During Sir Georg Solti‘s tenure as eighth music director (1969–1991) and music director laureate (1991–1997), he and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus amassed an astonishing discography. Decca Classics—to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Solti’s death—is releasing a set of these complete recordings in a 108-CD boxed set.

“Recording with the Chicago Symphony was the fulfillment of Solti’s dreams and ambitions, to be able to record for posterity the ephemeral quality and emotions of a performance by this world-class ensemble,” writes Lady Valerie Solti in the accompanying book. “The orchestra were enthusiasts, hard workers, and brilliant musicians who were as eager as Solti to make first-class records and to create for the future a lasting document, a legacy of their wonderful relationship, a collaboration which won worldwide acclaim and unparalleled Grammy awards.” The 180-page hardcover book also includes articles by mezzo-soprano Yvonne Minton; producer and author Humphrey Burton; Martha Gilmer, who served as the Orchestra’s vice president for artistic planning during the latter half of Solti’s tenure; and CSO archivist Frank Villella; along with previously unpublished images from recording sessions.

The range of repertoire is vast: complete cycles of symphonies by Beethoven (twice, see here and here), Brahms, Bruckner, and Mahler (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here); Beethoven’s piano concertos; world premieres of Del Tredici’s Final Alice and Tippett’s Symphony no. 4 and Byzantium; complete operas including Beethoven’s FidelioSchoenberg’s Moses und AronVerdi’s Otelloand Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The set also includes hallmarks of the choral repertoire, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by directors Margaret Hillis and Duain Wolfe) performing Bach’s Mass in B minor and Saint Matthew PassionBeethoven’s Missa solemnisBerlioz’s The Damnation of FaustBrahms’s A German Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s The Creation (twice) and The Seasons, Shostakovich’s Babi Yar Symphony, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, and Verdi’s Requiem, plus many more works by these composers along with Bartók, Berg, Debussy, Dohnányi, Dvořák, Kodály, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Weiner.

Solti leads the Orchestra in a recording session for Mahler’s Symphony no. 3 in November 1982 in Orchestra Hall (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Solti wrote in his Memoirs, “My term as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was the happiest time in my professional life . . . the fulfillment of my dreams, but at the same time, it was a new learning experience for me, a master class in musical directorship.” This set is a testament to that remarkable partnership.

The set releases in the United States on September 15, 2017, and is available here.

On January 25 and 26, 1907, Maud Powell returned to Chicago to again perform with the Theodore Thomas Orchestra (as we were then known). Under the baton of second music director Frederick Stock, she was soloist in the Orchestra’s first performances of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto (she had just given the U.S. premiere of the concerto with the New York Philharmonic on November 30, 1906, with Vasily Safonov conducting).

Following the first performance, William Lines Hubbard in the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Maud Powell—’our’ Maud Powell, since she is an American and her career has been made largely in this country—scored a triumph yesterday . . . There are extremely few of her brother artists who could compass [the concerto’s] technical intricacies with such surety and seeming ease as she did, and still fewer of them who could interpret it with such masterful skill.” The complete article is here.

On August 22, 2017, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of this extraordinary American violinist and musician. As part of the celebration, a sixty-minute documentary about her life—entitled Our Maud Powell, produced by Paul Butler of Ebenim Media—will premiere on Saturday, August 19, in Powell’s Illinois hometown at the Peru Public Library. Details of other anniversary events can be found on the Maud Powell Society website.

Below are a few excerpts from the film, featuring Karen Shaffer, author of the biography Maud Powell: Pioneer American Violinist; Rachel Barton Pine, violinist and a longtime champion of Powell’s; and Frank Villella, director of archives for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Maud Powell was featured as part of the 125 Moments exhibit during the CSO’s 2015-16 season, and she also posthumously received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2013.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family notes with sorrow the passing of Rudolph “Rudy” Nashan, a member of the trumpet section from 1950 until 1963. He died on August 9, 2017, at the age of 94.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra trumpet section in the fall of 1950: left to right, Renold Schilke, Gerald Huffman, Rudolph Nashan, and Adolph Herseth

Nashan was born in Münster, Germany on July 25, 1923, and the family soon immigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago. He began playing the trumpet in elementary school and continued lessons while attending Lane Tech. Nashan was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago from 1941 until 1943, and following the outbreak of World War II, in 1942 he joined the U.S. Army, serving in a military band in Skokie, Illinois. During his service, he worked not only as a trumpeter but also as a translator for incoming German war prisoners who had been transported to the United States as farm laborers from South Africa.

After the war, Nashan attended the New England Conservatory of Music and studied with Georges C. Mager, then principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Shortly after receiving his performer’s certificate, new music director Rafael Kubelík invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as second trumpet, where he served for ten years, moving to fourth trumpet in 1960.

As a tireless advocate for the rights of musicians, in 1962 Nashan was one of the founding members of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. He resigned his post with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1963 when he was elected vice president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, where he was instrumental in completing the merger of the segregated Chicago locals.

Nashan later worked as an artist representative for the National Endowment for the Arts for the New England area and also served as principal trumpet and personnel manager of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. Upon his retirement, he and his wife Catherine moved to Belfast, Maine, where he taught several young trumpeters privately and at local colleges. Nashan was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

His first wife Catherine preceded him in death. Nashan is survived by his second wife Patricia and two children from his first marriage, Rebecca Devereaux and Georges Nashan. Service details are pending.

In 2012, ICSOM held its fiftieth anniversary meeting in Chicago and to commemorate the event, a documentary was produced. Nashan was one of several Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians prominently featured in the film, offering first-hand accounts of working conditions in orchestras in the early years.

It was a beautiful, sunny day here in Chicago, perfect for a civic event to celebrate public art!

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the unveiling of the Chicago Picasso in Daley Plaza, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events organized a “restaging” of the original 1967 event as part of the city’s 2017 Year of Public Art Chicago initiative.

On August 15, 1967, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra participated in the unveiling, with Seiji Ozawa—then music director of the Ravinia Festival—conducting works by Bernstein and Gershwin. At today’s event, the After School Matters Orchestra, under the direction of Howard Sandifer, performed the opening of Gershwin’s An American in Paris and the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5. Josephine Lee led the Chicago Children’s Choir in The Star-Spangled Banner, just as the Englewood Neighborhood Corps Youth Choir (as the CCC was then known) had done at the original event.

Howard Sandifer and the After School Matters Orchestra

Josephine Lee and the Chicago Children’s Choir

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Picasso

Following several speakers—including Nora Brooks Blakely, daughter of Gwendolyn Brooks, who read an original poem at the 1967 unveiling—Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed the crowd. He called the original dedication of the sculpture a “critical inflection point in Chicago’s story” that would go on to inspire other public art in the city. “It is called ‘Everyone’s Picasso’ because it belongs to all of us.”

Civic Center Plaza, August 15, 1967

Daley Plaza, August 8, 2017

Wishing Riccardo Muti—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s tenth music director—the happiest of birthdays!

Riccardo Muti leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the opening concert of the 125th season on September 17, 2015 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

In the introduction to the book Chicago Symphony Orchestra: 125 Moments, Maestro Muti wrote: “It is no coincidence that the word ‘symphony’ means ‘the togetherness of sound.’ Music itself is formed by many musical lines that seem to be one against the other—what we call counterpoint—but in fact, each line needs the other in order to have a reason for its existence. They all work together, and, even when they sometimes seem to be in contradiction, or in dissonance, their purpose is to reach the supreme harmony.”

Happy, happy birthday!

Wishing a very happy birthday to Michael Gielen, celebrating his ninetieth on July 20, 2017!

Between 1973 and 2002, Maestro Gielen led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a broad range of repertoire. A complete list of his appearances (all concerts at Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted) is below:

December 6 and 7, 1973
December 10, 1973 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
HAYDN Symphony No. 95 in C Minor
SZYMANOWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 61
Wanda Wilkomirska, violin
PENDERECKI Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra
Wanda Wilkomirska, violin
SCRIABIN Symphony No. 3, Op. 43 (The Divine Poem)

March 21, 22, 23, and 26, 1996
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

March 28, 29, and 30, 1996
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Overture to Die Fledermaus
STUCKY Pinturas de Tamayo (Paintings of Tamayo) (world premiere)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)

October 29, 30, 31, and November 1, 1997
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 2, Op. 72
CARTER Piano Concerto
Ursula Oppens, piano
Richard Graef, flute
Grover Schiltz, oboe and english horn
J. Lawrie Bloom, clarinet
David Taylor, violin
Charles Pikler, viola
Stephen Balderston, cello
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
SCHUBERT Incidental Music from Rosamunde, D. 797
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72

January 11, 12, 13, and 16, 2001
BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
BEETHOVEN/Liszt Andante cantabile from the Piano Trio in G-flat Major, Op. 97 (Archduke)
BEETHOVEN/Gielen Grosse Fuge in B-flat Major, Op. 133
SCHOENBERG Pelleas and Melisande, Op. 5

January 18, 20, and 23, 2001
MAHLER Adagio from Symphony No. 10
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Zoltán Kocsis, piano
KURTÁG . . . quasi una fantasia . . .
Zoltán Kocsis, piano
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 (Unfinished)

January 17, 18, 29, and 22, 2002
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Elena Bashkirova, piano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

January 24, 25, 26, and 29, 2002
RAVEL Valses nobles et sentimentales
DUTILLEUX Symphony No. 2 (Le double)
Alex Klein, oboe
Larry Combs, clarinet
David McGill, bassoon
Craig Morris, trumpet
Jay Friedman, trombone
Mary Sauer, piano
Melody Lord-Lundberg, celesta
Donald Koss, timpani
Samuel Magad, violin
Joseph Golan, violin
Charles Pikler, viola
John Sharp, cello
POULENC Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani in G Minor
David Schrader, organ
Donald Koss, timpani
RAVEL La valse

Happy, happy birthday!

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to conductor Herbert Blomstedt, celebrating his ninetieth today!

Over the past thirty years, Maestro Blomstedt has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions:

January 7, 9, 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, chorus director

Blomstedt’s colleagues at the Berlin Philharmonic have just posted this delightful tribute (added on July 14, 2017):

Happy, happy birthday!

Herbert Blomstedt appears with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on March 1, 2, and 3, 2018, leading Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3.

Amelia Earhart standing under the nose of her Lockheed Model 10E Electra on March 1, 1937 (public domain image)

On May 20 and 21, 1932, Amelia Earhart flew a Lockheed Vega 5B from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to Culmore in Northern Ireland, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. On January 11 and 12, 1935, she became the first aviator to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California. And on July 2, 1937, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were reported missing over the Central Pacific Ocean during their attempt to fly around the globe.

Newly rediscovered image of what may be Noonan and Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands (National Archives photo)

However, a photographic image—recently rediscovered in the National Archives—may dispute that long-held belief. According to Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, produced by HISTORY, this image may prove that Earhart and Noonan actually survived. The program airs this Sunday, July 9; to watch a preview and read more, click here.

A little more than a month after Earhart’s January 1935 solo flight, she was in Chicago and presented a lecture on February 15 at Orchestra Hall entitled, “My Pacific Flight.”

Headline from the February 16, 1935, Herald & Examiner

“Women fliers have a definite place in the air transport service as pilots, Amelia Earhart, America’s first lady of the air, declared yesterday as she arrived in Chicago, her old home town,” William Westlake reported in the Herald & Examiner. “The arrival of the smiling modishly-attired former Hyde Park High School girl, who has twice flown the Atlantic and made a solo flight from Honolulu to Oakland, was without fanfare. . . . Tonight she speaks again at the South Shore Country Club, tomorrow night she talks at the LaGrange Sunday Evening Club, and then she is off to Kansas City and Omaha.”

In the Chicago Tribune, Wayne Thomis reported that the Orchestra Hall audience, comprised largely of women, heard Earhart speak, “deprecatingly of her flight’s value as an advancement for aviation. . . . Although Miss Earhart spoke appreciatively of a few grim moments when she took off with a heavy load of gasoline downwind from a muddy field on her Pacific flight, it was the lighter side of ‘my pleasant evening in the air’ that she stressed. There was a bit of pride, too, in her reference to the fact that she had flown exactly on her course throughout the 2,038-mile voyage although she made the flight by dead reckoning. Soon after leaving the islands behind, the commercial program broadcast from a Honolulu radio station on which she was tuned was interrupted, she said. ‘I was listening to the music and then the announcer said: “Miss Earhart has taken off on her flight to San Francisco.” And as I sat up there at 8,000 feet with the motor just in front of me, I thought: “How impertinent of that radio man to be telling me.” ’ ”

(According to Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon’s 1997 book Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer, some of the music Earhart enjoyed included “the broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera from New York.” The Met’s performance history database indicates the Saturday, January 12, 1935, broadcast as Wagner’s Tannhäuser featuring Lauritz Melchior, Maria Müller, Dorothee Manski, Richard Bonelli, and Ludwig HofmannArtur Bodanzky conducted.)

Program book advertisement for the Metropolitan Opera’s 1897 residency at the Auditorium Theatre

During the Chicago Orchestra’s first decade, the ensemble frequently performed in the pit when the Metropolitan Opera’s touring company traveled through the Midwest.

One of the most extensive residencies during that era occurred during the 1896-97 season, when the Met collaborated with the Orchestra over a six-week period—from February 22 through April 3, 1897—spending four weeks in the Auditorium Theatre followed by a two-week tour to Saint Louis, Louisville, and Cincinnati. Together they gave over forty performances of fifteen different operas, including Bizet’s Carmen; Flotow’s Martha; Gounod’s Faust, Philemon and Baucis, and Romeo and Juliet; Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana; Massenet’s Le Cid; Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine and Les Huguenots; Mozart’s Don Giovanni; Verdi’s Aida and Il trovatore; and Wagner’s Lohengrin, Siegfried, and Tristan and Isolde.

The touring company included some of the most important singers of the day, many performing multiple roles, including: Emma Calvé as Carmen, Marguerite, and Santuzza; Jean de Reszke as Don José, Faust, Lohengrin, Siegfried, and Tristan; and his brother Édouard de Reszke as King Marke, Leporello, Mephistopheles, Ramfis, and the Wanderer. Other singers included Mathilde Bauermeister, David BisphamGiuseppe CampanariFélia Litvinne, and Eugenia Mantelli, among many others, and Metropolitan Opera house conductors were Enrico Bevignani, Luigi Mancinelli, Louis Saar, and Anton Seidl.

Boito’s Mefistofele was performed once during the residency, on March 2, 1897, with the following cast:

Mefistofele Pol Plançon, bass
Faust Giuseppe Cremonini, tenor
Margherita and Elena Emma Calvé, soprano
Wagner and Nereo Igenio Corsi, tenor
Marta and Pantalis Eugenia Mantelli, mezzo-soprano
Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Carlo Corsi, director
Luigi Mancinelli, conductor 

Pol Plançon, photographed in Paris in 1881 by Wilhelm Benque

In the Chicago Tribune, the reviewer described Plançon—who also performed the role of Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faust on the tour—”M. Plançon as Mefistofele was forceful and majestic. In much of the detail he was the creature of Gounod’s libretto, but for one important exception, Boito’s Devil is thoroughly Italian. He is more noisy, impetuous, vindictive. The French composer has treated his subject with greater elevation of satire. Gounod’s French suavity and politeness never forsook him even when he set about depicting the Devil. Boito, true to Italian instinct, made his a personage terrifying, from the melodramatic point of view,. His Mefistofele never for a moment is allowed to forget what a bad person he is, and that is the chief thing he has to do in this entire opera. He is like a picture by [Gustave] Doré, red drapery, piercing eyes, and a background of smoke.”

For more details on the Metropolitan Opera’s Chicago residencies, check out the company’s performance history database.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Chicago Children’s Choir, and bass Riccardo Zanellato in the Prologue to Boito’s Mefistofele on June 22, 23, 24, and 25, 2017.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family notes with sorrow the passing of Fred Spector, a member of the violin section from 1956 until 2003. He died earlier today, June 3, 2017, at his home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. He was 92.

Fred Spector (J.B. Spector photo)

Solomon E. (Fred) Spector was born on March 11, 1925, on Chicago’s West Side and began violin lessons at the age of five with his uncle J.B. Mazur, concertmaster of the Czar’s Imperial Orchestra in Saint Petersburg. He attended Hyde Park High School and Chicago Musical College, and his teachers included CSO concertmaster John Weicher, Leon Sametini, and Paul Stassevitch for violin, and Henry Sopkin (who founded the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 1945) for conducting.

Spector flew as a U.S. Army bombardier and navigator in Japan during World War II and became the first American violinist to concertize there after the war ended. He returned to Chicago and became concertmaster of the Civic Orchestra, studied conducting with Rudolph Ganz, and later was a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune in 1994, Spector said that he “was actually hired into the CSO twice. The first time was in 1948 when a music director by the name of Artur Rodzinski heard me play some solos and gave me a job. The audition process was different back then, too. But Rodzinski was fired right after that, and the CSO didn’t honor any of his contracts—including mine. So I was hired and fired within a few weeks. Eight years later, the CSO asked me to audition again. I was conducting Broadway shows then—at that time it was Top Banana with Phil Silvers.”

Fred Spector in the early 1970s (Terry’s photo)

Music director Fritz Reiner hired Spector in 1956 and he served the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until his retirement in 2003. A chamber music enthusiast, he also performed with numerous ensembles in the Chicago area and was a member of the Chicago Strings, the Chicago Symphony Quartet, and the Chicago Arts Quartet for many years. Spector also was assistant conductor of the Highland Park Music Theatre.

Among numerous collectibles reflecting his varied interests, Spector was the proud owner of an extensive library of books on violin and bow history. His collection of mutes for string instruments (one of the world’s largest) included some that he found during the Orchestra’s national and international tours. Spector was the proud owner of a Carlo Bergonzi violin that dated from 1733.

Also in 1994 for the Tribune, Spector added: “playing with the CSO—which is one of the best orchestras in the world—is really something. It’s extraordinary. Even after all these years, we play concerts that still excite me. Concerts that leave me saying, ‘That was special. Everything was marvelous.’ ”

Spector is survived by Estelle, his beloved wife of sixty-six years; their children Lea, Mia (Terry), J.B. (Martha), Julie, and Ari (Jeanne); grandchildren Matt (Eve) Temkin, Dan (Kari) Temkin, Erinn Cohen, Ross Cohen, Caitlynn Spector, Adam Spector; and great-grandson Charlie Temkin. He also is survived by his brother David (Carol).

Services will be Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at 11:30 a.m. at Goldman Funeral Group, Skokie Chapel (8851 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie). Interment to follow at Memorial Park Cemetery (9900 Gross Point Road, Skokie).

In lieu of flowers, the family asks to please consider a donation to The Village Chicago or 98.7WFMT.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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