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brucikner-9

During the Chicago Orchestra’s thirteenth season, Theodore Thomas programmed Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony for its first performances in the United States. This was the fourth of Bruckner’s symphonies to be performed by the Orchestra in Chicago, as Thomas had already led the Fourth in January 1897, the Third in March 1901, and the Second in February 1903.

On February 19, 1904, the capacity crowd at the Auditorium Theatre had gathered mainly to hear contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink, one of the most famous singers of the day. Thomas had strategically programmed the Bruckner on the first half of the concert between Schumann-Heink’s two selections—“Non più di fiori” from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and an orchestration of Schubert’s song “Die Allmacht”—to obviously assure that the premiere would be heard by all in attendance.

February 19 and 20, 1904

February 19 and 20, 1904

“The name of Bruckner caused these 3,700 persons [over 700 had been turned away] to listen in patient, long suffering to a piece of tedious music which endured for fifty-five wearisome minutes, and to applaud when the trial was at an end,” wrote William Lines Hubbard in the Chicago Tribune. “There may have been those in the audience yesterday who did not find the three movements of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony tedious almost beyond endurance, but certainly their number was small. . . . We have endured four of his symphonies in the last six years—please, Mr. Thomas, is there not somebody else it would be ‘good for us’ to hear? Anybody will be preferable to more Bruckner!”

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Cincinnati May Festival, May 26, 1892

Cincinnati May Festival, May 26, 1892

Music director of the Cincinnati May Festival since its inception in 1873, Theodore Thomas was eager to show off his new orchestra at the 1892 festival. The seven concerts were packed with symphonies, orchestral arrangements of chamber works and songs, extended sections and complete acts from operas (including Beethoven’s Fidelio; Gluck’s Alceste; Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Parsifal, and Tannhäuser; and Weber’s Euryanthe) along with large-scale choral works such as Becker’s Cantata, Dvořák’s Requiem, and Mendelssohn’s Saint Paul.

The fourth concert, on May 26, opened with the first two parts of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio followed by Schumann’s First Symphony after intermission. The concert closed with the U.S. premiere of Anton Bruckner’s Te Deum, with Corinne Moore-Lawson, Marie Ritter-Goetze, Edward Lloyd, and George Ellsworth Holmes as soloists. The Cincinnati May Festival Chorus was prepared by W.L. Blumenschein.

Cincinnati May Festival, May 14, 1904

Cincinnati May Festival, May 14, 1904

The Orchestra returned regularly to Cincinnati throughout Thomas’s tenure. His final appearance at the May Festival was on May 14, 1904, leading the Orchestra and Festival Chorus in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and Ninth Symphony, with soloists Agnes Nicholls, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, William Green, and Watkin Mills.

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