One of my favorite Chicago institutions—the Newberry Library—is celebrating their 125th anniversary this year. To commemorate the event, they have mounted a spectacular exhibit called The Newberry 125, which highlights 125 artifacts from their collections divided into five sections: families, politics and commerce, religions, travel, and arts and letters. The exhibit is paired with a second installation, Realizing the Newberry Idea, 1887–2012.

The arts and letters section includes a Chicago Symphony Orchestra–related artifact: a letter and calling card from Antonín Dvořák to Theodore Thomas, our founder and first music director.

The Chicago Orchestra and the Apollo Club present Dvořák’s Requiem in April 1893

A beautiful book accompanies the exhibit (The Newberry 125: Stories of Our Collection), and the article for the Dvořák artifacts explains that Thomas had conducted Dvořák’s Requiem at the Cincinnati May Festival on May 28, 1892, and again the following year in Chicago on April 10 and 11, 1893 (program page pictured at right). The article continues: “News traveled fast to Dvořák, who wrote on April 14, ‘You have taken much pains and trouble in preparing and performing my work, and therefore I feel it my duty to extend to you my heartfelt thanks.'”

The article also mentions that the Newberry’s collections include “letters to Thomas and some personal materials [along with] scrapbooks of all of the programs Thomas conducted from 1864 through 1903. His personal classical-music library—once considered to be the largest of its type in the world—comprised first editions, rare full scores, and monographs, most of which Thomas’s widow and children gave to the Newberry in 1908.” Of course, a significant portion of Thomas’s collection is also here in the Rosenthal Archives.

The exhibit will be open through December 31, 2012, there are a number of special events, and you can also follow the exhibit’s blog. Don’t miss it!

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Agnes Thomson replaces an indisposed Martha Burckard-Werbke

A brief footnote: the program book on file for the April 1893 concerts contained this program insert. However, it is not clear whether Mrs. Thomson replaced Mrs. Burckard-Werbke for both performances or just one.

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