Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra (as we were then called) gave the U.S. premiere of Edward Elgar‘s In the South (Alassio) at the Auditorium Theatre on November 4, 1904.

According to the program note, the work was “‘conceived on a glorious spring day in the Valley of Andorra,’ and that it is ‘meant to suggest the Joy of Living in a balmy climate, under sunny skies, and amid surroundings in which the beauties of nature vie in interest with the remains and recollections of the great past of an enchanting country.'”

The reviewer in the Chicago Tribune was not quite impressed with the premiere of Elgar’s overture: “The novelty of the afternoon was the concert overture ‘In the South’ by Edward Elgar, which on this occasion had its first performance on this side of the Atlantic. Mr. [Walter] Damrosch is to give it its initial hearing in New York tomorrow night, but yesterday marked its premiere in this country. It is a work of unusual magnitude for a composition in the overture form, and the estimate here placed on it after a single hearing can of course be but impressional and subject to future revision. Twenty minutes are required for the performance of the overture and there are many things in the score which may prove clearer and more significant when more familiar. Yesterday the impression received was that the music has nothing in particular to do with Italy or the south. . . . It was not as successful cacophony as Richard Strauss when at his most daring produces, but it will suffice. . . . The performance by Mr. Thomas and the orchestra was a splendid one, each man giving of his best powers, musical, temperamental, and technical.” The complete review is here.

Advance advertisement for Elgar's April 1907 conducting appearances

Advance advertisement for Elgar’s April 1907 conducting appearances

Less than three years later, Elgar himself fared much better, appearing with the Orchestra on a program of compositions all by living composers. The first half featured Vincent d’Indy‘s Wallenstein’s Camp, Alexander Glazunov‘s Spring from The Seasons, Frederick Converse‘s The Mystic Trumpeter, and Richard Strauss’s Love Scene from Feuersnot, all led by Frederick Stock. After intermission, Elgar took to the podium to lead his In the South (Alassio), Enigma Variations, and the first Pomp and Circumstance March.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the composer was greeted with “applause which compelled him to turn twice and bow his acknowledgements. . . . When the last number was ended the orchestra sounded a fanfare, and the audience remained applauding until Sir Edward had returned a second time to the center of the stage and bowed. It was an unusually spontaneous and hearty tribute to a man who has come to loom large in the musical world of today and in whom American music lovers take a kind of quasi-national pride. . . . Rarely has a musical lion impressed as so modest as did he yesterday.” The complete review is here.

Vasily Petrenko leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s In the South (Alassio) on January 8, 9, and 10, 2015.

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