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On March 31, 1904, Theodore Thomas introduced his friend Richard Strauss to the Chicago Orchestra at the Auditorium Theatre. Strauss went straight to work, rehearsing his Also sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, and Death and Transfiguration. According to William Lines Hubbard’s account in the Chicago Tribune, halfway through the rehearsal he paused to say: “Gentlemen, it is my pleasure and my pride to be able to direct today so faultless an orchestra and to hear my music played in a manner so completely in accordance with my every wish. Your organization is a model in all ways, and I feel proud to be associated with an orchestra which has been brought to such perfection by a man whom I have honored and wished to know for full twenty years—Mr. Thomas.”

Following the Friday matinee performance on April 1, Hubbard wrote: “That master musician of modern music, that wonderful combination of poet, painter, and composer, the man to whom pictures are audible and tones visible—Richard Strauss— appeared at the Auditorium yesterday afternoon, and for over two hours some 3,700 persons sat beneath the spell his great gifts weave and listened to the tonal tales they enable him to tell. . . . The Orchestra was on its mettle, and a more superb technical presentment of the intensely difficult scores than it gave could not be desired. Every wish of the conductor was instantly responded to, and Dr. Strauss’s pleasure in the work done by the men was unmistakable.”

April 1 and 2, 1904

April 1 and 2, 1904

Strauss’s wife Pauline also appeared on the program as soprano soloist in several of his songs, and for her first entrance, she was escorted both by her husband and Thomas. Hubbard was kind in his critique of her performance. “Her singing proved interesting and satisfactory from an interpretive viewpoint. The voice has lost its richness in the upper middle register and in the high tones, but it is of no inconsiderable beauty in the lower half, and it is used throughout with so much of discretion and understanding that it seems adequate for all that is undertaken. The seven songs heard yesterday were beautifully interpreted, and the exquisite accompaniments played as they were in finest style by the Orchestra, made the performance of them in high measure gratifying.”

Strauss returned to Chicago to lead a special concert at the Auditorium Theatre on December 18, 1921. He again conducted the Orchestra in his Also sprach Zarathustra, Death and Transfiguration, and the love scene from his opera Feuersnot, along with several songs—“Morgen!,” “Wiegenlied,” “Freundliche Vision,” and “Ständchen”—with soprano Claire Dux.

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