On Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1969, Georg Solti officially began his tenure as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director. He led the Orchestra in Ives’s Three Places in New England, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Jacqueline du Pré, and Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony.

In the program book, an open letter from Solti was included and read:

“Dear Friends:

“As this is a very great moment for me personally, I felt I wanted to address you individually.

“It is with tremendous pride that I take over the Musical Directorship of this great Symphony Orchestra. With your help and support, I hope and aim to continue the work, started 79 years ago by Theodore Thomas, to make this the finest orchestra in the world.

“When planning my first programme I wanted to pay homage to American music, selecting a work by probably the greatest American composer, Charles Ives. It was not known when I planned this, that the first concert would fall on Thanksgiving Day—what a good omen. This is doubly appropriate; firstly, because the Three Places in New England bears witness to the inspirational greatness of America and her fight for liberty; secondly, this concert is my own personal thanksgiving for the gift of this wonderful instrument, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”

Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune wrote that “One should not necessarily take the first program as typical of a conductor’s point of view, especially if he is a builder with time to shape and the inclination to move ahead. But the signs were there for anyone to read: strong American music for strong ears, a gifted soloist still in her twenties, and, to top it off, a performance of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony which let the music speak for itself. Extension of these three elements could go a long way toward recovering the orchestra’s lagging reputation here and abroad.” (The complete article is here, courtesy of Proquest via the Chicago Public Library.)