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Following the December 1968 announcement that Georg Solti would be the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director, the next time our new maestro was in Chicago was during March and April 1969. To mark the occasion, Solti and Louis Sudler (president of the Orchestral Association) gave a press conference, at which they outlined plans for the organization’s future.

On March 18, 1969, a reception for Georg and Valerie Solti was held in the ballroom of Orchestra Hall. More than 1,000 people queued up to greet the Soltis, with a line extending down the stairs, through the lobby, and well down Michigan Avenue. At the beginning of the event, Sudler and Solti both addressed the crowd in the ballroom, and selections from their comments are below.

Invitation for the March 18 reception

Louis Sudler: “As you all know, we have sought the greatest musical leadership in the world, and we believe we have accomplished it with Maestro as our music director, and his good friend and colleague, Carlo Maria Giulini, as principal guest conductor.

“We all know how great our orchestra is, but the time is long overdue when it should be taken into the world, and Maestro Solti is the man to do it—the man who has expressed his avowed interest to do it—and who has the determination to accomplish whatever he sets out to do.

“This—in no little measure—will not only be a fulfillment for our orchestra, but also will contribute immeasurably to the international image of our city and in an increasingly larger way, extend to the welfare of our business concerns more and more involved in international commerce. . . .

“We welcome you to our hearts, Maestro, and with great pride, assurance, anticipation, and enthusiasm, entrust to your care the future destiny of our orchestra.”

Valerie and Georg Solti at the reception in Orchestra Hall’s ballroom on March 18, 1969

Solti thanked Sudler for his remarks, and replied: “But you will have to help. And you can do this, first, by coming to the concerts and listening, quietly! Second, by arriving not too late. And third, and most important, by not leaving the concert early!

“And now, seriously. I want to tell you what I told the orchestra this morning when we met for our first rehearsal. It is my belief that an enormous cultural development is essential to the survival of America. At the moment, art is one of the most important things here and everywhere. And of all the arts, music is perhaps the most important because it is the only thing that has meaning worldwide. It is a means of communication that reaches to all people.

“We have a mission—a serious mission—not only in this city but in the world. Wish all of us very good luck.”

Solti led three weeks of subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall during that residency:

March 20, 21, and 22, 1969
WALTON Partita for Orchestra
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Gina Bachauer, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

March 27 and 28, 1969
MENDELSSOHN Fingal’s Cave Overture, Op. 26
BRITTEN Sinfonia da Requiem
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

April 3, 4, and 5, 1969
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Heather Harper, soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

His program biography for those concerts is here.

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