Here in the Archives, we frequently receive donations of old program books and occasionally, the programs are a little extra special when they contain annotations from their original owner. Just today we received a small collection from an anonymous donor, and a few of our favorites are below (click on the image for a larger view). Priceless.

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January 21 and 22, 1954

Guest conductor Ernest Ansermet led concerts in January 1954 that included Schumann’s First Symphony, Debussy’s Clouds and Festivals from Nocturnes, Honegger’s Fifth Symphony, and Falla’s Three Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat: “The Honegger was terrifying! Thank the Lord that Ansermet had the good sense to not end the program with it. If I ever hear that damn Schumann again I’ll go nuts. What nonsense it is.”

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March 25 and 26, 1954

The second program is from a March 1954 concert that included Joseph Szigeti as soloist in Tartini’s Concerto for Violin in D minor and Bartók’s First Portrait. Fritz Reiner, still in his first season as music director, also conducted Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture, the CSO’s first performances of Alvin Etler‘s First Symphony, Tommasini’s arrangement of Scarlatti’s ballet suite from The Good-Humored Ladies, and Sibelius’s Swan of Tuonela from Four Legends of the Kalevala and Alla Marcia from the Karelia Suite: “I can’t remember when I changed my mind so much about the merits of a work during its performance as I did during the premiere of Etler’s Symphony. I want very much to hear it again. Though I suspect it has no ‘guts,’ I also suspect it may have a long life. Szigetti [sic] was quite wonderful in the Bartók and Tartini. Reiner was better than I have ever heard him but Lord how uninspiring and competent he is.”

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February 16 and 17, 1956

In February 1956, Karl Böhm was in Chicago to lead the Orchestra in Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz, Richard Mohaupt’s Town Piper Music, and Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony: “Karl Böhm was excellent; made a lasting impression. The Bruckner was magnificent!”

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January 14 and 15, 1954

And finally, Igor Stravinsky was guest conductor in January 1954, leading his Divertimento The Fairy’s Kiss, the Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (with his son Soulima Stravinsky as soloist), and suites from Petrushka and The Firebird: “A chaste, perilously classical, yet exciting performance. S[travinsky] took six bows—a real ovation. I could not help but lean over the gallery and shout: ‘Keep Reiner on vacation!'”

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