You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

Theodore Thomas in 1876 (J. Gurney & Son photo)

Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director Theodore Thomas on the occasion of his 184th birthday!

“During his musical career, Theodore Thomas conducted more than ten thousand concerts, and on a majority of his programs, he placed a work by Beethoven. Nevertheless, it was his invariable rule to study each work anew whenever he gave it, and he was so particular in regard to everything that concerned the music of Beethoven that I have known him to spend an entire evening verifying the opus number of a Beethoven quartet before he would copy it on a program for the printer.”

—excerpt from the preface to Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies by Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock, edited by Rose Fay Thomas, 1930.

“The man who does not know Shakespeare is to be pitied; and the man who does not understand Beethoven and has not been under his spell has not half lived his life.”

—excerpt from the epigraph to Theodore Thomas: A Musical Autobiography by Theodore Thomas, edited by George P. Upton, 1905.

Happy, happy birthday!

Advertisements

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of legendary soprano Jessye Norman, who died earlier today in New York. She was 74.

Jessye Norman (Royal Philharmonic Society photo)

A frequent visitor to Chicago—on concert, recital, and opera stages—Norman appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as vocal soloist and narrator on many occasions, both at Orchestra Hall and the Ravinia Festival. A complete list of her performances with the Orchestra is below.

March 21, 22, and 23, 1974, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Das Paradies und die Peri, Op. 50
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Birgit Finnilä, contralto
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Raffaele Arié, bass
Sarah Beatty, soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 29, 30, and 31, 1975, Orchestra Hall
LA MONTAINE Songs of the Rose of Sharon, Op. 6
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

August 9, 1975, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
Edo de Waart, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

Receiving bows following Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall on September 24, 1986

Receiving bows following Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall on September 24, 1986 (Jim Steere photo)

July 7, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te?, K. 505
Edward Gordon, piano
RAVEL Sheherazade
BERLIOZ The Death of Cleopatra
WAGNER Wesendonk-Lieder
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

July 9, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
James Levine, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Jessye Norman, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Kirk Stuart, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 8, 1979, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Seth McCoy, tenor

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BRUCKNER Te Deum
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
David Rendall, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 28, 1981. For Deutsche Grammophon, Steven Paul was the executive producer, Werner Mayer was the recording producer, and Günther Breest was the balance engineer.

December 1, 2, and 3, 1983, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
David Rendall, tenor

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 (Solti 2)

September 24, 25, 26, and 27, 1986, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Reinhild Runkel, mezzo-soprano
Robert Schunk, tenor
Hans Sotin, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on September 29 and 30, 1986. For London Records, Michael Haas was the producer, John Pellowe was the engineer, and Neil Hutchinson was tape editor. The recording won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

July 1, 1988, Ravinia Festival
WAGNER Act 1 of Die Walküre
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor
Aage Haugland, bass

July 5, 1992, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS  Ruhe, meine Seele, Op. 27, No. 1
STRAUSS Waldseligkeit, Op. 49, No. 1
STRAUSS Wiegenlied, Op. 41, No. 1
STRAUSS Die heiligen drei Konige aus Morgenland, Op. 56, No. 6
STRAUSS Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

Boulez Bluebeard

December 2, 4, and 7, 1993, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Bluebeard’s Castle
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
László Polgár, bass
Larry Russo, narrator
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on December 6 and 13, 1993. For Deutsche Grammophon, Roger Wright was the executive producer, Pål Christian Moe was the associate producer, Karl-August Naegler was the recording producer, Helmut Burk was the balance engineer, Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were the recording engineers, and Hans-Ulrich Bastin was the editor. Nicholas Simon was the narrator for the commercial release. The recording won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

June 22, 1996, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Villanelle, Le spectre de la rose Sur les lagunes, and L’ile inconnue from Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
RAVEL Sheherazade
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

James Conlon acknowledges Norman following her narration of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait at the Ravinia Festival on July 18, 2009 (Russell Jenkins photo)

June 21, 1997, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Vado, ma dove?, K. 583
MOZART Porgi amor from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
BIZET Habanera from Carmen
SAINT-SAËNS Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson and Delilah
STRAUSS Final Scene from Capriccio
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

July 18, 2009, Ravinia Festival
COPLAND Lincoln Portrait
James Conlon, conductor
Jessye Norman, narrator

Norman also also appeared in recital and as soloist in Orchestra Hall (under the auspices of Allied Arts and later Symphony Center Presents) on the following occasions:

Jessye Norman in Orchestra Hall on May 19, 2002 (Peter Thompson for the Chicago Tribune)

January 5, 1986
Phillip Moll, piano

October 20, 1986
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Berlin Philharmonic
James Levine, conductor
Herbert von Karajan was originally scheduled to conduct Strauss’s Metamorphosen and Ein Heldenleben, but he canceled a week before the performance due to illness. The revised program was Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Strauss’s song cycle, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

October 23, 1988
James Levine, piano

March 20, 1992
Phillip Moll, piano

April 2, 1995
Ann Schein, piano

June 3, 1998
Ken Noda, piano

May 19, 2002
Mark Markham, piano

Numerous tributes have been posted on CNN, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times, and NPR, among many others.

Title page of Beethoven’s Third Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

Regarding the Third Symphony, “Beethoven, now fully emancipated from the preceding era, may be said for the first time to stand forth and show his lion’s paw!” wrote Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “In my judgment, the Eroica is only a perfectly legitimate step forward, a logical sequence in his normal development. . . . His soul now began to long to express that which had never before been said in music—anticipating centuries; hence this symphony, the first dawn of modern music, written in a definite mood, giving expression to the soul through color and contrast rather than attempting to illustrate a specific program.”

1954 recording (RCA)

“The Eroica is perhaps the first great symphony to have captured the romantic imagination,” according to CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Beethoven’s vast and powerful first movement and the funeral march that follows must have sounded like nothing else in all music. Never before had symphonic music aspired to these dimensions. . . . Beethoven’s Allegro con brio was longer—and bigger, in every sense—than any other symphonic movement at the time (the first movement of Mozart’s Prague Symphony comes the closest). It’s also a question of proportion, and Beethoven’s central development section, abounding in some truly monumental statements, is enormous.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Third Symphony during the first season, on January 12, 1892, at The Odeon in Cincinnati and later that week in Chicago on January 15 and 16 at the Auditorium Theatre.

1973–74 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on December 4, 1954. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The Third Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 5, 6, and 9, 1973, and May 18, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Third Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 6 and 8, 1989. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

Title page of Beethoven’s First Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

In Beethoven’s First Symphony, “the composer tries his wings,” according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director. In Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies, Thomas continues: “It is sometimes said that the First Symphony is Haydn and Mozart rather than Beethoven, but that is not correct. It is Beethoven, pure and simple, but Beethoven carrying on the art of his day as it had been transmitted to him by his predecessors. He knew no other style of symphonic writing because, until his own later development, there was no other. . . . One might say that Haydn and Mozart were the cradle in which the art of Beethoven was rocked, and in the First Symphony, his art was still in this cradle. . . . [The First Symphony] is a noble work and is of especial interest as the connecting link between the art of the classic and that of the romantic period.”

1961 recording (RCA)

CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher agrees. “As the first symphony by the greatest symphonist who ever lived, one might expect clues of the daring and novelty to come; since it was written at the turn of the century and premiered in Vienna, the great musical capital, in 1800, one might assume that it is with this work that Beethoven opened a new era in music. But, in fact, this symphony belongs to the eighteenth, not the nineteenth, century; it honors the tradition of Mozart, dead less than a decade, and Haydn, who had given Beethoven enough lessons to know that his student would soon set out on his own.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s First Symphony during the third season, on May 4 and 5, 1894, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on May 8, 1961. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The First Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 14, 15, and 18, 1974 (along with the Second Symphony). Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989-90 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The First Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 14 and 16, 1989, and January 27, 1990 (along with the Second Symphony). Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the classical music world in mourning the loss of Christopher Rouse. He died on September 21, 2019, at the age of seventy at a hospice center in Towson, Maryland.

Christopher Rouse (Getty photo)

Music by the Pulitzer Prize–winning composer has been performed by the Orchestra on numerous occasions, and a complete list is below.

March 1, 2, and 3, 1984, Orchestra Hall
ROUSE The Infernal Machine
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

April 28, 29, and 30, 1994, Orchestra Hall
ROUSE Symphony No. 1
David Zinman, conductor

June 29, 1995, Ravinia Festival
ROUSE Phaethon
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 18, 1996, Ravinia Festival
ROUSE Symphony No. 2
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

August 12, 1999, Ravinia Festival
ROUSE Envoi
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

May 17, 18, 19, and 22, 2001, Orchestra Hall
ROUSE Clarinet Concerto
Larry Combs, clarinet
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
The Clarinet Concerto was commissioned by the Hanson Institute for American Music of the Eastman School of Music (University of Rochester) and for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its principal clarinet, Larry Combs. The concerto was dedicated to Augusta Read Thomas, the Orchestra’s composer-in-residence from 1997 until 2006.

April 20, 21, 22, 23, and 25, 2006, Orchestra Hall
ROUSE Rapture
David Zinman, conductor

December 20, 21, and 22, 2012, Orchestra Hall
ROUSE Heimdall’s Trumpet
Christopher Martin, trumpet
Jaap van Zweden, conductor
Heimdall’s Trumpet was commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund.

Numerous tributes have been posted on Chicago Classical Review, The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and Classic FM, among many others.

Christopher Rouse’s final work—his Symphony no. 6—will receive its world premiere on October 18, 2019, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Louis Langrée will conduct.

Wishing a very happy ninetieth birthday on September 8, 2019, to legendary German conductor Christoph von Dohnányi! For nearly forty-five years, he has been a frequent guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, as follows:

Christoph von Dohnányi (Terry O’Neill photo for Decca)

January 31, February 1, and 2, 1974, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto D Minor, Op. 47
György Pauk, violin
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)

February 7, 8, and 9, 1974, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Overture, Scherzo, and Finale, Op. 52
MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Anthony and Joseph Paratore, pianos
LIGETI Lontano
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28

April 5, 6, and 7, 1979, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K. 546
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Maurizio Pollini, piano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93

April 12, 13, and 14, 1979, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 11
HENZE Symphony No. 5
SCHOENBERG Erwartung, Op. 17
Anja Silja, soprano

May 22, 23, and 24, 1980, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19
SCHOENBERG Six Songs with Orchestra, Op. 8
Anja Silja, soprano
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120

March 4, 5, and 6, 1982, Orchestra Hall
RIHM Tutuguri II, Music after Artaud
HANDEL/Schoenberg Concerto for String Orchestra and Orchestra
Chicago Symphony String Quartet
Victor Aitay, violin
Edgar Muenzer, violin
Milton Preves, viola
Frank Miller, cello
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61

Christoph von Dohnányi (Andreas Garrels photo)

November 7, 8, and 9, 2002, Orchestra Hall
IVES The Unanswered Question
Craig Morris, trumpet
LUTOSŁAWSKI Concerto for Orchestra
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

May 6, 7, and 8, 2004, Orchestra Hall
PÄRT Fratres
Yuan-Qing Yu, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (Classical)
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

July 2, 2004, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Emanuel Ax, piano
IVES Three Places in New England
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61

May 11, 12, and 13, 2006, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Emanuel Ax, piano

November 1, 2, 3, and 4, 2007, Orchestra Hall
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Arabella Steinbacher, violin
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)

November 19, 20, 21, and 22, 2009, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Divertimento for String Orchestra
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414
Paul Lewis, piano
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61

July 14, 2011, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Emanuel Ax, piano

July 15, 2011, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Emanuel Ax, piano

July 11, 2013, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Emanuel Ax, piano

July 12, 2013, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Emanuel Ax, piano

May 1, 2, and 3, 2014, Orchestra Hall
LUTOSŁAWSKI Funeral Music
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Paul Lewis, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)

June 9, 10, and 11, 2016, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Martin Helmchen, piano
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)

Happy, happy birthday!

Leonard Slatkin (Nico Rodamel photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family wishes American conductor Leonard Slatkin a very happy seventh-fifth birthday on September 1, 2019! A frequent and favorite guest conductor, he has appeared with the Orchestra on countless occasions—in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival—over the last forty-eight years.

At the invitation of CSO general manager John Edwards, Slatkin—in his second season as assistant conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony—made his debut in Orchestra Hall with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on March 6, 1970, leading the following program:

SCHUBERT Overture to Rosamunde, D. 644
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
SCHUMAN New England Triptych
FAURÉ Pelleas and Melisande, Op. 80
RESPIGHI Pines of Rome

March 6, 1970

Slatkin’s program book biography for March 6, 1970

The following year, Slatkin first led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducting two free, outdoor Symphony in the Streets concerts, one in the parking lot at Park Forest Shopping Plaza and the other at the Jubilee Celebration site in Westmont, as follows:

July 12, 1971, Park Forest, Illinois
July 21, 1971, Westmont, Illinois
BARBER Adagio for Strings
GRIEG Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46
GRIEG Ingrid’s Lament from Peer Gynt Suite No. 2, Op. 55
ROSSINI Overture to William Tell
J. STRAUSS, Jr. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Overture to Die Fledermaus
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Perpetual Motion, Op. 257
SOUSA The Stars and Stripes Forever

Also during that residency, he led the Orchestra on a children’s concert at the Ravinia Festival on July 13, conducting the following program:

IVES/Schuman Variations on “America”
SATIE/Debussy Gymnopédie No. 3
SATIE/Debussy Gymnopédie No. 1
BERLIOZ Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
BACH/Cailliet Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578 (Little)
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba-Yagá), The Great Gate of Kiev, Bydło (Oxcart), and Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks from Pictures at an Exhibition
TCHAIKOVSKY Scherzo. Pizzicato ostinato: Allegro (third movement) from Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36

And on April 4, 5, and 7, 1974, Slatkin made his debut with the Orchestra on subscription concerts, with this program:

April 4, 5, and 7, 1974

PURCELL Chacony in G Minor
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony no. 6 in E Minor
PISTON Symphony No. 2
RAVEL La valse

“Leonard Slatkin, an enormously talented young American musician who will be the principal conductor of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra this summer, made his subscription concert debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Thursday night at Orchestra Hall,” wrote Robert C. Marsh in the Chicago Sun-Times. “He has at 29 all the skills and all the qualities of leadership necessary to win the respect of a great orchestra and have them play for him with enthusiasm and the fullest measure of their talent. . . . What was impressive in the manner in which Slatkin could prepare three new works [Purcell, Vaughan Williams, and Piston] and have the orchestra playing them with security and bravura as if they were repertory standards. This, plus the clarity and precision of his beat, promises good things to come . . .”

“As a result of Daniel Barenboim’s cancellation—to be with his ailing wife [Jacqueline du Pré]—Slatkin, who is associate conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony, has this week’s subscription concerts,” added Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune. “He has a direct, music-oriented competence which shows the thoroughness of his training and his concentration on things that matter. Conductors with more experience than he have foundered on the tempo changes in Ravel’s La valse, but he piloted the ensemble through each tempo change with an easy skill, catching the upbeats, shifting into overdrive, and pacing the rising line of apotheosis precisely.”

Slatkin leads the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists in the world premiere of Ned Rorem’s Goodbye My Fancy on November 8, 1990 (Jim Steere photo)

A staunch advocate for new music, Slatkin led the Orchestra in the world premieres of Donald Erb’s Concerto for Brass and Orchestra on April 16, 1987; Jacob Druckman’s Brangle on March 28, 1989; and Ned Rorem’s Goodbye My Fancy with mezzo-soprano Wendy White, bass-baritone John Cheek, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Margaret Hillis) on November 8, 1990. He also led the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Quatre chansons françaises with mezzo-soprano Claudine Carlson on May 19, 1983.

And most recently, he returned to the Ravinia Festival on August 7, 2019, leading the Orchestra in this program:

RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Denis Matsuev, piano
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade
Robert Chen, violin

Happy, happy birthday, Maestro Slatkin!

Slatkin, Margaret Hillis, Ned Rorem, John Cheek, and Wendy White acknowledge applause on November 8, 1990 (Jim Steere photo)

Advertisement for Verdi’s Aida with the Metropolitan Opera and the (uncredited) Chicago Orchestra on December 10, 1891 (image courtesy of the Newberry Library)

Less than a month after its inaugural concerts in October 1891, the Chicago Orchestra was in the pit at the Auditorium Theatre for performances with the Metropolitan Opera Company (under the auspices of Abbey, Schoeffel, and Grau).

The singers who appeared were among the most famous of the day, including sopranos Emma Albani, Lilli Lehmann, and Marie Van Zandt and mezzo-sopranos Sofia Scalchi and Giulia Ravogli. During the residency, other prominent singers made their U.S. debuts, including soprano Emma Eames; tenor Jean de Reszke; baritones Edoardo Camera, Antonio Magini-Coletti, and Jean Martapoura; and basses Édouard de Reszke and Jules Vinche. Conducting duties were shared by Auguste Vianesi and Louis Saar, the Orchestra’s first guest conductors.

Opening with Wagner’s Lohengrin on November 9, the residency continued through December 12 and included a staggering number of operas: Bellini’s Norma and La sonnambula; Flotow’s Martha; Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice; Gounod’s Faust and Romeo and Juliet; Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana; Meyerbeer’s Dinorah and Les Huguenots; Mozart’s Don Giovanni; Thomas’s Mignon; as well as Verdi’s Rigoletto and act 1 of La traviata.

The residency also included a single performance of Verdi’s Aida on December 10 with Lehmann in the title role, de Reszke as Radamès, Ravogli as Amneris, Magini-Coletti as Amonasro, Enrico Serbolini as Ramfis, Lodovico Viviani as the King, and M. Grossi as the Messenger. The Metropolitan Opera Chorus was prepared by its director, Carlo Corsi, and Louis Saar conducted.

Lilli Lehmann

“Jean de Reszke and Lilli Lehmann bade farewell to Chicago last evening by appearing together in Verdi’s Aida,” wrote the reviewer in the Chicago Tribune. “It was a performance which for superb solo work, excellence of ensemble, and splendor of scenic and spectacular effects has not been equaled in this city—a performance which marked the highest point on the standard of excellence yet reached by the Abbey-Grau company.”

German soprano Lilli Lehmann—under the guidance of Richard Wagner—created the roles of Woglinde (in Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung), Helmwige, and the Forest Bird in the first Ring cycle during the inaugural Bayreuth Festival in 1876. She made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Carmen on November 25, 1885; five days later, she sang Brünnhilde in Die Walküre and the following year Isolde in the American premiere of Tristan and Isolde. Lehmann regularly performed at the Salzburg Festival—also serving as its artistic director—and her operatic repertoire ultimately included 170 roles in 114 operas. A notable teacher, her students included Geraldine Farrar and Olive Fremstad.

“Mme. Lehmann found in Aida a role which permitted a display of her splendid histrionic gifts, and the music to which was more nearly suited to her vocal powers than has been any she has sung this engagement,” continued the Chicago Tribune reviewer. “Her success was, therefore assured and splendidly she achieved it. Her acting of the slave princess was forceful, intense, at all times free from all exaggeration or extravagance. As for her vocal work, it commands unqualified and almost unlimited praise. The ‘Ritorna vincitor’ was given with marvelous appreciation of its sad, troubled character, and the ‘Numi, pietà’ was beautiful in the purity and simplicity of its interpretation. In the long duet with Amneris in act 2, Mme. Lehmann’s singing and acting possessed great power, and in the climax at the end of the act, her voice stood out with telling effect. It was in the third act that the finest vocal work was done. Anything more satisfactory than her singing of the ‘O patria mia’ and the heavy dramatic music which follows cannot be imagined. The ‘Vedi? . . . di morte l’angelo,’ in the last scene of the opera, was exquisite in its delicacy and poetry.”

Jean de Reszke

Born in Poland, Jean de Reszke began his career as a baritone in 1874, debuting in Venice as Alfonso in Donizetti’s La favorita. By 1879, he had made the switch to tenor when he sang the title role in Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable in Madrid. De Reszke was soon a regular at the Paris Opera and at London’s Covent Garden, performing the major French, Wagner, and Verdi roles; the title role in Massenet’s Le Cid—premiered in Paris in 1885—was written for him. His American debut was the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera’s residency with the Chicago Orchestra in the title role of Wagner’s Lohengrin on November 9, 1891. After his debut the following month with the company in New York—as Gounod’s Romeo on December 14—he was a regular with the Metropolitan until his retirement from the stage in 1904, settling in Poland to breed racehorses and Paris to teach singing. His students included Bidu Sayão and Maggie Teyte.

“Jean de Reszke’s triumph as Radamès was a triumph of voice and vocal art. Not that the dramatic side of the character was not developed. It was developed with the same consummate skill which has made his dramatic treatment of every role in which he has seen truly remarkable. But Radamès makes far greater demand upon a tenor’s vocal powers than upon his histrionic. Much of the music is purely lyrical in character, while other portions are strongly dramatic. A singer to do it justice must, therefore, combine the qualities of a tenore de grazia and a tenore robusto—a combination but rarely found. Jean de Reszke is such, however, and his singing of the music of Radamès is not alone satisfactory but an artistic treat of the highest kind. The famed ‘Celeste Aida’ was sung with a smoothness, clearness, and tonal beauty which were the perfection of pure vocal art, while the impassioned music of the third act was delivered with a vigor and intensity and a display of thrilling high notes which showed how dramatic singing may become and yet never cease to be singing nor degenerate into shouting.”

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

Riccardo Muti leads soloists Krassimira Stoyanova, Anita Rachvelishvili, Francesco Meli, Kiril Manolov, Ildar Abdrazakov, Eric Owens, Issachah Savage, Kimberly Gunderson, and Tasha Koontz, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (prepared by Duain Wolfe) in Verdi’s Aida on June 21, 23, and 25, 2019.

William and Shirlejean Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

The Chicago Symphony notes with the sorrow the passing of William Babcock—a former member of the Orchestra’s trumpet section from 1951 until 1958—on June 10, 2019, in Townshend, Vermont. He was 94.

Born in New London, Connecticut on May 7, 1925, Babcock began playing the piano at the age of four and trumpet at seven. He won many high school competitions as a trumpet player, was first solo cornet in the All New England High School Band for three years, and graduated from Bulkeley School for Boys in 1943.

After graduation, Babcock enlisted in the US Air Force and was called into duty on June 14, 1943, serving for nearly three years, active in combat flying in the European theatre.

Benefiting from the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in January 1946. While in line for admittance, Babcock met not only his future colleague Adolph “Bud” Herseth but also his future wife Shirlejean Wallace (whom he would marry on March 29, 1947). During his three years at the conservatory, he studied with Boston Symphony Orchestra trumpets Roger Voisin and Marcel LaFosse. Babcock performed at Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center (under the guidance of BSO principal trumpet Georges Mager), with the New England Opera Theater and at Boston’s Shubert Theatre, and also as a substitute with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Leonard Bernstein, and Pierre Monteux.

William Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

Rafael Kubelík, during his first season as music director, hired Babcock into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s trumpet section, beginning with the 1951 Ravinia Festival season. He was a member of the section until 1958, when he became principal trumpet of Chicago’s NBC Orchestra, where he remained until 1965. Babcock continued to work as a freelance musician and private trumpet teacher into his retirement, and he and his wife were longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

William Babcock’s beloved wife Shirlejean—after sixty-seven years of marriage—preceded him in death in 2014. He is survived by his children Douglas, Richard, Barbara LaMontagne (Henry), Laura Casoli (Darrel), and granddaughter Melissa. Memorial gifts may be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and services have been held.

Emanuel Ax in 1980 (Nick Sangiamo photo)

Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to the remarkable American pianist Emanuel Ax! A longtime Chicago favorite—in recital, as a chamber musician, and as soloist with orchestra—he has appeared in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival on near-countless occasions.

Following first place triumphs at the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists and the Artur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, Ax made his local debut at Ravinia on July 23, 1975, substituting for an indisposed Alexis Weissenberg. Performing an all-Chopin program, “the young Polish-American master took the evening by storm,” according to Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune. “Still in his middle twenties . . . there is nothing of the poseur in him, no excess mannerism, no youthful sentimentality, no histrionic display. He walks onstage, settles solidly onto the bench, shakes a hand to limber up, and begins to play. At that moment, or within a few seconds, a transformation of near miraculous proportions takes place. . . . This is quite possibly the outstanding poet-performer of his generation.”

Ax made two debuts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra the following year in 1976, on May 20 and 21 in Orchestra Hall, performing Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto under the baton of Henry Mazer, and on July 29 at the Ravinia Festival, as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 with Andrew Davis on the podium. According to Alan Artner in the Chicago Tribune, media reports following Ax’s competition wins had compared the young pianist to Vladimir Horowitz and Sviatoslav Richter. “But to have actually heard him in Liszt’s Second Concerto was to discover that Ax in n a class virtually by himself. . . . His performance was intelligent, wholly refreshing . . .”

Emanuel Ax in 2016 (Lisa Marie Mazzucco photo)

Since then, Ax has been one of the most frequent guest artists in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as with visiting orchestras, and as a chamber musician and recitalist with an astounding array of collaborators. He has worked with conductors David Afkham, Daniel Barenboim, James Conlon, James DePreist, Sir Mark Elder, Christoph Eschenbach, Lawrence Foster, Bernard Haitink, Daniel Harding, Mariss Jansons, Bernhard Klee, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman, David Robertson, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Leonard Slatkin, Sir Georg Solti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Christoph von Dohnányi. Ax also has collaborated with Yefim Bronfman, Robert Chen, Evelyn Glennie,
Benjamin Hochman, Aleksey Igudesman, Richard Hyung-ki Joo, Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, Orli Shaham, Raimi Solomonow, Isaac Stern, Anne Sofie von Otter, and Orion Weiss. With visiting orchestras, he also has performed in Orchestra Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Juilliard Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Ax returns to the Ravinia Festival this summer, as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on August 2, 2019, in Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto with Rafael Payare on the podium. He will be back in Orchestra Hall next season on March 2, 2020, for an all-Beethoven chamber music concert, collaborating with violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Happy, happy birthday!

the vault

Theodore Thomas

csoarchives twitter feed

chicagosymphony twitter feed

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

visitors

  • 336,664 hits
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: