If you’ve been in the neighborhood of Symphony Center any time recently, you may have heard that there’s a little festival coming up. Some guy named Beethoven, I think.

Yep, Beethoven’s music has played a big role throughout the CSO’s history. He was Theodore Thomas’s favorite composer—there is a Beethoven life mask in the Thomas collection (more on that later)—and his name is the most prominently placed on the façade of Orchestra Hall. Thomas programmed the Fifth Symphony on the very first concerts on October 16 and 17, 1891, and before the third season was over, all nine symphonies had been performed. Beethoven’s music has appeared on every season since.

But we didn’t really have a big ol’ festival until the thirty-sixth season (1926-27) when our second music director Frederick Stock commemorated the centennial of the composer’s death and programmed a whole lotta Beethoven. Over the course of the season, Stock conducted all nine symphonies; overtures to Coriolan, Egmont, Leonore (no. 3), and The Creatures of Prometheus; the Third Piano Concerto with Mischa Levitzki; the Fourth with Alfred Cortot; the Fifth with Harold Samuel and Elly Ney; the Violin Concerto with Joseph Szigeti and Albert Spalding; and the Triple Concerto with Alfred Blumen, concertmaster Jacques Gordon, and principal cello Alfred Wallenstein.

So, to end the season on April 22 and 23, 1927, Stock programmed Wagner’s March of Homage (also called the Huldigungsmarsch and originally a work for wind band, later orchestrated by—but not traditionally credited to—Joachim Raff) and the Ninth Symphony with soprano Marie Sundelius, contralto Nevada van der Veer (Reed Miller‘s first wife), tenor Tudor Davies, and baritone Herbert Gould, along with the Chicago Singverein (directed by William Boeppler). A grand way to end a memorable season, yes?

But wait . . . that was just the first half.

After intermission, the same forces (plus tenor Eugene Dressler) tackled over an hour’s worth of excerpts from the third act of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Eric DeLamarter (Stock’s assistant) reported in the Tribune: “. . . the vocal and instrumental forces acquitted themselves with honor. An enthusiastic audience stood, at the end, and applauded mightily, and the orchestra greeted its conductor [who had conducted the entire concert from memory] with the rarely heard ‘tusch.'”

Acquitted themselves indeed. And then collapsed.

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