, though, from the present recording, made in Orchestra Hall, Chicago in May 1982, that Solti’s sense of the music is a good deal more rooted than it appeared to be amid the unsettling razzmatazz of an end-of-tour London performance.

“The new performance has a measure of repose about it as well as much splendour. The second movement is robust and resilient as Mahler directs. There is defiance and obstinacy in the third movement, an awful power which illuminates the music rather than the orchestra’s known expertise.”

James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock was the engineer for London Records. The recording won 1983 Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Recording, Best Engineered Recording—Classical, and Best Classical Album.

Soon after being named as the Orchestra’s third principal guest conductor, Pierre Boulez was in Chicago to lead four performances of Mahler’s Ninth in November December 1995.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote that Boulez led “one of classical music’s most profound meditations on relentless death and tumultuous life” as a “study in musical clarity, elegant balances, and proportion. . . . Many conductors play up the contrasts, creating dramatic mood shifts. Boulez and the CSO were after something more subtle.” John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune added that Boulez “[filtered] the work through his own modernist sensibility. Granted, there are ambiguities and uncertainties in this symphony that resist so rational an approach. But there are also levels of purely musical meaning few other conductors have uncovered. The otherworldly stillnesses, the demonic humor, the desolate nostalgia, the strange lapses into folkish banality registered that much more strongly because the hand organizing them was so calm and precise. . . . Let us hope the studio sessions capture in full the splendor of the live performances.”

For Deutsche Grammophon, the work was recorded at Medinah Temple on December 2 and 4, 1995. Roger Wright was the executive producer, Karl-August Naegler recording producer and editor, Ulrich Vette was the balance engineer, and Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were recording engineers. The release won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony no. 9 on May 17, 18, 19, and 22, 2018.

Cover of one of four World’s Columbian Exposition pop-up books

On April 28, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed an act of Congress awarding Chicago the honor of hosting a world’s fair—the World’s Columbian Exposition—to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World. Architects Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root were charged with oversight of the design and construction, but following Root’s unexpected death in January 1891, Burnham became the sole director of works. He engaged several other architects—including Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles Follen McKim, and Louis Sullivan—to design a classical revival–themed city with grand boulevards, elaborate building façades, and lush gardens. Beaux Arts design concepts—based on symmetry, balance, and grace—were employed, and the 200 new, but intentionally temporary, buildings were mostly covered in plaster of Paris and painted a chalky white, giving the fairgrounds its nickname, the “White City.”

Chicago World’s Fair 1893 by Harley Dewitt Nichols (1859–1939)

The fairgrounds stretched over nearly 700 acres in Jackson Park and officially opened to the public on May 1, 1893—125 years ago. Over the next six months, nearly fifty countries would exhibit and close to twenty-eight million people would visit. Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Cream of Wheat, Quaker Oats, Shredded Wheat, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and the Ferris Wheel were introduced, along with the first U.S. Post Office–issued picture postcards and commemorative stamps and U.S. Mint–issued commemorative quarter and half-dollar coins. Following its blue ribbon–win as “America’s Best” at the exposition, the Pabst Brewing Company officially changed the name of its signature beer.

One visitor was poet and author Katharine Lee Bates, who would later include “Thine alabaster cities gleam” in her poem America the Beautiful. Herman Webster Mudgett (a.k.a. Dr. Henry Howard Holmes) traveled to the fair with two of his eventual victims (later described by Erik Larson in his book The Devil in the White City). And natives bragging about the fair likely contributed to the popularity of Chicago’s nickname as the “Windy City.”

Theodore Thomas

Soon after Theodore Thomas agreed to lead the new Chicago Orchestra, the exposition’s executive committee (many of whom were the same men who were helping to finance his new orchestra) offered him the job of director of music for the fair. Inspired by Burnham’s imagination and drive—not to mention that the committee was prepared to spend nearly one million dollars on music and two performance halls—Thomas accepted shortly after his new orchestra’s inaugural concerts on October 16 and 17, 1891, in the Auditorium Theatre.

Thomas laid out an extensive plan for all types of concerts and issued a proclamation in the spring of 1892 setting forth many lofty goals, among them “the hearty support of American musicians, amateurs, and societies, for participation on great festival occasions of popular music, and for the interpretation of the most advanced composition, American and foreign.” He made his new orchestra the foundation of the resident ensemble, the Exposition Orchestra, augmented to over one hundred players, and he invited the most important musicians in the world to participate: Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák, Joseph Joachim, Piotr Tchaikovsky, Jules Massenet, Camille Saint-Saëns, Giuseppe Verdi, Pietro Mascagni, Charles Gounod, Anton Rubinstein, and Hans Richter, among others.

Music Hall, designed by Charles Atwood

Two music buildings were constructed for a combined cost of $230,000. Music Hall, designed by Charles Atwood, had two performance spaces, seating 600 and 2,000. Festival Hall, designed by Francis M. Whitehouse, had a stage that was reportedly larger than the entire Metropolitan Opera House and seated 4,000 with standing room for more than 2,000.

The inaugural ceremony on October 21, 1892, was given in Festival Hall and included 5,500 singers in the chorus, an orchestra of 200, two large military bands, and two drum corps of fifty players each. In order to for everyone to see, Thomas used a large white handkerchief to conduct, rather than a baton. The event opened with the American composer John Knowles Paine’s Columbus March and Hymn, and continued with Carl Koelling’s World’s Columbian Exposition Waltz and George Whitefield Chadwick‘s Ode for the Opening of the World’s Fair held at Chicago 1892 (set to a poem by Harriet Monroe).

George Whitefield Chadwick’s Ode for the Opening of the World’s Fair held at Chicago 1892 (Theodore Thomas collection)

Carl Koelling’s World’s Columbian Exposition Waltz (piano reduction, Theodore Thomas collection)

As excitement mounted for the official opening of the fair, nearly one hundred piano manufacturers began to vie for the opportunity to exhibit. Some exposition officials began to take sides with different manufacturers, and Thomas attempted to steer clear of the growing controversy. East-coast builders, most notably Steinway, felt the planners were giving unfair advantage to Midwest piano manufacturers, and, as a result withdrew their participation. It was decided that only pianos made by exhibiting companies could be used at the fair. The press had a field day, criticizing both Thomas and the exposition planners, accusing all of conspiring for personal advantage.

Ignace Paderewski

The Exposition’s inaugural concert was scheduled for May 2, 1893, and Thomas’s first choice for soloist was the famous Polish pianist Ignace Paderewski. He had performed with the Chicago Orchestra and had even offered to waive his usual $5,000 per concert fee. He would perform his Piano Concerto in A minor for the first concert and Schumann’s concerto for the second; Theodore Thomas would conduct the Exposition Orchestra (the Chicago Orchestra expanded to 114 players).

Paderewski was unofficially an exclusive Steinway artist and if he was going to perform, it had to be on a Steinway. With Burnham’s help—and unbeknownst to Thomas—workers were able to sneak Paderewski’s Steinway concert grand into Music Hall the night before the first concert.

May 2, 1893

“Those who sat beneath the potent spell [Paderewski’s] mighty genius weaves could but acknowledge his unrivaled greatness and congratulate the exposition upon having secured him for the assisting artist at the inaugural concert,” reported the Chicago Tribune, praising the “surpassing beauty and matchless artistic greatness” of his performance.

By the time the committee discovered Paderewski’s use of a Steinway, it was too late to react. Thomas was falsely accused of conspiring against the committee, and despite the musical success of the concert, again, he was roasted in the press and public debate and criticism increased.

Theodore Thomas’s Exposition ticket book

Other problems included the cavernous acoustics in the Music Hall, Chicago’s May weather was bitter cold and the halls were not heated, and ticket sales for concerts were significantly less than anticipated. Thomas had difficulty hiding his disappointment, which only added to the mounting criticism against him.

Stubs from Thomas’s ticket book

After having conducted nearly seventy concerts in little more than three months, distraught over poor attendance, and mired in controversy, Thomas resigned as musical director in early August. His ticket book for the fair confirms his attendance; the last admission stub removed is for August 11, and at noon that day in Festival Hall, he led his Exposition Orchestra in one last concert.

August 12, 1893

Of all of the musicians Thomas invited to participate in the fair, only one actually made the journey to Chicago—Antonín Dvořák. August 12—the day after Thomas’s last concert—was designated as Bohemian Day, and according to the Chicago Tribune, “Bohemia ruled the World’s Columbian Exposition yesterday. It was the special date set apart for that nationality, and its citizens invaded the White City at every entrance by the thousands.”

Nearly 8,000 people packed into the fair’s Festival Hall to hear the Exposition Orchestra under the batons of Vojtěch I. Hlaváč, professor of music at the Imperial University in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Dvořák, then the director of New York’s National Conservatory of Music in America.

August 12, 1893

The Tribune reviewer continued. “As Dvořák walked out upon the stage a storm of applause greeted him. For nearly two minutes the old composer [age fifty-one!] stood beside the music rack, baton in hand, bowing his acknowledgements. The players dropped their instruments to join in the welcome. Symphony no. 4 in G major [now known as no. 8], considered a severe test of technical writing as well as playing, was interpreted brilliantly. The Orchestra caught the spirit and magnetism of the distinguished leader. The audience sat as if spell-bound. Tremendous outbursts of applause were given.” On the second half of the program, Dvořák conducted selections from his Slavonic Dances and closed the program with his overture My Country.

For the next several weeks, the concerts given were primarily organ recitals. Concertmaster Max Bendix would lead the Exposition Orchestra in most of the remaining scheduled symphonic concerts, and the repertoire was modified to feature lighter, more popular works.

Thomas never completely recovered from the disappointment of the fair, and in his 1904 autobiography, he made no mention of the exposition whatsoever. In Memoirs of Theodore Thomas, completed in 1911 by his widow Rose Fay, she described one silver lining: during the fair, the “the daily concerts and rehearsals of the Orchestra had brought it up to the very highest point of artistic proficiency, and given it an enormous repertoire of music, so that Thomas felt he now had an almost perfect instrument for the concerts of the coming winter . . . This was a great relief to his mind.”

The Chicago Orchestra’s third season began the day after Thanksgiving on November 24 and 25, 1893, at the Auditorium Theatre.

Portions of this article previously appeared here and here, and an abbreviated version will appear in the CSO’s May 2018 program book.

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