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Frederica von Stade (Robert Millard photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to the wonderful American mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade!

Von Stade has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions, at the Ravinia Festival and in Carnegie Hall, as follows.

May 1 and 2, 1981, Carnegie Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1)
Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
José van Dam, baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Solti also led performances of Berlioz’s work at Orchestra Hall in Chicago on April 23 and 25, 1981, prior to the Carnegie Hall performances. Unfortunately, Frederica von Stade had to cancel due to illness. She was replaced by Chicago Symphony Chorus member Mary Beth Stephen on April 23 and Claudine Carlson on April 25.

Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust was recorded by London in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981. James Mallinson was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were sound engineers. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Berlioz album cover

July 9, 1988, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Levine, conductor

July 14, 1996, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te? . . . Non temer, amato bene (with Claude Frank, piano)
MAHLER Songs from Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

August 14, 1999, Ravinia Festival
MOZART “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio” from La clemenza di Tito,
LEHÁR “Vilja” and “Lippen schweigen” (with John Aler, tenor) from The Merry Widow
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 8, 2000, Ravinia Festival
Selections from:
COPLAND Old American Songs
KERN Show Boat
OFFENBACH The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
MOZART Don Giovanni
RODGERS Oklahoma! and South Pacific
SONDHEIM A Little Night Music
with Samuel Ramey, bass
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

August 5 and 7, 2010, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Così fan tutte
Ana María Martínez, soprano
Ruxandra Donose, mezzo-soprano
Saimir Pirgu, tenor
Rodion Pogossov, baritone
Richard Stilwell, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
James Conlon, conductor

Happy, happy birthday!

On April 21, 2020, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra family celebrates the centennial of Italian composer and conductor Bruno Maderna (1920–1973).

According to Phillip Huscher, “For many years he had been a close friend of Pierre Boulez (and a true friend of all those involved in new music activities) and a treasured colleague; like Boulez, he had made his mark both as a composer and as a conductor. ‘In fact, to get any real idea of what he was like as a person,’ Boulez wrote at the time of his death, ‘the conductor and the composer must be taken together; for Maderna was a practical person, equally close to music whether he was performing or composing.'”

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra first performed music by Maderna at the Ravinia Festival on July 23, 1967, when Luciano Berio led a performance of the Serenata no. 2. In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis wrote, that Maderna’s work “fashioned a post-Webern web of deceptively individual notes into an evocative introduction [to the concert].”

As a conductor, Maderna himself led the Orchestra on several occasions, as follows:

January 15 and 17, 1970, Orchestra Hall
SCHUBERT/Maderna Five Pieces for Piano, Four Hands
MADERNA Quadrivium (U.S. premiere)
BERIO Epifanie
Cathy Berberian, soprano
STRAVINSKY Circus Polka
STRAVINSKY Scherzo à la russe

January 16, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MADERNA Quadrivium
BERIO Epifanie
Cathy Berberian, soprano
SCHUBERT/Maderna Five Pieces for Piano, Four Hands

Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, and Karlheinz Stockhausen

January 22 and 23, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 31, D Major, K. 297 (Paris)
BROWN From Here*
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
GABRIELI/Maderna Motet:: In Ecclesiis
VLIJMEN Serenata II for Flute and Orchestra
Donald Peck, flute
SCHOENBERG Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
*In Earle Brown’s From Here, Maderna conducted the Orchestra and the composer conducted the Chorus.

June 29, 1971, Ravinia Festival
GABRIELI/Maderna Motet: In Ecclesiis
STRAVINSKY Jeu de cartes
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Van Cliburn, piano

March 16, 17, and 18, 1972
MOZART Serenade in D Major, K. 239 (Serenata notturna)
SCHOENBERG Concerto for Violin, Op. 36
Esther Glazer, violin
DRUCKMAN Windows (world premiere)
DEBUSSY Jeux

March 23, 24, and 25, 1972
SCHOENBERG Transfigured Night, Op. 4
LEVY Trialogus (world premiere)
STRAVINSKY Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments
Earl Wild, piano
MADERNA Aura (world premiere)

On March 3, 4, 5, and 8, 2005, David Robertson led the Orchestra in performances of Boulez’s Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna. Written shortly after Maderna’s death in 1974 and 1975, Boulez described the work as “A ceremony of memory, in which there are numerous repetitions of the same formulas, in constantly changing profiles and perspectives.” Phillip Huscher’s program note from those performances can be found here.

Christoph Eschenbach (Eric Brissaud photo)

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to German pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach!

Eschenbach’s association with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began over fifty years ago, when he was piano soloist in the U.S. premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s Second Piano Concerto under the baton of the composer on January 30, 31, and February 1, 1969, in Orchestra Hall. “For all its integrated construction, the concerto depends greatly upon the soloist. So much, in fact, that it is difficult to imagine the work succeeding if Christoph Eschenbach were not at the keyboard,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune. “The harder the passages, the more he seems to relish their challenge . . . he can drive a climax to its emotional peak and the next moment be spinning delicate filigree requiring the greatest control and concentration.”

At the Ravinia Festival, Eschenbach made his debut as piano soloist on July 25, 1973, in Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Riccardo Muti—in his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—on the podium. As a conductor, Eschenbach first led the Orchestra at Ravinia on August 3, 1978, in an all-Beethoven program: the Second Piano Concerto (conducting from the keyboard) and the Third Symphony.

In Orchestra Hall, he first led the Orchestra (as a last-minute replacement for Klaus Tennstedt) in Mahler’s Sixth Symphony on December 20, 21, and 22, 1990. “His credentials as a Mahlerian are impressive,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “He has the force of imagination and perception to fuse the sprawling rhetoric of Mahler’s most tragic symphony into a statement at once structurally coherent and emotionally compelling. . . . In Eschenbach’s hands, the finale was a true culmination, breathing an air of desperate defiance from first to last. He balanced light and shade, serenity and strife, with a white-hot intensity and concentration not heard here since Georg Solti’s Mahler Sixth years ago.”

1969 publicity flyer for Christoph Eschenbach

To coincide with the Ravinia Festival’s sixtieth season, along with an $11.5 million renovation of the pavilion and grounds, executive director Zarin Mehta announced in September 1994 that Eschenbach would be the festival’s third music director beginning in the summer of 1995.

For his first concert in that capacity on June 29, 1995, Eschenbach led the Orchestra in Rouse’s Phaethon, Bruch’s First Violin Concerto with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Regarding Mahler’s symphony, von Rhein wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “It was a highly individual interpretation, to be sure, but Eschenbach has the command, the control, to make our band share his convictions and carry out his ideas all the way.” In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma added, “The audience was on its feet seconds after the Mahler ended, cheering and applauding, sending up waves of still louder cheers as Eschenbach motioned to CSO principals and soloists, especially brass and woodwinds, to take their bows.”

Eschenbach served the Ravinia Festival through the 2003 summer season. He gave his final concerts as music director with the Orchestra on August 10, leading Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 12 (from the keyboard), Bernstein’s Symphony no. 2 (The Age of Anxiety) with pianist Christopher Taylor, and Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Lang Lang.

Most recently, he led the Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on February 22, 23, 24, and 27, 2018, leading Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz, Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto with David Fray, and Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Fourth Symphony.

To celebrate his eightieth birthday, Eschenbach returns to the Ravinia Festival in the summer of 2020, to lead the Orchestra in three concerts:

August 7, 2020
KHACHATURIAN Flute Concerto
Stathis Karapanos, flute
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

August 8, 2020
THEODORAKIS (arr. Wastor and Karapanos) Zorbas Suite
Stathis Karapanos, flute
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Erin Wall, soprano
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Paul Appleby, tenor
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

August 9, 2020
KORNGOLD Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
William Hagen, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Happy, happy birthday!

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

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!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the death of the remarkable German tenor and conductor Peter Schreier, who died in Dresden on December 25, 2019, following a long illness. He was 84.

Schreier appeared in recital and with the Orchestra, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, as follows:

March 13, 1995, Orchestra Hall
SCHUBERT Winterreise, D. 911
Peter Schreier, tenor
Daniel Barenboim, piano

August 4, 1996, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMANN Scenes from Goethe’s Faust
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Rebecca Evans, soprano
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Peter Schreier, tenor
Bo Skovhus, baritone
Alan Held, bass-baritone
Franz-Josef Selig, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Barrington Children’s Choir

March 6, 7, 8, and 11, 1997, Orchestra Hall
BACH The Passion According to Saint Matthew, BWV 244
Peter Schreier, conductor and evangelist
Julie Kaufmann, soprano
Monica Groop, mezzo-soprano
Steve Davislim, tenor
Klaus Mertens, baritone
Peter Lika, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, chorus director
Chicago Children’s Choir
William Chin, director

December 16, 17, and 18, 1999
BACH Parts 1, 2, and 3 from Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248
Peter Schreier, conductor and evangelist
Ute Selbig, soprano
Rosemarie Lang, mezzo-soprano
Thomas Cooley, tenor
Egbert Junghanns, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

June 7, 8, 9, and 10, 2001
BACH The Passion According to Saint John, BWV 245
Peter Schreier, conductor and evangelist
Camilla Nylund, soprano
Annette Markert, mezzo-soprano
Marcus Ullmann, tenor
Jörg Hempel, baritone
Stephan Loges, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

March 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16, 2004
HANDEL Messiah
Peter Schreier, conductor
Esther Heideman, soprano
Jane Gilbert, mezzo-soprano
Randal Rushing, tenor
Kevin Burdette, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

Numerous tributes have been posted online at BBC News and AP News, among many others.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of British conductor Raymond Leppard, who died yesterday in Indianapolis. He was 92.

Raymond Leppard (Frank Espich photo for the IndyStar)

Leppard appeared with the Orchestra on several occasions, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, and a complete list of his appearances is below.

May 15, 16, and 17, 1980, Orchestra Hall
BACH Air from Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
Performed in memory of Guido Rizzo, a member of the CSO’s viola section since 1947
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Serenade to Music
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS A Sea Symphony
Isobel Buchanan, soprano
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 17, 18, and 20, 1981, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Serenade No. 13 G Major, K. 525 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)
DEBUSSY Nocturnes
Chicago Symphony Chorus
James Winfield, director
SCHUMAN Three Colloquies for French Horn and Orchestra
Dale Clevenger, horn
STRAUSS Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

April 28, 29, and May 1, 1983, Orchestra Hall
BRITTEN Occasional Overture
DAVIES Stone Litany: Runes from a House of the Dead
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
BAX Tintagel
ELGAR Symphony No. 1 in A-flat Major, Op. 55

January 9, 10, and 11, 1986, Orchestra Hall
CHABRIER Suite pastorale
BARTÓK Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion, and Orchestra
Anthony and Joseph Paratore, pianos
BIZET Symphony No. 1 in C Major

July 18, 1986, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21
HAYDN Piano Concerto in D Major, H. XVIII:2
Alfred Brendel, piano
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
Alfred Brendel, piano
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28

July 19, 1986, Ravinia Festival
DVORÁK Symphonic Variations, Op. 78
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
Cho-Liang Lin, violin
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade, Op. 35
Samuel Magad, violin

Numerous tributes have been posted in The New York Times, NPR, and The Indianapolis Star, among several others.

Title page of Beethoven’s Third Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

Regarding the Third Symphony, “Beethoven, now fully emancipated from the preceding era, may be said for the first time to stand forth and show his lion’s paw!” wrote Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “In my judgment, the Eroica is only a perfectly legitimate step forward, a logical sequence in his normal development. . . . His soul now began to long to express that which had never before been said in music—anticipating centuries; hence this symphony, the first dawn of modern music, written in a definite mood, giving expression to the soul through color and contrast rather than attempting to illustrate a specific program.”

1954 recording (RCA)

“The Eroica is perhaps the first great symphony to have captured the romantic imagination,” according to CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Beethoven’s vast and powerful first movement and the funeral march that follows must have sounded like nothing else in all music. Never before had symphonic music aspired to these dimensions. . . . Beethoven’s Allegro con brio was longer—and bigger, in every sense—than any other symphonic movement at the time (the first movement of Mozart’s Prague Symphony comes the closest). It’s also a question of proportion, and Beethoven’s central development section, abounding in some truly monumental statements, is enormous.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Third Symphony during the first season, on January 12, 1892, at The Odeon in Cincinnati and later that week in Chicago on January 15 and 16 at the Auditorium Theatre.

1973–74 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on December 4, 1954. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The Third Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 5, 6, and 9, 1973, and May 18, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Third Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 6 and 8, 1989. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

Title page of Beethoven’s First Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

In Beethoven’s First Symphony, “the composer tries his wings,” according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director. In Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies, Thomas continues: “It is sometimes said that the First Symphony is Haydn and Mozart rather than Beethoven, but that is not correct. It is Beethoven, pure and simple, but Beethoven carrying on the art of his day as it had been transmitted to him by his predecessors. He knew no other style of symphonic writing because, until his own later development, there was no other. . . . One might say that Haydn and Mozart were the cradle in which the art of Beethoven was rocked, and in the First Symphony, his art was still in this cradle. . . . [The First Symphony] is a noble work and is of especial interest as the connecting link between the art of the classic and that of the romantic period.”

1961 recording (RCA)

CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher agrees. “As the first symphony by the greatest symphonist who ever lived, one might expect clues of the daring and novelty to come; since it was written at the turn of the century and premiered in Vienna, the great musical capital, in 1800, one might assume that it is with this work that Beethoven opened a new era in music. But, in fact, this symphony belongs to the eighteenth, not the nineteenth, century; it honors the tradition of Mozart, dead less than a decade, and Haydn, who had given Beethoven enough lessons to know that his student would soon set out on his own.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s First Symphony during the third season, on May 4 and 5, 1894, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on May 8, 1961. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The First Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 14, 15, and 18, 1974 (along with the Second Symphony). Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989-90 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The First Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 14 and 16, 1989, and January 27, 1990 (along with the Second Symphony). Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

Leonard Slatkin (Nico Rodamel photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family wishes American conductor Leonard Slatkin a very happy seventh-fifth birthday on September 1, 2019! A frequent and favorite guest conductor, he has appeared with the Orchestra on countless occasions—in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival—over the last forty-eight years.

At the invitation of CSO general manager John Edwards, Slatkin—in his second season as assistant conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony—made his debut in Orchestra Hall with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on March 6, 1970, leading the following program:

SCHUBERT Overture to Rosamunde, D. 644
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
SCHUMAN New England Triptych
FAURÉ Pelleas and Melisande, Op. 80
RESPIGHI Pines of Rome

March 6, 1970

Slatkin’s program book biography for March 6, 1970

The following year, Slatkin first led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducting two free, outdoor Symphony in the Streets concerts, one in the parking lot at Park Forest Shopping Plaza and the other at the Jubilee Celebration site in Westmont, as follows:

July 12, 1971, Park Forest, Illinois
July 21, 1971, Westmont, Illinois
BARBER Adagio for Strings
GRIEG Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46
GRIEG Ingrid’s Lament from Peer Gynt Suite No. 2, Op. 55
ROSSINI Overture to William Tell
J. STRAUSS, Jr. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Overture to Die Fledermaus
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Perpetual Motion, Op. 257
SOUSA The Stars and Stripes Forever

Also during that residency, he led the Orchestra on a children’s concert at the Ravinia Festival on July 13, conducting the following program:

IVES/Schuman Variations on “America”
SATIE/Debussy Gymnopédie No. 3
SATIE/Debussy Gymnopédie No. 1
BERLIOZ Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
BACH/Cailliet Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578 (Little)
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba-Yagá), The Great Gate of Kiev, Bydło (Oxcart), and Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks from Pictures at an Exhibition
TCHAIKOVSKY Scherzo. Pizzicato ostinato: Allegro (third movement) from Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36

And on April 4, 5, and 7, 1974, Slatkin made his debut with the Orchestra on subscription concerts, with this program:

April 4, 5, and 7, 1974

PURCELL Chacony in G Minor
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony no. 6 in E Minor
PISTON Symphony No. 2
RAVEL La valse

“Leonard Slatkin, an enormously talented young American musician who will be the principal conductor of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra this summer, made his subscription concert debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Thursday night at Orchestra Hall,” wrote Robert C. Marsh in the Chicago Sun-Times. “He has at 29 all the skills and all the qualities of leadership necessary to win the respect of a great orchestra and have them play for him with enthusiasm and the fullest measure of their talent. . . . What was impressive in the manner in which Slatkin could prepare three new works [Purcell, Vaughan Williams, and Piston] and have the orchestra playing them with security and bravura as if they were repertory standards. This, plus the clarity and precision of his beat, promises good things to come . . .”

“As a result of Daniel Barenboim’s cancellation—to be with his ailing wife [Jacqueline du Pré]—Slatkin, who is associate conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony, has this week’s subscription concerts,” added Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune. “He has a direct, music-oriented competence which shows the thoroughness of his training and his concentration on things that matter. Conductors with more experience than he have foundered on the tempo changes in Ravel’s La valse, but he piloted the ensemble through each tempo change with an easy skill, catching the upbeats, shifting into overdrive, and pacing the rising line of apotheosis precisely.”

Slatkin leads the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists in the world premiere of Ned Rorem’s Goodbye My Fancy on November 8, 1990 (Jim Steere photo)

A staunch advocate for new music, Slatkin led the Orchestra in the world premieres of Donald Erb’s Concerto for Brass and Orchestra on April 16, 1987; Jacob Druckman’s Brangle on March 28, 1989; and Ned Rorem’s Goodbye My Fancy with mezzo-soprano Wendy White, bass-baritone John Cheek, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Margaret Hillis) on November 8, 1990. He also led the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Quatre chansons françaises with mezzo-soprano Claudine Carlson on May 19, 1983.

And most recently, he returned to the Ravinia Festival on August 7, 2019, leading the Orchestra in this program:

RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Denis Matsuev, piano
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade
Robert Chen, violin

Happy, happy birthday, Maestro Slatkin!

Slatkin, Margaret Hillis, Ned Rorem, John Cheek, and Wendy White acknowledge applause on November 8, 1990 (Jim Steere photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the death of Israeli mezzo-soprano Mira Zakai, who died on May 20, 2019. She was seventy-six.

Mira Zakai in 2013 (Daniel Tchetchik photo)

Zakai appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on several notable occasions, both in the concert hall and in the recording studio. A complete list is below.

MOZART Mass in C Major, K. 317 (Coronation)
March 13, 14, and 15, 1980, Orchestra Hall
Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Alexander Oliver, tenor
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Originally recorded by WFMT for radio broadcast, this was released on the CSO’s From the Archives, vol. 13 (Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration).

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
May 5, 6, 7, and 8, 1980, Medinah Temple, (recording sessions only)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Isobel Buchanan, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The symphony was performed in Orchestra Hall on April 24, 25, and 26 in Orchestra Hall and on May 2 and 3, 1980, in Carnegie Hall with Buchanan and Christa Ludwig as soloists. James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock and John Dunkerley were the balance engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
October 2, 3, 4, and 6, 1980, Orchestra Hall
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Faye Robinson, soprano (October 2, 3, and 4)
Jill Gomez, soprano (October 6)
Teresa Cahill, soprano
Jo Ann Pickens, soprano
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (October 2, 3, and 4)
Dennis Bailey, tenor (October 6)
Brent Ellis, baritone
Theo Adam, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

SCHOENBERG Moses und Aron
April 19 and 21, 1984, Orchestra Hall
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Franz Mazura, speaker
Philip Langridge, tenor
Barbara Bonney, soprano
Daniel Harper, tenor
Kurt Link, baritone
Aage Haugland, bass
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Herbert Wittges, baritone
Thomas Dymit, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Members of the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
The opera was recorded in Orchestra Hall on April 23, 24, 30, and May 1, 1984. James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock and John Pellowe were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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