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Composer and conductor review the score of the George Lieder in December 1972 (Terry’s photo)

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti led two world premieres by American composer and Northwestern University music professor Alan Stout.

The first was the world premiere of Stout’s Symphony no. 4, given on April 15, 1971. It had been commissioned by The Orchestral Association for the 80th season and was dedicated to Solti. The work also incorporates a small chorus, and for these performances members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by associate director Ronald Schweitzer) were engaged.

According to Arrand Parsons‘s program note, “Although the chorus is used in an instrumental manner at several points in the score, in the Chorale of the fourth movement it is used to project the Latin text which is taken from Chapter 5 of The Lamentations of Jeremiah. . . . The score of Symphony no. 4 utilizes the musical language of this day without following any single line. Expressive and dramatic use of sound and of sonorous groupings is the principal motivating force in the music; a wide range of densities and textures is to be found organized in a way which may best be described as architectonic. Orchestral clusters of sound often serve as the foundation for the projection of thematic elements. The symphony is of a sectional nature, but with a continuity running from beginning to end, often punctuated by floods of sound, and with a sensitive orchestration which gives coherence to the whole.”

The second Stout premiere conducted by Solti was the George Lieder (Poems from Das neue Reich), given on December 14, 1972. English baritone Benjamin Luxon was the soloist.

According to Parsons, “The George Lieder, based on an ‘Epigraph’ and three poems from Stefan George‘s Das neue Reich (The New Kingdom), comes from 1962. In this work Stout has captured in the music the expressive mood of the poetry—the poems are all love poems of a mystical, transcendental nature. The first and second songs are set to the last poems written by George. They speak ‘about a sweet and burning light that drives even the steadfast soul hard to the abyss,’ wrote Ernst Morwitz in his commentary on the poet’s works. Musically, the first poem is set to quiet contemplation; the second song takes its cue for an intense and driving musical realization from the words: ‘Into deepest calm/In contemplative day/Suddenly intrudes a glimpse/Of unimagined terror/Disturbing the soul. . . .’ The final song, again in the words of Morwitz, ‘tells of the flawless and slender flame that shines victorious in consuming passion.’ This sustained piece builds to a climax on the words, ‘Ich küsse dich mit jedem duft [I kiss you with every scent],’ and then gradually dissolves into silence (niente).”

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Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Easley Blackwood‘s Fourth Symphony on November 22, 1978.

According to Arrand Parsons‘s program note, Blackwood “was one of several composers commissioned in 1970 by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in celebration of the Orchestra’s 80th anniversary. Blackwood began the work on the symphony right away, and the composition has been in progress during these nearly seven years. The first movement was finished in June 1976, at the time Sir Georg Solti was taping for Unitel television the first of a subsequent series of Orchestra Hall concerts with the Orchestra. Getting ready to return to England, Sir Georg scheduled a meeting with Blackwood in the parking area behind Orchestra Hall during the television taping sessions and they reviewed the movement with the score resting on the hood of a truck. Sir Georg encouraged the composer to complete the work, and from time to time after the parking lot incident he made inquiries as to the progress of the work. The completed score in the composer’s own manuscript was delivered to Sir Georg in June 1977.”

Blackwood and Solti in 1978

The composer also contributed to the program note: “When I was first approached about the possibility of composing a work for the Chicago Symphony, it immediately occurred to me that a work for very large orchestra would be most appropriate, given the particular nature and style of the Symphony. Sir Georg was very encouraging . . .

“I find it impossible to describe in words how the three movements go, except to say that all are conceived thematically, with transformations, variations, and fluctuations in modality that are not unlike traditional classical forms. Uppermost in my mind as I composed the work, was the creation of a harmonious musical design. I made no use of serial techniques, nor of any other compositional systems. Everything is written down within the conventional notation; there are no aleatory elements, nor any quotations from other works.

“No conscious effort was made to express anything other than musical ideas. Musical ideas, by their very nature, are evocative of feelings that cover a broad spectrum. Mere self-expression of emotion, must fall far short of the communicative powers inherent within the musical medium. The determination of the true meaning of a composition is more the province of the interpreter than the composer. Of course the composer’s own interpretation is of more than a little interest, but I do not think that it is the controlling factor. I am perfectly content to let the work speak for itself.”

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On October 25, 1973, Sir Georg Solti conducted the world premiere of Bohuslav Martinů’s First Violin Concerto with Josef Suk as soloist.

From Arrand Parsons’s program note: “It is a curious fact that a major work by a major 20th century composer has remained unknown and only in manuscript for over 40 years. (The Martinů Violin Concerto composed for Mischa Elman in 1943 and now known to be No. 2 was performed at CSO concerts on November 16-17, 1944, with Elman as soloist and with Désiré Defauw conducting.) The manuscript comes to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from the Hans Moldenhauer Archives, today one of the great collections of original manuscripts, a portion of which is held by Northwestern University. It was Dr. Moldenhauer who suggested to Josef Suk the idea of presenting the premiere performances in Chicago, to be followed shortly afterwards with performances in Prague. The Northwestern University Library made the score available to Sir Georg Solti, who was happy to program the premiere with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Concerto, composed for the Polish-born American violinist Samuel Dushkin probably in 1933, comprises three movements. It is a work of commanding virtuosity yet retaining an expressive lyricism characteristic of the composer, and it also reflects certain Czech qualities found in the works of Martinů in the 1930s when he lived in Paris but felt a nostalgia for his homeland.”

The program notes are here, and reviews of the premiere are here.

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Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Sir Michael Tippett‘s Fourth Symphony on October 6, 1977. A longtime friend of Sir Georg, the composer was in Chicago for the rehearsals and performances.

Tippett conceived the symphony in a single movement, and the instrumentation was one of the largest he had used to date. From Arrand Parsons‘s program note:

“Always original and inventive, Tippett has realized a special formal design for the Symphony which follows its own musical course. In brief summary, the work as a whole is built from three tempos, each with its own thematic idea. These three tempos are introduced in succession as the first division of the work; they then are repeated, not literally, and to each one a new thematic element is added, thus creating the second division. Tempo I introduces the third division and the music moves into a long and florid oboe solo, continued by the English horn, to make the equivalent of the slow movement of the Symphony. The ideas are then developed for division four, and there is a grand pause. Tempo III is elaborated into the equivalent of the scherzo (division five), with fragmented thematic elements ‘light, flying,’ and there evolves an elaborate fugal section which leads into another grand climax. After this, for division six, there is a recapitulation of the tempos, again varied, and a calm and tranquil passage diminishes to ‘nothing.’ This is the overall view of the events of the Symphony with its structurally placed climaxes.”

Solti and Sir Michael Tippett discuss a detail in the score - Orchestra Hall, October 1977


Solti and the Orchestra recorded Tippett’s Fourth Symphony on October 29, 1979, at Medinah Temple. For London Records, the recording was produced by James Mallinson and James Lock was the engineer.

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On April 18, 1985, Sir Georg Solti led the world premiere of Morton Gould‘s Flute Concerto, which had been commissoned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal flute, Donald Peck.

From Arrand Parsons‘s program note:

“The Concerto for Flute and Orchestra . . . was made possible by a generous gift to The Orchestral Association from Mrs. Katherine Lewis of Carmel, California. Mrs. Lewis was the wife of Herbert Lewis, a distinguished artist who was trained at the Chicago Academy of fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by a period of study at the Académie Julian in Paris. . . . [Herbert and Katherine] moved to Carmel, California in 1954 where he continued his prolific painting activity, oils and water colors. It was in Carmel that Mrs. Lewis became active in the annual Bach Festival and became acquainted with Donald Peck, who participated in the performances in 1970, 1971, and 1978. While Herbert Lewis died in 1962, the friendship between Mrs. Lewis and Donald Peck continued. After the arrangements to commission a flute concerto for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were completed, the selection of Morton Gould as composer was announced in June 1983. Morton Gould became acquainted with the artistry of Donald Peck during the several years he appeared as guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

“Recalling his long association, Morton Gould remarked, ‘Among my most pleasant memories are those years when I was guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and in recent years, as a listener, I have admired the “golden age” of Sir Georg Solti and the Orchestra. As a guest conductor I always admired the artistry of the members collectively and individually, and of course, the musical sensitivity and dedication of Donald Peck. . . . I cannot think of a better combination for a composer than Donald Peck, Sir Georg Solti, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.'”

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Theodore Thomas

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