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December 8, 1893

December 8, 1893

The Art Institute of Chicago opened its new building—completed in time for the second year of the World’s Columbian Exposition—on December 8, 1893, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. For the opening reception, Theodore Thomas and the Orchestra performed Schubert’s Three Marches (from the Six Grand Marches, D. 819, orchestrated by Thomas), the second movement of Beethoven’s Second Symphony, Dvořák’s Second Slavonic Rhapsody, Goldmark’s Serenade from The Rustic Wedding, the Elegy and Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for String Orchestra, and Wagner’s Forest Murmurs from Siegfried.

The Spirit of Music in its original location on Michigan Avenue

The Spirit of Music in its original location on Michigan Avenue

The Art Institute’s south garden was the first site of The Spirit of Music, a memorial to Thomas, originally dedicated on April 24, 1924. It was designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and sculpted by Albin Polasek. Subsequently moved on multiple occasions and even temporarily presumed to be lost, the memorial ultimately was moved to Grant Park at the intersection of Michigan and Balbo avenues and rededicated on October 18, 1991, at the conclusion of the Orchestra’s centennial celebration.

Directly behind the statue is a carved frieze including images of musicians. In its center is an inscription with text culled from a telegram sent from Ignace Paderewski to Rose Fay Thomas on January 5, 1905, the day following her husband’s death. Upon hearing the news, Paderewski had written: “Scarcely any man in any land has done so much for the musical education of the people as did Theodore Thomas in this country. The nobility of his ideals with the magnitude of his achievement will assure him everlasting glory.”

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here and here.

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It seems like summer has finally arrived in Chicago, and today was one of those spectacular days that almost makes the winter seem worth it.

So, I took a walk down Michigan Avenue to one of my favorite places, the Theodore Thomas memorial in Grant Park: The Spirit of Music, crafted by sculptor Albin Polasek.

The statue was originally erected in 1924 in the south garden of the Art Institute, directly across the street from Orchestra Hall. Subsequently, it was moved a couple of times and was even presumed to be lost for a while. In its current location (in the park’s music garden), the monument was rededicated during the end of the CSO’s centennial celebration in October 1991.

Directly behind the statue, there is a carved frieze with images of musicians. In the very center is an inscription with text culled from a telegram sent to Rose Fay Thomas by Ignace Paderewski on January 5, 1905. Paderewski, a dear friend and frequent collaborator, had just heard the news of Thomas’s passing and wrote:

“The entire musical world joins you and family in deepest sorrow over your terrible bereavement. The passing away of your illustrious husband is an irreparable loss to our art for scarcely any man in any land has done so much for the musical education of the people as did Theodore Thomas in this country. The purity of his character, firmness of his principles, nobility of his ideals, together with the magnitude of his achievements will assure him everlasting glory in the history of artistic culture. Personally I deplore from the bottom of my soul the loss of one of my very dearest and most beloved friends. To you madame who have been devoted companion of the great departed, to you who have given him so much happiness we send both the homage of our profound affliction and mournful sympathy.”

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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