I couldn’t resist expanding on today’s On This Day factoid: “December 9, 1965 – Georg Solti makes his Orchestra Hall debut with the Orchestra, conducting Bartók’s Dance Suite, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto (with Mstislav Rostropovich), and Schubert’s Ninth Symphony.”

Solti had appeared with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on several occasions in the 1950s and also had conducted at Lyric Opera in 1956 and 1957. But this was his debut at Orchestra Hall.

And Rostropovich had appeared in Chicago at Orchestra Hall as a recitalist, but this was his first appearance with the Orchestra.

According to Roger Dettmer’s review in Chicago’s American on December 10, Solti’s conducting “was too relentlessly intense, and yet a valid expression because of [his] undeviating vision, and the astoundingly subtle response he won from our orchestra. . . . Welcome back, Maestro Solti. Would that we might be able to say, ‘Welcome home.’”

In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis wrote that the performance of the Dvořák was not to be forgotten: “The Rostropovich attack begins with a swashbuckling preparatory flourish, yet sends the first microsecond precisely where it belongs. This one was intended for the back wall. Later came the variety show—fortissimo and pianissimo, or so you thought until he topped it next time out, all manner of rubato within phrases, heart on sleeve ritards, jutting jaw bravura. . . . For an ending, he laid the final descending phrase exactly when and where it belonged to light the slow fuse.”

Rostropovich responded to the prolonged standing ovation with Bach’s E minor sarabande, “restrained, patrician in its utter authority and command of color and tempo, and absolutely right.”

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