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Page 3 of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; note "Property of Theo Thomas" stamps

Page 3 of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; note “Property of Theo Thomas” stamps

On October 16 and 17, 1891, founder and first music director Theodore Thomas led the Chicago Orchestra’s inaugural concerts at the Auditorium Theatre. A group of more than fifty businessmen—including Chicago pioneers Armour, Fay, Field, Glessner, McCormick, Potter, Pullman, Ryerson, Sprague, and Wacker—had agreed to serve as guarantors, each pledging their continued financial support.

At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., this giving spirit is the focus of a long-term Philanthropy Initiative announced on #GivingTuesday that includes a new display, “Giving in America” unveiled on December 1, 2015, and on view through November 2016. Included in this display is a very special artifact from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rosenthal Archives: the oldest of Thomas’s scores for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a work prominently featured on those inaugural concerts.

examing

CSO archivist Frank Villella and Newberry Library manuscripts and archives librarian Alison Hinderliter examine the score

In the Thomas collection, there are four copies of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: three are held in the Rosenthal Archives and one at the Newberry Library. Several months ago, Newberry Library manuscripts and archives librarian Alison Hinderliter and I carefully evaluated all four copies. While it’s impossible to determine exactly which score was used for the October 1891 concerts, we decided the most likely candidate was the oldest of the four scores. That particular edition clearly bears Thomas’s markings—particularly bowings in the string parts—along with the conductor’s personal stamp on numerous pages. Several weeks ago, it was carefully packaged and shipped to Washington, D.C. for the exhibit.

preparing for shipment

Safely preparing the score for shipment from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

According to museum’s website, the preview cases for “Giving in America,” will “provide a look at how philanthropy has shaped American civic culture in two eras—the Gilded Age (1870s–1900) and the present day. The display showcases the role of philanthropy in creating some of the nation’s most enduring museums, libraries, orchestras, universities, and hospitals. It also examines the involvement of women in nineteenth-century philanthropy. Artifacts include a register book showing the 1,600 libraries financed by Andrew Carnegie, an 1881 gown designed by Charles Frederick Worth for philanthropist Mary Eno Pinchot . . . a nurse’s cap worn by a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing student (circa 1945), and current civic philanthropy stories.”

For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu.

Page 35 of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; note several markings in blue pencil, primarily indicating bowings in the string parts

Page 35 of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; note several markings in blue pencil, primarily indicating bowings in the string parts

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Articles of Incorporation for The Orchestral Association

Articles of Incorporation for The Orchestral Association

The first meeting for the incorporation of The Orchestral Association was held at the Chicago Club on December 17, 1890, at which a board of five trustees was elected to serve: Adolphus Clay Bartlett, Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, Charles Norman Fay, Charles Davidson Hamill, and Ezra Butler McCagg. A group of fifty-one businessmen—including Chicago pioneers Armour, Field, Glessner, McCormick, Potter, Pullman, Ryerson, Sprague, and Wacker—volunteered to serve as guarantors, each pledging their financial support for three years.

Theodore Thomas, then the most popular conductor in America, would be, as specified in his first contract, engaged to “determine the character and standard of all performances given by the Association, and to that end make all programs, select all soloists, and take the initiative in arranging for choral and festival performances . . . [attaining] the highest standard of artistic excellence in all performances given by the Association.”

According to the Memoirs of Theodore Thomas, “I never expected to see the day when I would be told I would be ‘held responsible’ for maintaining the highest standard of artistic excellence in my musical work. All my life I have been told that my standard was too high, and urged to make it more popular. But now, I am not only to be given every facility to create the highest standard, but am even told that I will be held responsible for keeping it so! I have to shake myself to realize it!”

This article also appears here.

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

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