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Sherrill Milnes (Dario Acosta photo)

Wishing a very happy eighty-fifth birthday to the legendary American baritone Sherrill Milnes! A native of Downers Grove, Illinois, he also was a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus in the beginning of his professional singing career.

Milnes auditioned for Margaret Hillis in 1958 and became a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus in time for the beginning its second season. “I was knocked out by Margaret’s personality and musicality,” he said in a March 1976 interview with Winthrop Sargeant for The New Yorker. “Singing under Fritz Reiner could only be a great thrill for an amateur singer, and I was an amateur. It was pre-career. She had all the techniques of a modern choral conductor. For example, ‘staccato du.” It was the first time I had encountered it. To make sure you know the notes, you sing them ‘du-du-du’—each note very short. Also speaking the words to rhythm—in a monotone, with the rhythm of the music but without the melody. She was the first choral conductor I’d ever know who molded the sound of the chorus, making it change color, and so on. She had everybody sing the soprano part where there was a melody, and the same with the bass and other parts. She opened up a whole new world of musical ideas and rehearsal ideas. . . . I’m on the recording of Reiner’s Beethoven Ninth in the chorus [and] Alexander Nevsky with Reiner too. . . . I was hearing phrases thrown at me for the first time, and it was opening up a whole new world.”

Milnes has been a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of occasions, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, all listed below.

December 16, 1961, Orchestra Hall
BACH Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243
HAYDN Mass in D Minor, Hob. XXII:11 (Lord Nelson)
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Maria Ferriero, soprano
Teresa Orantes, soprano
Lili Chookasian, contralto
David Paige, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

February 15, 1964, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Lillian Garabedian, soprano
Marion Vincent, soprano
Julia Diane Ragains, soprano
Robert Johnson, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 19, 1964, Orchestra Hall
BERLIOZ L’enfance du Christ, Op. 25
Margaret Hillis, director
Jennie Tourel, mezzo-soprano
Seth McCoy, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
John West, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

HAYDN July 18, 1965, Ravinia Festival
ORFF Carmina burana
Seiji Ozawa, conductor
Julia Diane Ragains, soprano
Pierre Duval, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Alfred Reichel, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Christopher Moore, director

August 7 and 9, 1969, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Aida
Giuseppe Patanè, conductor
Sheldon Patinkin, stage director
Robert Hale, bass-baritone
Lili Chookasian, contralto
Martina Arroyo, soprano
Richard Tucker, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Ara Berberian, bass
Herbert Kraus, tenor
Carolyn Smith-Meyer, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 15 and 17, 1971, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Rigoletto
István Kertész, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Patricia Wise, soprano
John Alexander, tenor
Robert Hale, bass-baritone
John Walker, tenor
Bernard Izzo, baritone
Edna Garabedian, mezzo-soprano
Susan Lutz, mezzo-soprano
Eugene Johnson, bass
Phyllis Kirian, soprano
Julia Diane Ragains, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 1, 1972, Ravinia Festival
PUCCINI Tosca
James Levine, conductor
Teresa Kubiak, soprano
John Alexander, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Bernard Izzo, baritone
Charles Anthony, tenor
Andrew Földi, bass
Eugene Johnson, bass
Joseph Caccamo, boy soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

July 24, 1976, Ravinia Festival
WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
André Previn, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus
John Currie, director

July 9, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Kirk Stuart, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Philip Kraus, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 26, 1981, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Macbeth
James Levine, conductor
Renata Scotto, soprano
Giuliano Ciannella, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Timothy Jenkins, tenor
Gene Marie Callahan, soprano
Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Sharon Graham, mezzo-soprano
Duane Clenton Carter, baritone
Rush Tully, bass-baritone
Terry Cook, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis and James Winfied, directors

June 27, 1992, Ravinia Festival
SAINT-SAËNS Samson and Delilah
James Levine, conductor
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Bryn Terfel, bass-baritone
Sergei Koptchak, bass
David Anderson, tenor
John Concepcion, tenor
Paul Grizzell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Milnes also gave one recital under the auspices of Allied Arts (now Symphony Center Presents):

February 14, 1987, Orchestra Hall
Jon Spong, piano
MONDONVILLE Eole’s Aria from Titon et l’Aurore
LULLY Bois épais from Amadis
GRÉTRY O Richard, O mon roi from Richard Coeur-de-lion
SCHUBERT An die Leier, D. 737
SCHUBERT Die Liebe hat gelogen, D. 751
SCHUBERT Kriegers Ahnung from Schwanengesang, D. 957
SCHUBERT Die Allmacht, D. 852
SANTOLIQUIDO Le domandai
SANTOLIQUIDO Quando le domandai
SANTOLIQUIDO Io mi levai dal centro della terra
SANTOLIQUIDO Riflessi
MOZART Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo, K. 584
McGILL Duna
COPLAND The World Feels Dusty from Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson
TRADITIONAL/Copland At the River
arr. Dalway Love Trapped Me
arr. Dalway Killiney Strand
DUKE Luke Havergal
SAINT-SAËNS Qui donc commande from Henry VIII
Encores:
MOZART Fin ch’han dal vino calda la testa from Don Giovanni, K. 527
TRADITIONAL Shenandoah
TRADITIONAL/Britten Oliver Cromwell (sung by Spong with Milnes at the piano)
GIORDANO Nemico della patria from Andrea Chénier

Happy, happy birthday!

On June 29, 2014, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rafael Kubelík, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s fifth music director and a beloved guest conductor, who was a presence on the Orchestra Hall podium from 1949 until 1991.

November 1949 program book biography

November 1949 program book biography

On November 17, 1949, thirty-five-year-old Kubelík made his United States conducting debut, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the first of three weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall. Those programs (*including a few first CSO performances) were as follows:

November 17 and 18, 1949
SMETANA Overture to The Bartered Bride
MOZART Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 (Prague)
*JANÁČEK Taras Bulba
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

November 17 and 18, 1949, program page

November 17 and 18, 1949, program page

November 24 and 25, 1949
*MÍČA Symphony in D Major
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219
Erica Morini, violin
*MARTINŮ Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

December 1 and 2, 1949
HONEGGER Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

October 12 and 13, 1950, program page

October 12 and 13, 1950, program page

Barely a month later, on December 29, the Chicago Tribune announced that Kubelík would “become musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra next fall.”

Kubelík began his tenure as the Orchestra’s fifth (and youngest) music director in October 1950, opening the sixtieth season with Bach’s Fourth Orchestral Suite; the Orchestra’s first performances of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta; and Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. During his three-season tenure, he introduced over seventy works to the Orchestra’s repertory, and his interpretations of works from his native Czechoslovakia drew critical praise.

April 23 and 24, 1953, program page

April 23 and 24, 1953, program page

His final concerts as music director, given on April 23 and 24, 1953, included a single work, a concert version of Wagner’s Parsifal with Set Svanholm in the title role. Margaret Harshaw, Sigurd Björling, Jerome Hines, Andrew Földi, and Frederich Lechner filled out the rest of the principal cast.

Following his music directorship, Kubelík returned to guest conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions. His final appearance with the Orchestra was on October 18, 1991, when he conducted Dvořák’s Husitská Overture concluding the Gala Centennial Finale concert, a re-creation of the Orchestra’s first concert on October 16, 1891.

Stay tuned for part 2 . . .

Rafael Kubelík acknowledging applause at the conclusion of the Gala Centennial Finale concert on October 18, 1991

Rafael Kubelík acknowledging applause at the conclusion of the Gala Centennial Finale concert on October 18, 1991

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

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