The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family remembers one of its iconic musicians, Milton Preves (1909–2000), in honor of the anniversary of his birth on June 18.

Milton Preves in 1934, the year he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (George Nelidoff)

Born in Cleveland, Preves moved to Chicago as a teenager and attended Senn High School. He was a student of Leon Sametini at Chicago Musical College, Richard Czerwonky at the Bush Conservatory of Music, and Albert Noelte and Ramon Girvin at the Institute of Music and Allied Arts before attending the University of Chicago.

Preves joined the Little Symphony of Chicago in 1930, regularly worked in radio orchestras, and was invited by Mischa Mischakoff (then CSO concertmaster) to join the Mischakoff String Quartet in 1932. Two years later, second music director Frederick Stock appointed Preves to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s viola section, promoting him to assistant principal in 1936 and principal in 1939. He would remain in that post for the next forty-seven years, serving under a total of seven music directors, including Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti.

Preves performed as a soloist with the Orchestra on dozens of occasions, including the world premieres of David Van Vactor’s Viola Concerto and Ernest Bloch’s Suite hébraïque for Viola and Orchestra, both dedicated to him. Under Reiner, he recorded Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote—along with cellist Antonio Janigro and concertmaster John Weicher—with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for RCA in 1959.

Louis Sudler (Orchestral Association chairman emeritus), Lady Valerie and Sir Georg Solti, and Milton and Rebecca Preves celebrate Preves’s fiftieth anniversary as a member of the CSO in October 1984 (Terry’s Photography)

A lifelong educator, Preves served on the faculties of Roosevelt, Northwestern, and DePaul universities, and he also always taught privately out of his home. An avid conductor, he held titled posts with the North Side Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, Oak Park–River Forest Symphony, Wheaton Summer Symphony, Gary Symphony, and the Gold Coast Chamber Orchestra. As a chamber musician, he performed with the Budapest, Fine Arts, Gordon, and Chicago Symphony string quartets, as well as the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players.

As reported in his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, “It was while directing the Oak Park–River Forest group that he gained an unusual measure of national attention. He briefly became an icon of the fledgling civil rights movement in 1963, when he resigned from the community orchestra because it would not allow a Black violinist he had invited to perform with the group.” (More information can be found here.)

Preves died at the age of ninety on June 11, 2000, following a long illness. Shortly thereafter, his family began donating materials to the Rosenthal Archives, establishing his collection of correspondence, contracts, photographs, scrapbooks, programs, and recordings. Most recently, his children donated additional photographs, mostly portraits of music directors and guest conductors, all autographed and dedicated to Preves. A sample of that collection is below.

In October 1984, on the occasion of Milton Preves’s fiftieth anniversary with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, fellow viola Isadore Zverow (1909–1999) composed this poem to honor his colleague:

It’s no mean feat, without retreat
To hold the forte so long,
To stroke and pluck in cold and heat—
All to produce a song.

Toward music bent, with single intent,
Unyielding dedication,
You of yourself so gladly lent
Your valued perspiration.

You sat and played and marked and bowed
And sometimes e’en reproached
And sometimes we squirmed (just a bit)
We didn’t wanna be coached.

And yet whene’er the chips were down
Throughout these fifty anna,
Your steadfast presence was a crown
Aiming at Nirvana.

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In June 2022, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the extraordinary American entertainer, singer, and actress Judy Garland!

Born on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Judy Garland began her career as a vaudeville performer with her two older sisters. By the age of thirteen, she had been signed—without a screen test—to the world’s largest motion-picture studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While still a teenager, Garland created her most beloved role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, in which she sang the song that would forever be identified with her, “Over the Rainbow.” Despite constant personal struggles, she continued to create iconic film roles, make hundreds of concert appearances, record best-selling albums, and host her own television series.

Sarah Zelzer and Judy Garland in September 1958 (Allied Arts Records, The Newberry Library, Chicago)

On October 15, 1930, impresario Harry Zelzer (1897–1979) mounted his first presentation—a recital by Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli—at Chicago’s Civic Opera House. By 1948, Zelzer Concert Management Bureau had gradually expanded to become Allied Arts, presenting dozens of performances in multiple venues annually throughout Chicago, including Orchestra Hall. In 1978, Zelzer and his devoted wife and partner Sarah Schectman Zelzer (1909–1998) gave the Allied Arts series to the Orchestral Association (now the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association). Ultimately, the series was renamed Symphony Center Presents in October 1997.

“In July of 1958, Harry got a call from Sidney Luft, Judy’s husband and manager; he wanted Harry to present her in concert at Orchestra Hall during the first week of September,” wrote Sarah Zelzer in her book, Impresario: The Zelzer Era, 1930 to 1990. “Harry had never seen Judy Garland movies and knew very little about her. I, on the other hand, had admired her for years, and I told Harry I thought she would be a terrific draw.” Garland had not yet appeared in Chicago, and despite her reputation for cancellations along with her husband’s rumored untrustworthiness, the Zelzers decided, “it would be worth the gamble.”

Allied Arts program for Garland’s September 4-9, 1958, concerts in Orchestra Hall

Garland and Luft arrived in Chicago on September 3 for a press conference at the Bismarck Hotel, just before the first of seven sold-out shows at Orchestra Hall over the next six days. Comedian Alan King would be the opening act, and Nelson Riddle and his orchestra would provide the accompaniment. Garland’s opening night performance on the evening of September 4 was, according to Zelzer, “a tremendous success. But for the rest of the week, we were on tenterhooks until we saw her walk on the stage.”

“There were cheers and floral tributes for Miss Garland’s singing,” wrote Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune. “The singing is spacious and warm and beautiful, whether it is in music to be caressed or belted. Miss Garland, having long experience, covers quite a span of song writing—from ‘When You’re Smiling’ and ‘I Can’t Give You Anything but Love’ through the ‘Trolley Song’ right down to the ‘Purple People Eater.’ Even songs that weren’t written especially for her become hers by right of interpretation. She is an ‘original,’ and thus has the right. At the end of the evening, she recreates her famous tramp number, ‘Couple of Swells,’ with Mr. King in deft partnership. Then, if opening night is any indication, she may sit down over Orchestra Hall’s imaginary footlights and do a softly beautiful ‘Over the Rainbow’ and a bouncing ‘Chicago’ by way of encores.”

Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1958

The following year, she was re-engaged by Allied Arts for a seven-concert, sold-out run that began on June 1, 1959, at the Civic Opera House. Alan King returned, along with John W. Bubbles and Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra. “The indestructible Judy Garland went into another new phase Monday night at the Civic Opera House, where a near capacity audience turned out,” wrote William Leonard in the Chicago Tribune. “Now, a legend . . . Judy is here as a veteran of vaudeville—a virtually vanished form of show business which she causes to breathe again with nostalgia and excitement combined.”

The Zelzers brought Garland back to Chicago for a performance at the Civic Opera House on May 6, 1961. Just two weeks prior, on April 23, 1961, Garland gave a now legendary performance in New York’s Carnegie Hall. According to Variety, “The tones are clear, the phrasing is meaningful, and the vocal passion is catching. In fact, the audience couldn’t resist anything she did.” And in the New York Post, “Last night, the magnetism was circulating from the moment she stepped on stage.” Called by many “the greatest night in show business history,” the concert was recorded, and the two-album set—Judy at Carnegie Hall—was a tremendous bestseller. It remained on the Billboard charts for seventy-three weeks—including thirteen weeks in the number-one spot — and was certified Gold. Garland won two 1961 Grammy awards for the Capitol Records release: Album of the Year—the first woman to win in that top category—and Best Solo Vocal Performance–Female. The recording was also recognized for Best Engineering Contribution–Popular Recording and Best Album Cover–Non-Classical.

Under the auspices of Allied Arts, Garland was back in Chicago on two more occasions—both for performances at the new Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place—on November 7, 1962, and May 7, 1965. “Audiences habitually regard her concerts as love feasts. This was no exception,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune on November 8, 1962. “Through it all, the high-voltage personality operated full force.”

Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1965

Judy Garland died in London on June 22, 1969, at the age of forty-seven, but her legacy endures. She has been recognized for lifetime achievement from the Recording Academy, and she was the youngest recipient and the first woman to receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, also for lifetime achievement. She received honorary Academy and Tony awards, a Golden Globe, two Grammy awards, two Academy and three Emmy award nominations, and two stars (one for acting, one for recording) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Six of her records have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the American Film Institute‘s 100 Years . . . 100 Songs listed “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz as the number-one movie song of all time, along with “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born (no. 11), “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St. Louis (nos. 26 and 76), and “Get Happy” from Summer Stock (no. 61).

This article also appears here.

Wishing a very happy eighty-fifth birthday to Estonian American conductor Neeme Järvi! A frequent guest to the Orchestra Hall podium for nearly forty years, he has led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a remarkable array of works, including one U.S. and two world premieres. Also with the CSO, Järvi has made four recordings, including Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, along with works by Hindemith, Kodály, Schmidt, and Scriabin, all for Chandos Records.

Neeme Järvi (Simon van Boxtel photo)

A complete list of his appearances with the Orchestra is below.

November 21, 22, and 23, 1985, Orchestra Hall
LYADOV Polonaise, Op. 49
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Yefim Bronfman, piano
STENHAMMAR Symphony No. 1 in F Major (U.S. premiere)

December 10, 11, 12, and 15, 1987, Orchestra Hall
STENHAMMAR Intermezzo from Sängen, Op. 44
STENHAMMAR Florez och Blanzeflor, Op. 3
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
ALFVÉN Skogen sover, Op. 28, No. 6
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
SIBELIUS Incidental Music from Kuolema
SIBELIUS Four Songs
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
TUBIN Symphony No. 4 in A Major (Sinfonia lirica)

December 17, 18, and 19, 1987, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Prelude from From the Middle Ages, Op. 79
SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 2 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 129
Samuel Magad, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 4 in C Major, Op. 112

November 10, 11, and 12, 1988, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Symphony No. 88 in G Major
LLOYD Symphony No. 7 (world premiere)

April 20, 21, 22, and 25, 1989, Orchestra Hall
SCHMIDT Symphony No. 2 in E-flat Major
CORIGLIANO Pied Piper Fantasy (Concerto for Flute and Orchestra)
James Galway, flute
Marie Bennett, Charlie Chen, Brian Davis, Demarre McGill, Vicki Meier, Anita Mooney, Katherine Naftzger, Esther Sullivan, Kyra Tyler, and Caroline You, flutes
Sharyon Culberson and Brad Fox, percussion
Tracy Cunningham, Kelly Krueger, Anthony McGill, and Carlos Velez, Jr., actors
René Roy, director
Schmidt’s Symphony no. 2 was recorded in Orchestra Hall live in concert.

November 22, 24, 25, and 28, 1989, Orchestra Hall
PÄRT Symphony No. 3
SCRIABIN Poem of Ecstasy, Op. 54
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition
Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition were recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 27 and 28, 1989.

February 15, 16, 18, and 20, 1990, Orchestra Hall
KODÁLY Háry János, Op. 35a
Laurence Kaptain, cimbalom
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, Op. 103 (Egyptian)
Lorin Hollander, piano
KODÁLY Variations on a Hungarian Folksong (The Peacock)
KODÁLY Dances of Galánta
Kodály’s Háry János, Peacock Variations, and Dances of Galánta were recorded in Orchestra Hall live in concert.

January 31, February 1, 2, and 5, 1991, Orchestra Hall
HINDEMITH Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 38
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Radu Lupu, piano
SCHMIDT Symphony No. 3
Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra and Schmidt’s Symphony no. 3 were recorded in Orchestra Hall live in concert.

October 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, 1993, Orchestra Hall
TUBIN/Raid Elegy for Strings
ELLER Folk Tune from Songs of My Homeland
DARZINS Melancholy Waltz
MEDINS Aria
NIELSEN Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 13

January 5, 6, 7, and 10, 1995, Orchestra Hall
BARBER Intermezzo and Under the Willow Tree from Vanessa
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (Rhenish)
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Excerpts from the Incidental Music for The Snow Maiden

February 13, 14, 15, and 16, 1997, Orchestra Hall
RAPCHAK Saetas (world premiere)
PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 7
Rachel Barton, violin
NIELSEN Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 (The Inextinguishable)

May 18, 19, 20, and 23, 2000, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Overture to Manfred, Op. 115
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Samuel Magad, violin
John Sharp, cello
DOHNÁNYI Symphony No. 2 in E Major, Op. 40

October 16, 17, 18, and 21, 2008, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Yefim Bronfman, piano
TANEYEV Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 12

December 8, 9, and 10, 2016, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Concert Waltz No. 1 in D Major, Op. 47
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
Vadim Gluzman, violin
SIBELIUS Suite from Karelia, Op. 11
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82

April 20, 22, and 23, 2017, Orchestra Hall
April 21, 2017, Wheaton College
PÄRT Fratres
Robert Chen, violin
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. Posth.
Robert Chen, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)

December 7, 8, 9, and 12, 2017, Orchestra Hall
SMETANA Music from The Bartered Bride
BARBER Cello Concerto, Op. 22
Alisa Weilerstein, cello
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 5 in F Major, Op. 76

Happy, happy birthday!

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Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler (ca. 1893)

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, no one has performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto more than Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler.

Born in Austria in 1863, Fannie Blumenfeld and her family immigrated to the United States in 1867 and settled in Chicago. She began piano studies at the age of six and gave her first concert on February 26, 1875. Encouraged by the Russian pianist Anna Essipoff, Blumenfeld returned to Vienna in 1878, where she began studies with Theodor Leschetizky. Shortly after returning to the U.S. in 1883—and anglicizing her name to Bloomfield—she auditioned for Theodore Thomas, then the music director for the New York Philharmonic as well as his eponymous Theodore Thomas Orchestra. It was too late to hire her for his upcoming seasons, but, inspired by her playing, Thomas provided letters of recommendation to help her secure other engagements.

Bloomfield made her professional debut in Chicago’s Central Music Hall on January 11, 1884, performing the first movement of Adolf von Henselt’s Piano Concerto in F minor under the baton of one of her first teachers, Carl Wolfsohn. In the Chicago Tribune, the reviewer described her performance with “A firm but at the same time delicate touch, a technique which overcomes the greatest difficulties without apparent effort, and an intelligent mastery over the mechanism of her instrument were the characteristics of her playing, which made themselves felt before she had finished a small portion of her task. Every note received its due. . . . It was a great treat, Miss Bloomfield’s playing, and one not soon to be forgotten.”

Zeisler was soloist in the Chicago Orchestra’s first performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in Pittsburgh on April 19, 1893

Bloomfield’s debut in New York occurred the following year, on February 1, 1885, under Frank Van der Stucken and his orchestra, again with Henselt’s Piano Concerto. In October of that year, she married Sigmund Zeisler (who later served on the defense counsel for the anarchists responsible for the onset of the Haymarket Square riot), and the couple had three sons.

Zeisler made her debut with the Chicago Orchestra during the ensemble’s first season, at the Auditorium Theatre on March 25 and 26, 1892. “The solo part in [Chopin’s second] concerto was played by Mrs. Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler, a Chicago artist who is heard but too rarely in local concerts,” wrote the reviewer in the Chicago Tribune. “Few piano performances heard in the Auditorium have possessed as high artistic finish and true musicianly qualities as did that accorded Chopin’s concerto last evening by Mrs. Zeisler. There have been performances more brilliant, performances more impressive in their breadth and power, but none have revealed greater refinement of style and clearer, truer conception than did this.”

All-Schumann concert at the World’s Columbian Exposition on June 9, 1893

Later that spring, Zeisler joined Thomas and the Orchestra on tour to perform three concerts in Omaha, two in Louisville, and one in Kansas City, Missouri; her repertoire included Chopin’s Second, Rubinstein’s Fourth, and Saint-Saëns’s Fourth concertos.

The following season, she appeared with the Orchestra on a pair of subscription concerts in December and on tour on five occasions, including concerts in Pittsburgh and Buffalo in April that included the ensemble’s first performances of Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Soon thereafter, Zeisler was one of only two pianists—along with Ignace Paderewski—chosen by Thomas to perform with the Orchestra at the World’s Columbian Exposition. On June 9, 1893, she appeared in an all-Schumann concert (honoring the composer’s birthday) that included the Manfred Overture, Third Symphony, and the Piano Concerto. “Mme. Zeisler proved herself,” according to the Chicago Tribune, giving “a performance in every respect admirable and satisfying [lending] charm and poetry.”

Over the next thirty years, Zeisler was a frequent and favorite soloist with the Orchestra, performing not only Schumann’s concerto, but also works by Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg, Henselt, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Moszkowski, Mozart, Rubinstein, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, and Weber.

Zeisler’s Golden Jubilee Concert, February 25, 1925

On February 25, 1925, Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler appeared with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—and before the public—one last time, in a concert celebrating her fiftieth year as a concert artist. The program included Beethoven’s Andante favori, Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto, and her eighth performance with the CSO of Schumann’s Piano Concerto. “You might have closed your eyes and been willing to swear that an artist in the first flush of maturity, with intensively cultivated powers and enormous flair for major piano works was playing,” wrote the critic in the Chicago Tribune. “It was the seal on an honorable and highly honored career. Mrs. Zeisler is as sincere an artist as ever appeared before the public. [Her honesty] shone through, every note she played, just as it has always shone whenever she played. And a capacity audience was present to testify to the esteem in which the fine sincerity of a fine artist is held.” She died in Chicago on August 21, 1927.

Portions of this article appear in the May 19, 20, 21, and 22, 2022, program book; and the article also appears here.

Donald Peck in 1994 (Jim Steere photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the passing of Donald Peck, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1957 until 1999 and principal flute for over forty years. He passed away earlier today, April 29, 2022. Peck was ninety-two.

Born on January 26, 1930, in Yakima, Washington, Donald Peck received his early musical training in Seattle, where he played in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. As a teenager, he performed with his first teacher, Frank Horsfall, in the Seattle Symphony. He was a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied with William Kincaid. Peck performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and spent three years in the U.S. Marine Band. He was principal flute of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra for two years before Fritz Reiner invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1957 as assistant principal flute. The following year, Reiner promoted Peck to principal flute, a chair he would hold for over forty years until his retirement in 1999.

Peck first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in August 1959, in Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, and on subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall in November 1960, in Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite, both with Walter Hendl conducting. During his tenure, he appeared as soloist on more than 120 concerts directed by twenty-five conductors—including music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and on tour.

Donald Peck in 1966 (Dorothy Siegel Druzinsky photo)

On April 18, 1985, Solti led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Morton Gould’s Flute Concerto, commissioned for Peck. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein described his playing as, “Lustrous and penetrating, tender and lyrical, charming and sensual, its hues would put a chameleon to shame. It is one of the most distinctive voices in the orchestral choir, blending well with any ensemble even as it serves a key role within the woodwind section. . . . as principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck has carried out that role with a combination of technical skill and musical understanding that has earned him widespread admiration. Within the fraternity of the flute he is considered to be without peer. No less a judge than Julius Baker, the longtime principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic [and principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1951 until 1953], pronounces Peck ‘the greatest flutist I’ve ever heard.'”

Also for Peck, William Ferris wrote his Flute Sonata and Lee Hoiby dedicated his Pastorale Dances for Flute and Orchestra. He regularly performed as a guest artist with other orchestras, including appearances at the Pablo Casals Festival with concerts in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and in Carnegie Hall. In Australia, Peck recorded Mozart’s flute concertos for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and he regularly appeared at the Carmel Bach Festival in California, the Victoria International Festival in Canada, the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, and the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, along with numerous other orchestras from coast to coast.

As principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck performed on over three hundred recordings under twenty-two conductors for twelve labels. In his retirement, he recorded works for flute and piano with Melody Lord for the Boston label. Peck also was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

Peck served on the faculties of DePaul and Roosevelt universities, where he taught flute and woodwind ensemble. A frequent lecturer and guest teacher, he gave master classes at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, at the Rotterdam Conservatory in Holland, for the Osaka Flute Club in Japan, at the Sydney Flute Association in Australia, and at over thirty universities and music groups throughout the United States and Canada. For many years, Peck played a flute—fashioned in platinum-iridium—handmade for him by Powell Flutes of Boston.

In 1997, the National Flute Association honored Peck with a lifetime achievement award. Indiana University Press published Peck’s memoir, The Right Place, The Right Time! Tales of Chicago Symphony Days in 2007, and the Chicago Flute Club’s biennial international flute competition is named in his honor.

Near the end of his tenure as principal flute, Peck spoke again with von Rhein for the Chicago Tribune. “The flute has the potential for more color and brilliance [and] the woodwind section can be most exquisite, like glittering jewels. . . . I have been a very lucky person, having performed with wonderful musicians and done so much. What more could I want?”

Donald Peck warming up backstage, on tour with the CSO in the 1990s (Jim Steere photo)

Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date, and memorial gifts may be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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Detail of title page of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony (Theodore Thomas collection)

Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony—according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies—is “a work as full of beauties, novel of their kind, as the Eroica, but expressing no worldly program; singing instead the songs of nature—the music of the soul. . . . In consequence, he has given us, in the Fourth Symphony, a song of beauty such as no one else has ever written, presenting absolute novelty of color and creating an atmosphere in music justly termed ‘romantic,’ a romanticism parallel to that of Schiller in literature.”

“Generations of music lovers have described—and sometimes dismissed—Beethoven’s even-numbered symphonies as lyrical and relaxed compared to their spunky, coltish, odd-numbered neighbors. The Fourth, in B-flat major, has suffered from that fate perhaps more than any,” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Schumann was perhaps the first musician to warn us not to overlook the Fourth’s own special qualities: ‘Do not illustrate his genius with the Ninth Symphony alone, no matter how great its audacity and scope, never uttered in any tongue. You can do as much with his First Symphony, or with the Greek-like slender one in B-flat major!’”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony on March 17 and 18, 1893, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

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 Fourth Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1987 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded Beethoven’s complete 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 Fourth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on September 21 and 22, 1987. Michael Haas was the recording producer and James Lock was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 on May 5, 6, and 7, 2022.

This article also appears here.

“What could come after [the Fifth Symphony]?” wrote Frederick Stock, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s second music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “The subtlety of Beethoven’s imagination found an answer in due time, and in his Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, we find his thoughts expressed in a new form. Even though other composers before him and in his time had attempted to write program music, Beethoven was the first whose efforts in this direction proved to be a lasting achievement. . . . His was a poetic conception of nature’s grandeur and beauty, a faithful interpretation of her inward significance, cast in the most perfect of musical forms, the symphony.”

Detail of title page of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, bearing marks by Frederick Stock and Fritz Reiner (Fritz Reiner collection)

“Our familiar picture of Beethoven, cross and deaf, slumped in total absorption over his sketches, doesn’t easily allow for Beethoven the nature-lover,” writes writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “But he liked nothing more than a walk in the woods, where he could wander undisturbed, stopping from time to time to scribble a new idea on the folded sheets of music paper he always carried in his pocket. ‘No one,’ he wrote to Therese Malfati two years after the premiere of the Pastoral Symphony, ‘can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.’ They’re all here in his Sixth Symphony.”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony on March 2 and 3, 1894, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1961 recording (RCA)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Orchestra’s first recording of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony on April 8 and 10, 1961, in Orchestra Hall. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

1974 recording (London)

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 Sixth Symphony was recorded at the Sofiensaal in Vienna on September 10, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson, and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1988 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 Sixth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 9, 10, 14, and 16, 1988. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 on April 28, 30, and May 3, 2022.

This article also appears here.

Radu Lupu (Mary Roberts for Decca)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the remarkable Romanian pianist Radu Lupu. He died in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 17, 2022, following a long illness. He was seventy-six.

A frequent performer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for nearly fifty years, Lupu appeared with the ensemble in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, in Carnegie Hall, and on tour to Bucharest, Romania and Berlin, Germany.

“I was deeply affected when I heard about the passing of Radu Lupu, one of the greatest pianists of our time,” Riccardo Muti wrote from his home in Ravenna. “I had great respect for him as an artist, and we always looked forward to making music together. It was with Lupu that I led memorable performances of Beethoven’s five piano concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, and I will always treasure that experience. I am so grateful for his most recent visit with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2017 for even more Beethoven. He was a wonderful and sensitive person and I considered him a dear friend.”

Lupu made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in October 1972, under the baton of Carlo Maria Giulini. “Six years ago, a young Romanian pianist named Radu Lupu won the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Competition and then returned quietly to his studies. Last night, twenty-seven now and bearded, he made a historic local debut in Beethoven’s Third Concerto,” wrote Roger Dettmer in the Chicago Tribune. “Reports of his achievement should include a mention of phenomenal technical command, a range of tonal color and dynamics evidently unlimited, and a control of nuances as well as the big moments that awed. . . . As no other pianist in memory, not even Rachmaninov, he became a spirit trumpet through whom we heard the composer speak.”

A complete list of his performances is below:

Radu Lupu and Riccardo Muti backstage at Orchestra Hall on April 29, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

October 5 and 6, 1972, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

August 1, 1973, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Lawrence Foster, conductor

August 3, 1973, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Lawrence Foster, conductor

April 18 and 19, 1974, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

August 6, 1977, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Edo de Waart, conductor

August 7, 1977, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467
Franz Allers, conductor

January 12, 13, and 14, 1978, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor

Radu Lupu performs Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti on April 27, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Fantasy in C Minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (Choral Fantasy)
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

March 8, 9, and 10, 1984, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

January 31, February 1, 2, and 5, 1991, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Neeme Järvi, conductor

February 10, 11, 12, and 15, 1994, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

January 31, 1996, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 448
Daniel Barenboim, piano
MOZART Concerto for Three Pianos in F Major, K. 242
Elena Bashkirova, piano
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano
MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano

January 30, 31, February 1, and 4, 1997, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Radu Lupu and Riccardo Muti following a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on April 27, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

September 19, 1998, Sala Mare a Palatului, Bucharest, Romania
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

January 12, 14, 15, and 16, 1999, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

February 10, 11, 12, and 15, 2000, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
David Zinman, conductor

April 22, 2000, Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

February 21, 22, and 23, 2002, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor

October 3, 2002, Carnegie Hall, New York
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

February 13, 14, and 16, 2003, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Radu Lupu (Zdenek Chrapek photo)

February 16, 17, and 18, 2006, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano

February 25, 26, 27, and March 2, 2010, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor

January 10, 11, 12, and 15, 2013, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Edo de Waart, conductor

April 27, 28, and 29, 2017, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Riccardo Muti, conductor

Following the April 27, 2017, performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Lupu’s often quiet but brilliantly expressive articulation compels listening by means of understatement, and yet there is an undeniable grandeur about it. And in tandem with the orchestra, he brought a dreamy tranquility to the slow passages of this familiar work that was metabolism-altering. The pianist’s emotional connection and eye contact with both Muti and the CSO musicians was both visible and audible at every moment.”

Lupu also gave a number of recitals in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

February 10, 1988 (with Murray Perahia)
January 21, 1990
February 13, 1994 (with Daniel Barenboim)
January 31, 1996 (with Daniel Barenboim)
February 11, 1996 (with Daniel Barenboim)
February 9, 1997 (with Daniel Barenboim)
January 21, 1998
November 24, 2000 (with Daniel Barenboim)
January 27, 2002
January 15, 2004 (with the Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim)
February 19, 2006 (with Daniel Barenboim)
February 10, 2008
January 31, 2010

This article also appears here.

Erica Morini (Ledger photo, Vienna)

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate and remember the remarkable Austrian violinist Erica Morini, who, over the course of nearly forty-five years, was a frequent and favorite soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in recital in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in WGN‘s television studios.

Born in 1904, Morini was a seasoned performer by 1924, when her father purchased a $10,000 Stradivarius violin—made in 1727 and named for the Russian cellist Karl Davydov—for her. It soon became her instrument of choice and prized possession for the remainder of her career. Shortly before her death in October 1995, the instrument—along with artwork, correspondence, and annotated scores—was stolen from her apartment in New York City. The unsolved crime remains one of the FBI’s “Top Ten Art Crimes.”

Morini and her violin are the subject of a new documentary, Stolen: The Unsolved Theft of a $3,000,000 Violin. Several members of the CSOA family were interviewed for the film, including Robert Chen, concertmaster; Kenneth Olsen, assistant principal cello; Hilary Hahn, violinist and CSO Artist-in-Residence; Rachel Barton Pine, Chicago-based violinist; and Frank Villella, director of the Rosenthal Archives. (If you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, please contact nyartcrime@fbi.gov.)

On November 18, 1921, seventeen-year-old Erica Morini made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Vieuxtemps’s First Violin Concerto with second music director Frederick Stock on the podium. “Good violinists, as all concert attendants know, are common enough these days, and most of them are young,” wrote Edward Moore in the Chicago Tribune. “Miss Morini, however, has a few things in her artistic makeup that take her widely out of even their class. It is not once in twenty times that one hears a violinist with the fiery vitality of this young girl. . . . She gave rise to more violinistic fireworks at higher speed and got more of them correct than any one who has been on the stage since the day that Jascha Heifetz took away the breath of the same audience a few years ago.”

One month later, Morini gave her debut recital in Orchestra Hall. In the Chicago Evening Post, Karleton Hackett wrote, “there was no doubt of the remarkable powers as well as the charm of this young artist. The tone was lovely in quality, the technique of extraordinary accuracy, and everything was done with gratifying ease. . . . Miss Morini has something to say with her violin and the power to say it.”

Morini’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, re-released on LP in 1957, featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. (RCA Victor)

Morini later earned the distinction of being not only the first violinist but also the first woman to commercially record as a soloist with the Orchestra. On December 12, 1945, she recorded Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto under the baton of third music director Désiré Defauw in Orchestra Hall. The initial RCA Victor release was as a 78 RPM record, and the subsequent 1957 LP re-release featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. For WGN, Morini was soloist with the Orchestra for a television broadcast recorded on December 10, 1961, performing Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto with George Szell conducting. The video was later released by Video Artists International.

A complete list of Morini’s performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is below.

November 18 and 19, 1921, Orchestra Hall
VIEUXTEMPS Violin Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 10
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 8 and 9, 1922, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
SARASATE Fantasy on Carmen for Violin and Orchestra
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 14 and 15, 1930, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 18 and 19, 1921

December 14, 1937, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 16 and 17, 1937, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Hans Lange, conductor

January 27, 1942, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
Frederick Stock, conductor

July 24, 1945, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Massimo Freccia, conductor

July 28, 1945, Ravinia Festival
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Massimo Freccia, conductor

December 3, 1945, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
December 6 and 7, 1945, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Hans Lange, conductor

December 11, 1945, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Désiré Defauw, conductor

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was initially released as a 78 RPM disc in 1946 by RCA Victor

December 10, 1946, Orchestra Hall
December 16, 1946, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Désiré Defauw, conductor

December 12 and 13, 1946, Orchestra Hall
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Désiré Defauw, conductor

November 22, 1949, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

November 24 and 25, 1949, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

July 3, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965

July 5, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Leonard Rose, cello
George Szell, conductor

December 7 and 8, 1961, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

December 10, 1961, WGN Studios
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

December 18, 1921

Erica Morini also gave three recitals in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

December 18, 1921
Emanuel Balaban, piano

January 14, 1923
Harry Kaufman, piano

April 3, 1949
Leon Pommers, piano

This article also appears here.

Jonathan Pegis in 2010 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the loss of Jonathan Pegis, who served as a member of the cello section from 1986 until 2018. He died yesterday of natural causes, at home in Waterloo, Iowa. Pegis was sixty-one.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jon Pegis, a very kind person and a wonderful player,” commented Riccardo Muti. “I will remember him and his wonderful contribution to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”

Born in Rochester, New York on May 7, 1960, Jonathan Pegis gave new meaning to the phrase “born into a musical family.” He was one of seven children, all whom played string instruments. Pegis began his studies at the Eastman School of Music’s Preparatory Department, where his first teacher was Alan Harris; he also studied with Lee Fiser, Paul Katz, and Lynn Harrell. Pegis completed undergraduate studies at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. While there, he joined the LaSalle Quartet and viola Donald McInnes on chamber music tours of the United States and Germany. Their 1982 recording of Schoenberg’s string sextet Transfigured Night for Deutsche Grammophon later received Japan’s Tokyo Record Academy prize.

Pegis returned to Rochester in 1984 to become a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and to attend Eastman, where he earned a master’s degree and a performer’s certificate. In 1986, he was invited by Sir Georg Solti to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s cello section, a post he held until his retirement in 2018. During his tenure, he frequently performed in chamber music, including concerts on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series and the Northwestern University Winter Chamber Music Festival. He also appeared as soloist at Chicago Cello Society concerts, with the Texas Chamber Orchestra, Highland Park Strings, and the Signature Symphony in Tulsa. In 1993, Pegis joined the faculty at Northwestern University, where taught cello orchestral studies until 2012. He also was a regular contributor to the cellobello.org blog.

Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night was recorded in 1982 for Deutsche Grammophon by the LaSalle Quartet along with viola Donald McInnes and cello Jonathan Pegis.

When he announced his retirement, Pegis expressed, “What a pleasure and memorable journey it has been to be a part of this tremendous organization for over thirty years. A dream come true! These few words are inadequate to express the privilege it has been to share with such an outstanding organization, exceptional colleagues—musicians and staff. I am most grateful for the lifetime of experiences and memories that we made throughout the world!”

Pegis is survived by his wife Dawn, along with sons Michael and Jason from his previous marriage to Lisa Rensberger. Services are pending, and in lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial gifts to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This article also appears here.

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