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Wishing a very happy ninetieth birthday to the wonderful mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig!

Christa Ludwig in 1967 as Fricka in Wagner’s Die Walküre (Metropolitan Opera photo)

Ludwig has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on numerous occasions, at Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, and Carnegie Hall, as follows (concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

February 20, 21, and 25, 1958
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Richard Lewis, tenor

October 26 and 27, 1967
MAHLER Songs from Des knaben Wunderhorn
Alfred Wallenstein, conductor
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano

July 7, 1970 (Ravinia Festival)
MAHLER Kindertotenlieder
István Kertész, conductor
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano

April 24, 25, and 26, 1980
May 2 and 3, 1980 (Carnegie Hall)
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Isobel Buchanan, soprano
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Christa Ludwig in 2014 (Ernst Kainerstorfer photo)

April 25, 26, and 27, 1985
April 29, 1985 (Carnegie Hall)
VERDI Falstaff
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Guillermo Sarabia, baritone
Wolfgang Brendel, baritone
Yordi Ramiro, tenor
Heinz Zednik, tenor
Francis Egerton, tenor
Aage Haugland, bass
Katia Ricciarelli, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 5, 1991 (Ravinia Festival)
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
James Levine, conductor
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor

Happy, happy birthday!

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Inaugurating its new thousand-watt transmitter, WMAQ used seven microphones in picking up the first Chicago Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast on December 10, 1925. Frederick Stock conducted at Orchestra Hall, and, seated in the organ loft with a clear view of the Orchestra, assistant conductor Eric DeLamarter operated the radio-control unit used to regulate the microphones (switching in and out, but not controlling volume) in order to produce the best possible balance.

Chicago Daily News, December 9, 1925

Chicago Daily News, December 9, 1925

The concert, a potpourri of popular favorites, included Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theodore Thomas’s arrangement of “Träume” from Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, Massenet’s Meditation from Thaïs with concertmaster Jacques Gordon, Saint-Saëns’s The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals with principal cello Alfred Wallenstein, and Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio italien. Interspersed throughout the program, contralto Sophie Braslau, accompanied by pianist Louise Linder, performed several songs (including Schubert’s “Der Erlkönig”) from WMAQ’s studio on the eighteenth floor of the LaSalle Hotel.*

Elmer Douglass in the Chicago Tribune called the broadcast “a marvelous success. When the Orchestra broke in with the soft opening tones of Halvorsen’s March of the Boyards, it was realized that all was well. It was phenomenally clear and pure, and, best of all, the true, pure, characteristic tones as though they were heard from a choice seat in Orchestra Hall itself. We could all but see the separate instruments.”

“An artistic and mechanical triumph,” reported the Chicago Daily News (which then also owned WMAQ). “The applause of the radio audience in the form of telephone calls, telegrams, letters, and postal cards is sweeping like an avalanche.”

Subsequent radio broadcasts were carried over a variety of stations, the longest syndication on WFMT from 1976 through 2001. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra returned to the airwaves in April 2007, syndicated throughout the U.S. by WFMT, featuring performances recorded live as well as recordings from its extensive discography. The first program included Miguel Harth-Bedoya leading Rossini’s Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Yanov-Yanovsky’s Night Music: Voice in the Leaves, Chen and He’s The Butterfly Lovers with erhu soloist Betty Xiang, and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma.

* The LaSalle Hotel, located on the northwest corner of LaSalle Street and Madison Street, was completed in 1909 and demolished in 1976. The lot currently is the home of Two North LaSalle Street, completed in 1979.

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