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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Herbert Blomstedt (Juergen M. Pietsch photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herbert Blomstedt (Martin Lengemann photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy, happy birthday!

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

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Vladimir Ashkenazy (Wayne J. Shilkret photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 19, 1958

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Ashkenazy (Wayne J. Shilkret photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Ashkenazy (Ben Ealovega photo for Decca)

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

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

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

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

Happy, happy birthday!

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family remembers one of its iconic musicians, Milton Preves (1909–2000), in honor of the anniversary of his birth on June 18.

Milton Preves in 1934, the year he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (George Nelidoff)

Born in Cleveland, Preves moved to Chicago as a teenager and attended Senn High School. He was a student of Leon Sametini at Chicago Musical College, Richard Czerwonky at the Bush Conservatory of Music, and Albert Noelte and Ramon Girvin at the Institute of Music and Allied Arts before attending the University of Chicago.

Preves joined the Little Symphony of Chicago in 1930, regularly worked in radio orchestras, and was invited by Mischa Mischakoff (then CSO concertmaster) to join the Mischakoff String Quartet in 1932. Two years later, second music director Frederick Stock appointed Preves to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s viola section, promoting him to assistant principal in 1936 and principal in 1939. He would remain in that post for the next forty-seven years, serving under a total of seven music directors, including Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti.

Preves performed as a soloist with the Orchestra on dozens of occasions, including the world premieres of David Van Vactor’s Viola Concerto and Ernest Bloch’s Suite hébraïque for Viola and Orchestra, both dedicated to him. Under Reiner, he recorded Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote—along with cellist Antonio Janigro and concertmaster John Weicher—with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for RCA in 1959.

Louis Sudler (Orchestral Association chairman emeritus), Lady Valerie and Sir Georg Solti, and Milton and Rebecca Preves celebrate Preves’s fiftieth anniversary as a member of the CSO in October 1984 (Terry’s Photography)

A lifelong educator, Preves served on the faculties of Roosevelt, Northwestern, and DePaul universities, and he also always taught privately out of his home. An avid conductor, he held titled posts with the North Side Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, Oak Park–River Forest Symphony, Wheaton Summer Symphony, Gary Symphony, and the Gold Coast Chamber Orchestra. As a chamber musician, he performed with the Budapest, Fine Arts, Gordon, and Chicago Symphony string quartets, as well as the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players.

As reported in his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, “It was while directing the Oak Park–River Forest group that he gained an unusual measure of national attention. He briefly became an icon of the fledgling civil rights movement in 1963, when he resigned from the community orchestra because it would not allow a Black violinist he had invited to perform with the group.” (More information can be found here.)

Preves died at the age of ninety on June 11, 2000, following a long illness. Shortly thereafter, his family began donating materials to the Rosenthal Archives, establishing his collection of correspondence, contracts, photographs, scrapbooks, programs, and recordings. Most recently, his children donated additional photographs, mostly portraits of music directors and guest conductors, all autographed and dedicated to Preves. A sample of that collection is below.

In October 1984, on the occasion of Milton Preves’s fiftieth anniversary with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, fellow viola Isadore Zverow (1909–1999) composed this poem to honor his colleague:

It’s no mean feat, without retreat
To hold the forte so long,
To stroke and pluck in cold and heat—
All to produce a song.

Toward music bent, with single intent,
Unyielding dedication,
You of yourself so gladly lent
Your valued perspiration.

You sat and played and marked and bowed
And sometimes e’en reproached
And sometimes we squirmed (just a bit)
We didn’t wanna be coached.

And yet whene’er the chips were down
Throughout these fifty anna,
Your steadfast presence was a crown
Aiming at Nirvana.

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In June 2022, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the extraordinary American entertainer, singer, and actress Judy Garland!

Born on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Judy Garland began her career as a vaudeville performer with her two older sisters. By the age of thirteen, she had been signed—without a screen test—to the world’s largest motion-picture studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While still a teenager, Garland created her most beloved role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, in which she sang the song that would forever be identified with her, “Over the Rainbow.” Despite constant personal struggles, she continued to create iconic film roles, make hundreds of concert appearances, record best-selling albums, and host her own television series.

Sarah Zelzer and Judy Garland in September 1958 (Allied Arts Records, The Newberry Library, Chicago)

On October 15, 1930, impresario Harry Zelzer (1897–1979) mounted his first presentation—a recital by Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli—at Chicago’s Civic Opera House. By 1948, Zelzer Concert Management Bureau had gradually expanded to become Allied Arts, presenting dozens of performances in multiple venues annually throughout Chicago, including Orchestra Hall. In 1978, Zelzer and his devoted wife and partner Sarah Schectman Zelzer (1909–1998) gave the Allied Arts series to the Orchestral Association (now the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association). Ultimately, the series was renamed Symphony Center Presents in October 1997.

“In July of 1958, Harry got a call from Sidney Luft, Judy’s husband and manager; he wanted Harry to present her in concert at Orchestra Hall during the first week of September,” wrote Sarah Zelzer in her book, Impresario: The Zelzer Era, 1930 to 1990. “Harry had never seen Judy Garland movies and knew very little about her. I, on the other hand, had admired her for years, and I told Harry I thought she would be a terrific draw.” Garland had not yet appeared in Chicago, and despite her reputation for cancellations along with her husband’s rumored untrustworthiness, the Zelzers decided, “it would be worth the gamble.”

Allied Arts program for Garland’s September 4-9, 1958, concerts in Orchestra Hall

Garland and Luft arrived in Chicago on September 3 for a press conference at the Bismarck Hotel, just before the first of seven sold-out shows at Orchestra Hall over the next six days. Comedian Alan King would be the opening act, and Nelson Riddle and his orchestra would provide the accompaniment. Garland’s opening night performance on the evening of September 4 was, according to Zelzer, “a tremendous success. But for the rest of the week, we were on tenterhooks until we saw her walk on the stage.”

“There were cheers and floral tributes for Miss Garland’s singing,” wrote Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune. “The singing is spacious and warm and beautiful, whether it is in music to be caressed or belted. Miss Garland, having long experience, covers quite a span of song writing—from ‘When You’re Smiling’ and ‘I Can’t Give You Anything but Love’ through the ‘Trolley Song’ right down to the ‘Purple People Eater.’ Even songs that weren’t written especially for her become hers by right of interpretation. She is an ‘original,’ and thus has the right. At the end of the evening, she recreates her famous tramp number, ‘Couple of Swells,’ with Mr. King in deft partnership. Then, if opening night is any indication, she may sit down over Orchestra Hall’s imaginary footlights and do a softly beautiful ‘Over the Rainbow’ and a bouncing ‘Chicago’ by way of encores.”

Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1958

The following year, she was re-engaged by Allied Arts for a seven-concert, sold-out run that began on June 1, 1959, at the Civic Opera House. Alan King returned, along with John W. Bubbles and Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra. “The indestructible Judy Garland went into another new phase Monday night at the Civic Opera House, where a near capacity audience turned out,” wrote William Leonard in the Chicago Tribune. “Now, a legend . . . Judy is here as a veteran of vaudeville—a virtually vanished form of show business which she causes to breathe again with nostalgia and excitement combined.”

The Zelzers brought Garland back to Chicago for a performance at the Civic Opera House on May 6, 1961. Just two weeks prior, on April 23, 1961, Garland gave a now legendary performance in New York’s Carnegie Hall. According to Variety, “The tones are clear, the phrasing is meaningful, and the vocal passion is catching. In fact, the audience couldn’t resist anything she did.” And in the New York Post, “Last night, the magnetism was circulating from the moment she stepped on stage.” Called by many “the greatest night in show business history,” the concert was recorded, and the two-album set—Judy at Carnegie Hall—was a tremendous bestseller. It remained on the Billboard charts for seventy-three weeks—including thirteen weeks in the number-one spot — and was certified Gold. Garland won two 1961 Grammy awards for the Capitol Records release: Album of the Year—the first woman to win in that top category—and Best Solo Vocal Performance–Female. The recording was also recognized for Best Engineering Contribution–Popular Recording and Best Album Cover–Non-Classical.

Under the auspices of Allied Arts, Garland was back in Chicago on two more occasions—both for performances at the new Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place—on November 7, 1962, and May 7, 1965. “Audiences habitually regard her concerts as love feasts. This was no exception,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune on November 8, 1962. “Through it all, the high-voltage personality operated full force.”

Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1965

Judy Garland died in London on June 22, 1969, at the age of forty-seven, but her legacy endures. She has been recognized for lifetime achievement from the Recording Academy, and she was the youngest recipient and the first woman to receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, also for lifetime achievement. She received honorary Academy and Tony awards, a Golden Globe, two Grammy awards, two Academy and three Emmy award nominations, and two stars (one for acting, one for recording) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Six of her records have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the American Film Institute‘s 100 Years . . . 100 Songs listed “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz as the number-one movie song of all time, along with “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born (no. 11), “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St. Louis (nos. 26 and 76), and “Get Happy” from Summer Stock (no. 61).

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Wishing a very happy eighty-fifth birthday to Estonian American conductor Neeme Järvi! A frequent guest to the Orchestra Hall podium for nearly forty years, he has led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a remarkable array of works, including one U.S. and two world premieres. Also with the CSO, Järvi has made four recordings, including Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, along with works by Hindemith, Kodály, Schmidt, and Scriabin, all for Chandos Records.

Neeme Järvi (Simon van Boxtel photo)

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

November 21, 22, and 23, 1985, Orchestra Hall
LYADOV Polonaise, Op. 49
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Yefim Bronfman, piano
STENHAMMAR Symphony No. 1 in F Major (U.S. premiere)

December 10, 11, 12, and 15, 1987, Orchestra Hall
STENHAMMAR Intermezzo from Sängen, Op. 44
STENHAMMAR Florez och Blanzeflor, Op. 3
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
ALFVÉN Skogen sover, Op. 28, No. 6
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
SIBELIUS Incidental Music from Kuolema
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
TUBIN Symphony No. 4 in A Major (Sinfonia lirica)

December 17, 18, and 19, 1987, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Prelude from From the Middle Ages, Op. 79
SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 2 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 129
Samuel Magad, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 4 in C Major, Op. 112

November 10, 11, and 12, 1988, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Symphony No. 88 in G Major
LLOYD Symphony No. 7 (world premiere)

April 20, 21, 22, and 25, 1989, Orchestra Hall
SCHMIDT Symphony No. 2 in E-flat Major
CORIGLIANO Pied Piper Fantasy (Concerto for Flute and Orchestra)
James Galway, flute
Marie Bennett, Charlie Chen, Brian Davis, Demarre McGill, Vicki Meier, Anita Mooney, Katherine Naftzger, Esther Sullivan, Kyra Tyler, and Caroline You, flutes
Sharyon Culberson and Brad Fox, percussion
Tracy Cunningham, Kelly Krueger, Anthony McGill, and Carlos Velez, Jr., actors
René Roy, director
Schmidt’s Symphony no. 2 was recorded in Orchestra Hall live in concert.

November 22, 24, 25, and 28, 1989, Orchestra Hall
PÄRT Symphony No. 3
SCRIABIN Poem of Ecstasy, Op. 54
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition
Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition were recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 27 and 28, 1989.

February 15, 16, 18, and 20, 1990, Orchestra Hall
KODÁLY Háry János, Op. 35a
Laurence Kaptain, cimbalom
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, Op. 103 (Egyptian)
Lorin Hollander, piano
KODÁLY Variations on a Hungarian Folksong (The Peacock)
KODÁLY Dances of Galánta
Kodály’s Háry János, Peacock Variations, and Dances of Galánta were recorded in Orchestra Hall live in concert.

January 31, February 1, 2, and 5, 1991, Orchestra Hall
HINDEMITH Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 38
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Radu Lupu, piano
SCHMIDT Symphony No. 3
Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra and Schmidt’s Symphony no. 3 were recorded in Orchestra Hall live in concert.

October 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, 1993, Orchestra Hall
TUBIN/Raid Elegy for Strings
ELLER Folk Tune from Songs of My Homeland
DARZINS Melancholy Waltz
NIELSEN Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 13

January 5, 6, 7, and 10, 1995, Orchestra Hall
BARBER Intermezzo and Under the Willow Tree from Vanessa
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (Rhenish)
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Excerpts from the Incidental Music for The Snow Maiden

February 13, 14, 15, and 16, 1997, Orchestra Hall
RAPCHAK Saetas (world premiere)
PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 7
Rachel Barton, violin
NIELSEN Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 (The Inextinguishable)

May 18, 19, 20, and 23, 2000, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Overture to Manfred, Op. 115
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Samuel Magad, violin
John Sharp, cello
DOHNÁNYI Symphony No. 2 in E Major, Op. 40

October 16, 17, 18, and 21, 2008, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Yefim Bronfman, piano
TANEYEV Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 12

December 8, 9, and 10, 2016, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Concert Waltz No. 1 in D Major, Op. 47
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
Vadim Gluzman, violin
SIBELIUS Suite from Karelia, Op. 11
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82

April 20, 22, and 23, 2017, Orchestra Hall
April 21, 2017, Wheaton College
PÄRT Fratres
Robert Chen, violin
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. Posth.
Robert Chen, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)

December 7, 8, 9, and 12, 2017, Orchestra Hall
SMETANA Music from The Bartered Bride
BARBER Cello Concerto, Op. 22
Alisa Weilerstein, cello
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 5 in F Major, Op. 76

Happy, happy birthday!

This article also appears here.

Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler (ca. 1893)

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, no one has performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto more than Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler.

Born in Austria in 1863, Fannie Blumenfeld and her family immigrated to the United States in 1867 and settled in Chicago. She began piano studies at the age of six and gave her first concert on February 26, 1875. Encouraged by the Russian pianist Anna Essipoff, Blumenfeld returned to Vienna in 1878, where she began studies with Theodor Leschetizky. Shortly after returning to the U.S. in 1883—and anglicizing her name to Bloomfield—she auditioned for Theodore Thomas, then the music director for the New York Philharmonic as well as his eponymous Theodore Thomas Orchestra. It was too late to hire her for his upcoming seasons, but, inspired by her playing, Thomas provided letters of recommendation to help her secure other engagements.

Bloomfield made her professional debut in Chicago’s Central Music Hall on January 11, 1884, performing the first movement of Adolf von Henselt’s Piano Concerto in F minor under the baton of one of her first teachers, Carl Wolfsohn. In the Chicago Tribune, the reviewer described her performance with “A firm but at the same time delicate touch, a technique which overcomes the greatest difficulties without apparent effort, and an intelligent mastery over the mechanism of her instrument were the characteristics of her playing, which made themselves felt before she had finished a small portion of her task. Every note received its due. . . . It was a great treat, Miss Bloomfield’s playing, and one not soon to be forgotten.”

Zeisler was soloist in the Chicago Orchestra’s first performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in Pittsburgh on April 19, 1893

Bloomfield’s debut in New York occurred the following year, on February 1, 1885, under Frank Van der Stucken and his orchestra, again with Henselt’s Piano Concerto. In October of that year, she married Sigmund Zeisler (who later served on the defense counsel for the anarchists responsible for the onset of the Haymarket Square riot), and the couple had three sons.

Zeisler made her debut with the Chicago Orchestra during the ensemble’s first season, at the Auditorium Theatre on March 25 and 26, 1892. “The solo part in [Chopin’s second] concerto was played by Mrs. Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler, a Chicago artist who is heard but too rarely in local concerts,” wrote the reviewer in the Chicago Tribune. “Few piano performances heard in the Auditorium have possessed as high artistic finish and true musicianly qualities as did that accorded Chopin’s concerto last evening by Mrs. Zeisler. There have been performances more brilliant, performances more impressive in their breadth and power, but none have revealed greater refinement of style and clearer, truer conception than did this.”

All-Schumann concert at the World’s Columbian Exposition on June 9, 1893

Later that spring, Zeisler joined Thomas and the Orchestra on tour to perform three concerts in Omaha, two in Louisville, and one in Kansas City, Missouri; her repertoire included Chopin’s Second, Rubinstein’s Fourth, and Saint-Saëns’s Fourth concertos.

The following season, she appeared with the Orchestra on a pair of subscription concerts in December and on tour on five occasions, including concerts in Pittsburgh and Buffalo in April that included the ensemble’s first performances of Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Soon thereafter, Zeisler was one of only two pianists—along with Ignace Paderewski—chosen by Thomas to perform with the Orchestra at the World’s Columbian Exposition. On June 9, 1893, she appeared in an all-Schumann concert (honoring the composer’s birthday) that included the Manfred Overture, Third Symphony, and the Piano Concerto. “Mme. Zeisler proved herself,” according to the Chicago Tribune, giving “a performance in every respect admirable and satisfying [lending] charm and poetry.”

Over the next thirty years, Zeisler was a frequent and favorite soloist with the Orchestra, performing not only Schumann’s concerto, but also works by Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg, Henselt, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Moszkowski, Mozart, Rubinstein, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, and Weber.

Zeisler’s Golden Jubilee Concert, February 25, 1925

On February 25, 1925, Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler appeared with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—and before the public—one last time, in a concert celebrating her fiftieth year as a concert artist. The program included Beethoven’s Andante favori, Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto, and her eighth performance with the CSO of Schumann’s Piano Concerto. “You might have closed your eyes and been willing to swear that an artist in the first flush of maturity, with intensively cultivated powers and enormous flair for major piano works was playing,” wrote the critic in the Chicago Tribune. “It was the seal on an honorable and highly honored career. Mrs. Zeisler is as sincere an artist as ever appeared before the public. [Her honesty] shone through, every note she played, just as it has always shone whenever she played. And a capacity audience was present to testify to the esteem in which the fine sincerity of a fine artist is held.” She died in Chicago on August 21, 1927.

Portions of this article appear in the May 19, 20, 21, and 22, 2022, program book; and the article also appears here.

Donald Peck in 1994 (Jim Steere photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the passing of Donald Peck, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1957 until 1999 and principal flute for over forty years. He passed away earlier today, April 29, 2022. Peck was ninety-two.

Born on January 26, 1930, in Yakima, Washington, Donald Peck received his early musical training in Seattle, where he played in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. As a teenager, he performed with his first teacher, Frank Horsfall, in the Seattle Symphony. He was a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied with William Kincaid. Peck performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and spent three years in the U.S. Marine Band. He was principal flute of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra for two years before Fritz Reiner invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1957 as assistant principal flute. The following year, Reiner promoted Peck to principal flute, a chair he would hold for over forty years until his retirement in 1999.

Peck first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in August 1959, in Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, and on subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall in November 1960, in Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite, both with Walter Hendl conducting. During his tenure, he appeared as soloist on more than 120 concerts directed by twenty-five conductors—including music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and on tour.

Donald Peck in 1966 (Dorothy Siegel Druzinsky photo)

On April 18, 1985, Solti led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Morton Gould’s Flute Concerto, commissioned for Peck. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein described his playing as, “Lustrous and penetrating, tender and lyrical, charming and sensual, its hues would put a chameleon to shame. It is one of the most distinctive voices in the orchestral choir, blending well with any ensemble even as it serves a key role within the woodwind section. . . . as principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck has carried out that role with a combination of technical skill and musical understanding that has earned him widespread admiration. Within the fraternity of the flute he is considered to be without peer. No less a judge than Julius Baker, the longtime principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic [and principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1951 until 1953], pronounces Peck ‘the greatest flutist I’ve ever heard.'”

Also for Peck, William Ferris wrote his Flute Sonata and Lee Hoiby dedicated his Pastorale Dances for Flute and Orchestra. He regularly performed as a guest artist with other orchestras, including appearances at the Pablo Casals Festival with concerts in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and in Carnegie Hall. In Australia, Peck recorded Mozart’s flute concertos for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and he regularly appeared at the Carmel Bach Festival in California, the Victoria International Festival in Canada, the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, and the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, along with numerous other orchestras from coast to coast.

As principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck performed on over three hundred recordings under twenty-two conductors for twelve labels. In his retirement, he recorded works for flute and piano with Melody Lord for the Boston label. Peck also was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

Peck served on the faculties of DePaul and Roosevelt universities, where he taught flute and woodwind ensemble. A frequent lecturer and guest teacher, he gave master classes at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, at the Rotterdam Conservatory in Holland, for the Osaka Flute Club in Japan, at the Sydney Flute Association in Australia, and at over thirty universities and music groups throughout the United States and Canada. For many years, Peck played a flute—fashioned in platinum-iridium—handmade for him by Powell Flutes of Boston.

In 1997, the National Flute Association honored Peck with a lifetime achievement award. Indiana University Press published Peck’s memoir, The Right Place, The Right Time! Tales of Chicago Symphony Days in 2007, and the Chicago Flute Club’s biennial international flute competition is named in his honor.

Near the end of his tenure as principal flute, Peck spoke again with von Rhein for the Chicago Tribune. “The flute has the potential for more color and brilliance [and] the woodwind section can be most exquisite, like glittering jewels. . . . I have been a very lucky person, having performed with wonderful musicians and done so much. What more could I want?”

Donald Peck warming up backstage, on tour with the CSO in the 1990s (Jim Steere photo)

Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date, and memorial gifts may be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

This article also appears here.

Detail of title page of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony (Theodore Thomas collection)

Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony—according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies—is “a work as full of beauties, novel of their kind, as the Eroica, but expressing no worldly program; singing instead the songs of nature—the music of the soul. . . . In consequence, he has given us, in the Fourth Symphony, a song of beauty such as no one else has ever written, presenting absolute novelty of color and creating an atmosphere in music justly termed ‘romantic,’ a romanticism parallel to that of Schiller in literature.”

“Generations of music lovers have described—and sometimes dismissed—Beethoven’s even-numbered symphonies as lyrical and relaxed compared to their spunky, coltish, odd-numbered neighbors. The Fourth, in B-flat major, has suffered from that fate perhaps more than any,” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Schumann was perhaps the first musician to warn us not to overlook the Fourth’s own special qualities: ‘Do not illustrate his genius with the Ninth Symphony alone, no matter how great its audacity and scope, never uttered in any tongue. You can do as much with his First Symphony, or with the Greek-like slender one in B-flat major!’”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony on March 17 and 18, 1893, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The Fourth Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1987 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded Beethoven’s complete symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Fourth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on September 21 and 22, 1987. Michael Haas was the recording producer and James Lock was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 on May 5, 6, and 7, 2022.

This article also appears here.

“What could come after [the Fifth Symphony]?” wrote Frederick Stock, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s second music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “The subtlety of Beethoven’s imagination found an answer in due time, and in his Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, we find his thoughts expressed in a new form. Even though other composers before him and in his time had attempted to write program music, Beethoven was the first whose efforts in this direction proved to be a lasting achievement. . . . His was a poetic conception of nature’s grandeur and beauty, a faithful interpretation of her inward significance, cast in the most perfect of musical forms, the symphony.”

Detail of title page of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, bearing marks by Frederick Stock and Fritz Reiner (Fritz Reiner collection)

“Our familiar picture of Beethoven, cross and deaf, slumped in total absorption over his sketches, doesn’t easily allow for Beethoven the nature-lover,” writes writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “But he liked nothing more than a walk in the woods, where he could wander undisturbed, stopping from time to time to scribble a new idea on the folded sheets of music paper he always carried in his pocket. ‘No one,’ he wrote to Therese Malfati two years after the premiere of the Pastoral Symphony, ‘can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.’ They’re all here in his Sixth Symphony.”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony on March 2 and 3, 1894, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1961 recording (RCA)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Orchestra’s first recording of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony on April 8 and 10, 1961, in Orchestra Hall. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

1974 recording (London)

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The Sixth Symphony was recorded at the Sofiensaal in Vienna on September 10, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson, and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1988 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Sixth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 9, 10, 14, and 16, 1988. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 on April 28, 30, and May 3, 2022.

This article also appears here.

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


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