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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who died earlier today, July 6, 2020, in Rome following complications from a fall last week. He was ninety-one.

Ennio Morricone (Tammie Arroyo photo)

Riccardo Muti, writing from Paestum, expressed that Morricone was “a maestro for whom I had friendship and admiration. I conducted his Voices from the Silence which received a very emotional response from the audience. An extraordinary musician not only for film music but also for classical compositions. Ennio Morricone will be missed as a man and as an artist.” (Last evening, Maestro Muti led a Roads of Friendship concert—dedicated to the city of Palmyra in Syria—at the Archaeological Park of Paestum, in the province of Salerno in Campania, Italy.)

Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Morricone’s Voices from the Silence on February 6, 7, and 8, 2014. Ora Jones was the narrator and Duain Wolfe prepared the Chorus.

“It was Riccardo Muti who suggested Morricone compose a work that paid tribute to 9/11 which Muti would premiere at the Ravenna Festival,” wrote Phillip Huscher, the CSO’s program annotator. “The Ravenna Festival began its series, Roads of Friendship, in 1997, by taking concerts to crisis points around Europe and beyond, including Sarajevo, Beirut, Jerusalem, and Istanbul. Voci dal silencio (Voices from the silence) now added another city, New York—one that had only recently been thought of as a crisis point—to the list. Four years after the Ravenna premiere, Voices from the Silence was performed at the United Nations, with Morricone on the podium.

Riccardo Muti and Ennio Morricone acknowledge applause following the CSO’s first performance of Voices from the Silence on February 6, 2014 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Voices from the Silence is a cantata for chorus, narrator, prerecorded sounds, and orchestra. Morricone said he composed the score in response to ‘the terrorist attacks of September 11 and all the massacres of humanity all over the world.’ At the head of the score, Morricone writes: ‘Against terrorism, against racism, and all forms of ethnic persecution. For equality among all people.’ For his text, Morricone turned to a poem by the South African writer Richard Rive, who was born and raised in Cape Town’s District Six, a lively multiracial community that was condemned as a slum in 1966, bulldozed, and rezoned exclusively for whites. ‘I always feel when I am here in District Six that I am standing over a vast cemetery of people who have been moved away against their will,’ he said in 1988. ‘The legacy of District Six is to show what avarice and political bigotry can do.’ The following year, Rive was found murdered in his house near Cape Town. He had been stabbed several times and beaten in the face. A solitary man without family, Rive lives on in his highly charged writings about oppression.” (The program book is available here.)

Morricone’s music has been performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several other occasions, as follows:

July 15, 1990, Ravinia Festival
MORRICONE Main Theme from The Untouchables
Erich Kunzel, conductor

February 25, 2005, Orchestra Hall
MORRICONE Main Theme from The Untouchables
Richard Kaufman, conductor

February 25, 2011, Orchestra Hall
MORRICONE/Mancini Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission
Richard Kaufman, conductor

June 26, 2014, Morton Arboretum
MORRICONE Main Theme from The Untouchables
Richard Kaufman, conductor

July 29, 2017, Ravinia Festival
MORRICONE/Williams Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso
James Conlon, conductor
Itzhak Perlman, violin

Tributes have been posted at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and The New York Times, along with the composer’s website and countless other news outlets.


Frederica von Stade (Robert Millard photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to the wonderful American mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade!

Von Stade has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions, at the Ravinia Festival and in Carnegie Hall, as follows.

May 1 and 2, 1981, Carnegie Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1)
Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
José van Dam, baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Solti also led performances of Berlioz’s work at Orchestra Hall in Chicago on April 23 and 25, 1981, prior to the Carnegie Hall performances. Unfortunately, Frederica von Stade had to cancel due to illness. She was replaced by Chicago Symphony Chorus member Mary Beth Stephen on April 23 and Claudine Carlson on April 25.

Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust was recorded by London in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981. James Mallinson was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were sound engineers. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Berlioz album cover

July 9, 1988, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Levine, conductor

July 14, 1996, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te? . . . Non temer, amato bene (with Claude Frank, piano)
MAHLER Songs from Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

August 14, 1999, Ravinia Festival
MOZART “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio” from La clemenza di Tito,
LEHÁR “Vilja” and “Lippen schweigen” (with John Aler, tenor) from The Merry Widow
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 8, 2000, Ravinia Festival
Selections from:
COPLAND Old American Songs
KERN Show Boat
OFFENBACH The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
MOZART Don Giovanni
RODGERS Oklahoma! and South Pacific
SONDHEIM A Little Night Music
with Samuel Ramey, bass
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

August 5 and 7, 2010, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Così fan tutte
Ana María Martínez, soprano
Ruxandra Donose, mezzo-soprano
Saimir Pirgu, tenor
Rodion Pogossov, baritone
Richard Stilwell, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
James Conlon, conductor

Happy, happy birthday!

Raymond Niwa in 1950 (Central Studio)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the loss of Raymond Niwa—a member of the violin section from 1951 until 1997—who passed away on May 27, 2020, following a brief illness. He was ninety-seven.

Born on August 3, 1922, in Chicago, Niwa began violin lessons at the age of nine, and he attended Lane Technical College Preparatory High School. In 1940, Niwa was the winner of the Polish Arts Club’s first recital contest, and the following year he placed first in the Society of American Musicians Young Artist’s Competition. Following both contests, he was presented in recital in Kimball Hall.

Attending DePaul University as a student of Morris Gomberg, Niwa received a bachelor of music degree in 1943, after which he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. After three years of military service, he returned to DePaul for a master’s degree, completed in 1948.

While a student, Niwa was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago during the 1945–46 season. In 1946, he was in the pit for the final season of the Chicago Opera Company, and that same year, he began a five-year tenure with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. During 1950–51, he performed for one season as a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

The Niwa Trio—Raymond Niwa, Eloise Niwa, and Margaret Evans—in 1970 (Terry’s photo)

In 1951, fifth music director Rafael Kubelík invited Niwa to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first violin section. During his tenure, he performed as a featured soloist on two occasions: in Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto on January 3, 1953, with George Schick conducting, and again on June 10, 1970, in Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto under the baton of Irwin Hoffman. Niwa also was an active member on the Orchestra’s members’ committee as well as the contract negotiating team for many years.

Niwa and his wife Eloise, a pianist, and Margaret Evans, a longtime member of the Orchestra’s cello section, made up the Niwa Trio and were featured on the CSO’s Chamber Music Series for over twenty years. They also actively participated in the Orchestra’s ensemble programs, frequently performing in Chicago-area schools and throughout the community.

From 1946 until 1948, Niwa was on faculty at DePaul University, and in 1948, he began a long tenure at Roosevelt University, later heading the faculty string quartet for eight years.

Raymond Niwa in the early 1970s (Terry’s photo)

The Niwa’s children also are accomplished musicians. Their son David is a violinist and holds degrees from the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, and their daughter Gail is a pianist, also with degrees from Juilliard. The Niwa family claims a singular distinction: all four have been soloists with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In their retirement, Raymond and Eloise Niwa were longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association. He also served for many years on the CSOAA’s board, as a director and treasurer.

Raymond Niwa’s beloved wife Eloise preceded him in death in 2013. He is survived by his daughter Gail, son David (Mariko), and grandson Matthew. Details for a memorial service are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in both Raymond and Eloise’s memory.

In May 1904, Chicago Orchestra founder and first music director Theodore Thomas led his final Cincinnati May Festival concerts at Music Hall. Since founding the festival in 1873, Thomas had regularly led concerts, inviting his Chicago Orchestra after its founding in 1891.

Cover of the 1904 Cincinnati May Festival program book

Cover of the 1904 Cincinnati May Festival program book

Programming for the five-concert festival was nothing short of epic and included orchestral works, opera excerpts, and large-scale choral works. The Orchestra had been expanded to over one hundred and ten players and the May Festival Chorus numbered over 500. And for the final concert, Thomas had chosen Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and the Ninth Symphony.

According to Philo Adams Otis in his book The Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Its Organization, Growth, and Development, 1891–1924: “The program was of the highest order . . . But with due regard to soloists and chorus, the strength of the Festival, to my mind, was Mr. Thomas and the Orchestra. Never have I heard the Beethoven Eighth Symphony played as at the first matinée! What a performance he gave us Friday evening of Death and Transfiguration!”

And in Memoirs of Theodore Thomas (edited by his widow Rose Fay Thomas): “The May Festival of 1904 brought the work of Thomas to a close in Cincinnati, and its programmes were of such a caliber that it was the artistic climax, not only of the long series of festivals in that city, but, perhaps, even of Thomas’ own career. One colossal work was piled on another, regardless of everything but the one object of making this festival surpass, in standard and perfection, all that had preceded it. . . . the chorus, under the able and musicianly training of its director, Mr. Edwin W. Glover, was in splendid condition, and Thomas had nothing to correct about its performance. . . . The performances at the Cincinnati Festival were, therefore, amongst the very finest that he ever gave in his life, and no one in his audience had the slightest idea of the strain under which he worked.”

The complete concert programs are below.

First concert

Wednesday evening, May 11, 1904, 7:30 p.m.
BACH Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067
Alfred Quensel, flute
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
William Green, tenor
Robert Watkin-Mills, bass
Wilhelm Middelschulte, organ
May Festival Chorus
Edwin W. Glover, director
(an intermission followed the conclusion of the Gloria)

Second concert

Thursday afternoon, May 12, 1904, 2:00 p.m.
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
MOZART Nie wird mich Hymen (Parto, ma tu ben mio) from La clemenza di Tito, K. 621
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
Joseph Schreurs, clarinet obbligato
SCHUBERT Entr’acte No. 1 from Rosamunde, D. 797
WEBER Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster from Oberon
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma)
ELGAR Pomp and Circumstance Marches No. 2 in A Minor and No. 1 in D Major, Op. 39
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
LISZT The Three Gypsies (Die drei Zigeuner)
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
Leopold Kramer, violin obbligato
WAGNER Bacchanale from Tannhäuser
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Agnes Nicholls, soprano

Third concert

Friday evening, May 13, 1904, 7:30 p.m.
ELGAR Incidental Music and Funeral March from Grania and Diarmid, Op. 42
ELGAR The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38
Muriel Foster, contralto
William Green, tenor
Robert Watkin-Mills, bass
Wilhelm Middelschulte, organ
May Festival Chorus
Edwin W. Glover, director
STRAUSS Death and Transfiguration, Op. 24
BEETHOVEN Abscheulicher! from Fidelio, Op. 72
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
BERLIOZ Imperial Hymn, Op. 26
May Festival Chorus
Edwin W. Glover, director

Fourth concert

Saturday afternoon, May 14, 1904, 1:30 p.m.
GLUCK Overture and Divinités du Styx from Alceste
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Unfinished)
BRAHMS Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
Men of the May Festival Chorus
Edwin W. Glover, director
WAGNER Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
ELGAR In Haven, Where Corals Lie, and The Swimmer from Sea Pictures, Op. 37
Muriel Foster, contralto
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28
STRAUSS Hymnus, Op. 33 No. 3
Muriel Foster, contralto
TCHAIKOVSKY 1812 Overture, Op. 49

Fifth concert

Saturday evening, May 14, 1904, 7:30 p.m.
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Agnes Nicholls, soprano
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
William Green, tenor
Robert Watkin-Mills, bass-baritone
May Festival Chorus
Edwin W. Glover, director

This article previously appeared here

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis on September 24, 25, and 26, 2020.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the celebrated Lebanese-American mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias, who died in Manhattan on May 3. She was ninety.

A stalwart at the Metropolitan Opera, between 1954 and 1996, Elias performed 687 performances of fifty-four roles. Also at the house, she created the role of Erika in Samuel Barber‘s Vanessa in January 1958.

The following year, she made her only appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as soloist in the following programs.

March 5 and 6, 1959
Fritz Reiner, conductor
RAVEL La valse
CHAUSSON Poem of Love and the Sea, Op. 19
PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

March 10, 1959
Fritz Reiner, conductor
PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
CHAUSSON Poem of Love and the Sea, Op. 19
TCHAIKOVSKY Marche miniature from Suite No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 43
TCHAIKOVSKY Marche slav, Op. 31

On March 7, RCA was on hand to record Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky—the first recording collaboration with the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus—in Orchestra Hall. Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer, and the recording recently was re-released as part of a comprehensive box set of Fritz Reiner’s complete recordings with the CSO on RCA.

Numerous online tributes have been posted, including Opera News, The Washington Post, and OperaWire, among many others.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of American cellist and teacher Lynn Harrell, who died on Monday. He was seventy-six.

Lynn Harrell (Christian Steiner photo)

“Lynn Harrell collaborated with me as a soloist in Philadelphia,” commented Riccardo Muti from his home in Italy. “He was an extraordinary musician and a man of great humanity. We will miss him!”

For fifty years, Harrell was a frequent and favorite guest with the Chicago Symphony, appearing with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and in Orchestra Hall. A complete list of his appearances is below.

July 17, 1966, Ravinia Festival
MILHAUD Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 136
Lukas Foss, conductor

June 30, 1973, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
James Levine, conductor

July 20, 1974, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMANN Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129
James Levine, conductor

July 12, 1975, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Symphony-Concerto in E Minor, Op. 125
James Levine, conductor

April 8, 9, and 11, 1976, Orchestra Hall
BOCCHERINI Concerto for Violoncello in B-flat Major
TCHAIKOVSKY Pezzo capriccioso, Op. 62
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor

July 3, 1976, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 (Triple)
Robert Mann, violin
André-Michel Schub, piano
James Levine, conductor

July 28, 1977, Ravinia Festival
HAYDN Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major, H. VIIb:2
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Itzhak Perlman, violin
James Conlon, conductor

July 7, 1979, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Milton Preves, viola
James Levine, conductor

July 24, 1980, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
James Conlon, conductor

Lynn Harrell (Christian Steiner photo)

July 3, 1981, Ravinia Festival
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33
James Levine, conductor

November 26 and 27, 1982, Orchestra Hall
ELGAR Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85
Varujan Kojian, conductor

July 1, 1983, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Elmar Oliveira, violin
James Levine, conductor

July 20, 1985, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMANN Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129
Adam Fischer, conductor

September 26, 27, and 28, 1985, Orchestra Hall
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

June 28, 1986, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Shlomo Mintz, violin
James Levine, conductor

June 29, 1986, Ravinia Festival
VILLA-LOBOS Bachiana Brasileira No. 5
Kathleen Battle, soprano
James Levine, conductor

June 22 1991, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Charles Pikler, viola
James Levine, conductor

July 31, 1993, Ravinia Festival
BLOCH Schelomo (Hebraic Rhapsody)
HAYDN Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, H. VIIb:1
Carlo Rizzi, conductor

March 5, 6, 7, and 11, 1998, Orchestra Hall
DUTILLEUX Tout un monde lointain . . .
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

September 17, 1999, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 (Triple)
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
William Eddins, piano and conductor

September 18, 1999, Orchestra Hall
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33
Pinchas Zukerman, conductor

March 28, 29, 30, and April 2, 2002, Orchestra Hall
LUTOSŁAWSKI Cello Concerto
William Eddins, conductor

June 20, 2003, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Marin Alsop, conductor

August 8, 2004, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
James Conlon, conductor

January 26, 27, and 28, 2006, Orchestra Hall
ELGAR Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85
Mark Elder, conductor

July 21, 2007, Ravinia Festival
BLOCH Schelomo (Hebraic Rhapsody)
BOCCHERINI/Grützmacher Cello Concerto in B-flat Major, G. 482
Andrew Litton, conductor

August 21, 2016, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme in A Major, Op. 33
Itzhak Perlman, conductor

Numerous tributes have appeared online, on NPR, Gramophone, and The Dallas Morning News, among many others.

Sir Peter Jonas (Wilfried Hösl photo for English National Opera)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Sir Peter Jonas, the legendary British arts administrator and opera company director, who died yesterday in Munich following a long illness. He was seventy-three. Jonas was personal assistant to Sir Georg Solti from 1974 until 1977, and he served as the first artistic administrator of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1978 until 1985.

“Peter Jonas led a Helden life,” commented Lady Valerie Solti from her home in London. “He was a very special, amazing, and highly talented man—very disciplined, very dedicated, highly intellectual, and quick witted—as was shown by his incredible career. Peter was a legend and a luminary in the world of international opera, and no one had a more thorough knowledge of the repertoire and who should be performing it. There was an extraordinary brilliance about him, as an administrator and as a human being, and despite his health challenges, Peter kept going, never complained, and never gave up.”

Born in England on October 14, 1946, Jonas received his education at Worth School in Sussex, University of Paris, University of Sussex, the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the Royal College of Music in London, and the Eastman School of Music. From 1966 until 1968 he worked with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and in 1974 he was associated with the Chautauqua Opera before becoming personal assistant to Solti later that same year.

In October 1977, John Edwards, general manager of The Orchestral Association, announced that Jonas had been appointed artistic administrator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, effective January 1, 1978. According to a press release, “The position for which there is precedent among a number of symphony organizations in the United States and Europe is a new one for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra . . . [and Jonas] will assist the general manager and music director in programming, selection of artists, and other details of the subscription and non-subscription concerts of the orchestra in Chicago [including] arrangements for recordings and TV and for future American and overseas tour programs.”

Lucia Popp and Peter Jonas in the 1970s (Clive Barda photo)

Jonas served in this capacity until May 1985, when he became managing director of the English National Opera, succeeding Lord Harewood. From 1993 until 2006, he was intendant of the Bavarian State Opera, and he also was a patron to The Solti Foundation.

According to Martha Gilmer, who succeeded Jonas in Chicago, “Peter was, to use Berlioz’s words, a ‘firebrand.’ . . . Peter was my mentor and friend. His incredible programming vision, and his connection with the great artists all over the world enhanced the years that he was at the CSO, and of course continued with his leadership of the English National Opera and the Bavarian State Opera. His close relationship with Claudio Abbado resulted in amazing performances of Berg’s Wozzeck in a semi-staged version that I will never forget. He was responsible for bringing Carlos Kleiber to Chicago twice in amazing performances. In addition to symphonic repertoire, the Orchestra regularly performed concert opera including Solti’s performances of Verdi’s Falstaff, which also went to Carnegie Hall, and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron.

“Peter battled cancer for all of his life. The first time I met him he shook my hand and in a characteristically Peter way said, ‘Nice to meet you, but I’m not going to be in this world for much longer.’ That was in 1977. I worked for him from 1979 until he left to run the English National Opera in 1985. He was a force of nature, loving the fight on behalf of the sustenance and the triumph of the arts. He embraced life and hiked Europe from North to South and East to West. His years in Chicago were pivotal to the Orchestra’s history, including his work with Daniel Barenboim (who would succeed Solti as music director), as well as Erich Leinsdorf, Klaus Tennstedt, and many others.” (Gilmer served the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association for thirty-five years, first as an intern in 1976 and ultimately as vice president of artistic planning and audience development. Currently, she is chief executive officer of the San Diego Symphony.)

“I know I’m speaking with Solti’s voice when I say that we were enormously proud and blessed to have known Peter and to have had his presence in our lives,” continued Lady Solti. “Another bright, brilliant light has gone out, but the memory of that light remains.”

Numerous tributes have been posted at The New York Times, The Guardian, Operawire, and Der Spiegel, among many others.

On April 21, 2020, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra family celebrates the centennial of Italian composer and conductor Bruno Maderna (1920–1973).

According to Phillip Huscher, “For many years he had been a close friend of Pierre Boulez (and a true friend of all those involved in new music activities) and a treasured colleague; like Boulez, he had made his mark both as a composer and as a conductor. ‘In fact, to get any real idea of what he was like as a person,’ Boulez wrote at the time of his death, ‘the conductor and the composer must be taken together; for Maderna was a practical person, equally close to music whether he was performing or composing.'”

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra first performed music by Maderna at the Ravinia Festival on July 23, 1967, when Luciano Berio led a performance of the Serenata no. 2. In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis wrote, that Maderna’s work “fashioned a post-Webern web of deceptively individual notes into an evocative introduction [to the concert].”

As a conductor, Maderna himself led the Orchestra on several occasions, as follows:

January 15 and 17, 1970, Orchestra Hall
SCHUBERT/Maderna Five Pieces for Piano, Four Hands
MADERNA Quadrivium (U.S. premiere)
BERIO Epifanie
Cathy Berberian, soprano
STRAVINSKY Scherzo à la russe

January 16, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MADERNA Quadrivium
BERIO Epifanie
Cathy Berberian, soprano
SCHUBERT/Maderna Five Pieces for Piano, Four Hands

Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, and Karlheinz Stockhausen

January 22 and 23, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 31, D Major, K. 297 (Paris)
BROWN From Here*
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
GABRIELI/Maderna Motet:: In Ecclesiis
VLIJMEN Serenata II for Flute and Orchestra
Donald Peck, flute
SCHOENBERG Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
*In Earle Brown’s From Here, Maderna conducted the Orchestra and the composer conducted the Chorus.

June 29, 1971, Ravinia Festival
GABRIELI/Maderna Motet: In Ecclesiis
STRAVINSKY Jeu de cartes
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Van Cliburn, piano

March 16, 17, and 18, 1972
MOZART Serenade in D Major, K. 239 (Serenata notturna)
SCHOENBERG Concerto for Violin, Op. 36
Esther Glazer, violin
DRUCKMAN Windows (world premiere)

March 23, 24, and 25, 1972
SCHOENBERG Transfigured Night, Op. 4
LEVY Trialogus (world premiere)
STRAVINSKY Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments
Earl Wild, piano
MADERNA Aura (world premiere)

On March 3, 4, 5, and 8, 2005, David Robertson led the Orchestra in performances of Boulez’s Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna. Written shortly after Maderna’s death in 1974 and 1975, Boulez described the work as “A ceremony of memory, in which there are numerous repetitions of the same formulas, in constantly changing profiles and perspectives.” Phillip Huscher’s program note from those performances can be found here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, who died on Sunday at his home in Krakow following a long illness. He was eighty-six.

Krzysztof Penderecki (Adam Kumiszcza photo)

“The death of Krzysztof Penderecki is a great loss for the music world,” wrote Riccardo Muti today from his home in Ravenna. “In the late 1970s with the Philharmonia Orchestra, I conducted his Symphony no. 1—a piece of extreme modernity—in London and in other European cities. In 2007, I was fortunate to meet him in person in Ravenna while he was conducting the Luigi Cherubini Orchestra in a concert dedicated entirely to his music. Later in 2016, he returned to conduct the ensemble at the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, where he led some of his compositions and Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Penderecki was a great musician—open to the contemporary music world—who was passionate to work with the young generation. He was an extraordinary human being and a person of great kindness. His passing is a great mourning to the music world.”

Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s most recent performances of the composer’s music—The Awakening of Jacob—to open the 127th season of subscription concerts on September 23 and 26, 2017.

In 2000, the composer himself was in Chicago to lead the Orchestra and Chorus in performances of his Seven Gates of Jerusalem, a work commissioned for the 3,000th anniversary of Jerusalem and premiered there in 1997. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote, that the forces required to perform the work “are much larger than in any of Penderecki’s previous works. The symphony calls for five vocal soloists and a speaker, three choruses, a large onstage orchestra (including four percussion groups) and a smaller ensemble of woodwinds and brass stationed at the rear of the hall.” The complete program was as follows:

March 16, 17, and 18, 2000
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D 485
PENDERECKI Seven Gates of Jerusalem
Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor
Bozena Harasimowicz-Haas, soprano
Izabella Klosíinska, soprano
Jadwiga Rappé, alto
Jorma Silvasti, tenor
Romauld Tesarowicz, bass
Alberto Mizrahi, speaker
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

“An air of hammering declamation permeated Seven Gates,” wrote Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The chorus announced its presence with stern, massed song in the work’s opening bars. Several of the movements had a steady, pacing rhythm that moved forward with the implacable force of an invading army. There were a few moments of respite. . . . The fifth movement, the exultant ‘Laude, Ierusalem Dominum (Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem)’ came closest to breaking away from big, somber gestures. Rhythms were more animated, percussion and individual instruments galloped and surged with nervous energy.”

The Orchestra performed music by Penderecki on a number of other occasions, as follows (all performances in Orchestra Hall):

Krzysztof Penderecki (Bruno Fidrych photo)

December 30, 1970; January 1 and 2, 1971
PENDERECKI Polymorphia
Aldo Ceccato, conductor

December 6 and 7, 1973
PENDERECKI Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra
Michael Gielen, conductor
Wanda Wilkomirska, violin

November 21, 22, and 23, 2002
PENDERECKI Symphony No. 4
Lorin Maazel, conductor

March 17, 19, and 22, 2011
PENDERECKI Concerto grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Kenneth Olsen, cello
John Sharp, cello

Numerous tributes have been posted online at the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among several others.

On March 12, 2020, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra celebrates the centennial of orchestral and chamber musician, soloist with countless ensembles, and lifelong teacher and coach Ray Still (1920–2014), a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section for forty years, serving as principal for thirty-nine years.

Ray Still - 1950s

Born on March 12, 1920, in Elwood, Indiana, Still began playing clarinet as a teenager. During the Great Depression, his family moved to California, where he was able to regularly hear performances of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a volunteer usher. After hearing the masterful technique and elegant phrasing of Henri de Busscher—principal oboe in Los Angeles from 1920 until 1948—Still switched to the oboe.

Still graduated from Los Angeles High School and at the age of nineteen joined the Kansas City Philharmonic as second oboe in 1939, where he was a member until 1941 (and also where he met and married Mary Powell Brock in 1940). For the next two years, he studied electrical engineering, served in the reserve US Army Signal Corps, and worked nights at the Douglas Aircraft factory. During the height of World War II, Still joined the US Army in September 1943 and served until June of 1946.

Immediately following his honorable discharge from the Army, Still enrolled at the Juilliard School where he studied with Robert Bloom. The following year in 1947, he began a two-year tenure as principal oboe with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of William Steinberg. Beginning in 1949, Still was principal oboe of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for four years.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

In the fall of 1953, Still auditioned for Fritz Reiner, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recently named music director. Reiner invited him to be the Orchestra’s second-chair oboe and the following year promoted him to the principal position. Still would serve the Orchestra in that capacity—under music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—until his retirement in 1993.

Still appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as soloist on countless occasions, including the Orchestra’s first performances of works for solo oboe by Albinoni, Bach, Barber, Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Telemann. His extensive discography includes Bach’s Wedding Cantata on RCA with Kathleen Battle as soloist and James Levine conducting, and Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C minor on Deutsche Grammophon with Claudio Abbado conducting.

Still performed with numerous other ensembles including the Juilliard, Vermeer, and Fine Arts string quartets; he recorded with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Lynn Harrell; and regularly appeared at many music festivals, including those at Aspen, Stratford, and Marlboro, among others.

A tireless educator, Still taught at the Peabody Institute from 1949 until 1953, Roosevelt University from 1954 until 1957, and at Northwestern University for forty-three years until 2003. Throughout his tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he coached members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. At the invitation of Seiji Ozawa, he spent the summers of 1968 and 1970 as a visiting member of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo, where he held coaching sessions for the wind section, conducted chamber music classes, and lectured at Toho University.

Ray Still - 1970s

Following his retirement from Northwestern, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland—where he continued to give master classes and lessons—with his beloved wife Mary and son James to live near his daughter Susan. In 2013, he moved to Saxtons River and later Woodstock, Vermont, where he lived near Susan, his granddaughter Madeline, and her two daughters. Still died in Woodstock, on March 12, 2014, surrounded by family. He was 94 and was survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Mimi and Kent Dixon of Springfield, Ohio; his son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Sally Still of Big Timber, Montana; his daughter and son-in-law, Susan Still and Peter Bergstrom of Saxtons River, Vermont; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death in 2012 by Mary, his wife of almost 72 years, and his son James Still.

When interviewed for an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1988, Still was asked why he thought the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was the world’s greatest. His reply: “It’s like a great baseball team. We have a blend of youth and experience, and they work very well together. A lot of orchestras have this. The thing that makes the Chicago Symphony Orchestra very unusual is the tremendous—I hate to use the word—discipline. There is a certain pride, and I think it goes back to the days of Theodore Thomas, the founder. There is something about the tradition of this Orchestra and the level the main body of musicians has come to expect of itself. There’s just a longer line of tradition.”

The Still family has recently updated, which now includes a new edition of his book Playing the Oboe, along with a gallery of photos and a complete discography.

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

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


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