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During January and February 1987, Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra embarked on a domestic tour with concerts in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Omaha, Nebraska; Bartlesville, Oklahoma; San Francisco, Costa Mesa, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, California; Tempe, Arizona; and Austin, Houston, and Dallas, Texas.

Following the Wednesday evening (January 28) concert in Bartlesville, there were two free days before the next concert—an afternoon matinee—on Saturday at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. On Thursday afternoon, the Orchestra flew safely from Tulsa to San Francisco.

However, the majority of the cargo (including instruments, music, and clothing), traveling by trucks, did not arrive as planned. One truck was delayed due to a snowstorm as well as a flat tire, and a second truck was stopped by “agricultural inspectors at the Arizona-California border . . . for a routine check only to discover that the drivers didn’t have their paperwork in order.”

Clockwise from left: Samuel Magad, Solti, John Sharp, and Charles Pikler perform onstage at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall on January 31, 1987

On Saturday afternoon (January 31) in hopes that the cargo would eventually arrive, an impromptu concert was arranged, with members of the Orchestra (who had traveled with their instruments) and Maestro Solti—making his U.S. concert debut as a pianist—performing chamber music. The concert began at about 3:15 p.m. and continued for nearly three hours. The program was as follows:

MOZART Clarinet Quartet in E-flat Major (after K. 380)
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet
Nisanne Graff, violin
Richard Ferrin, viola
John Sharp, cello

SCHUBERT Allegro moderato (first movement) from Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano in A Minor, D. 821
Charles Pikler, viola
Mary Sauer, piano

MOZART Allegretto (third movement) from Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat Major, K. 452
Michael Henoch, oboe
Larry Combs, clarinet
Bruce Grainger, bassoon
Gail Williams, horn
Paul Hersh, piano

MOZART Rondo allegro (third movement) from Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, K. 478
Samuel Magad, violin
Charles Pikler, viola
John Sharp, cello
Sir Georg Solti, piano

By 6:00 p.m. the trucks still had not arrived. Borrowing instruments from the San Francisco Symphony, a local youth orchestra, and a violin shop, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took the stage in their street clothes, using music borrowed from the SFS’s music library. The original program was to include John Corigliano’s recently composed Clarinet Concerto (with Larry Combs as soloist). But since the only copies of the music for the concerto were still stranded on one of the cargo trucks, Mozart’s Haffner Symphony (no. 35) was performed instead.

The trucks finally arrived around 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night. Solti and the Orchestra were able to rehearse as scheduled on Sunday afternoon and for the evening concert, Haydn’s Symphony no. 103 was replaced by the Corigliano concerto.

Several newspaper accounts documenting the incident are here and here.

Originally scheduled program for January 31, 1987

Originally scheduled program for February 1, 1987

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