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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has recorded each of Brahms’s four symphonies multiple times and also has recorded the complete cycle on three different occasions. A complete listing is below.

During his tenure as Ravinia Festival music director, James Levine recorded the symphonies with the Orchestra for RCA at Medinah Temple. The recordings were produced by Thomas Z. Shepard and Paul Goodman was the recording engineer. Jay David Saks also co-produced the First Symphony, which was recorded in July 1975. The remaining three were recorded in July 1976.

Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti also led the Orchestra in sessions at Medinah Temple. For London, the four symphonies (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures) were produced by James Mallinson; Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The Third and Fourth symphonies were recorded in May 1978, and the First and Second were recorded in January 1979. The set won 1979 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Daniel Barenboim, the Orchestra’s ninth music director, recorded the four symphonies (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures and the Variations on a Theme by Haydn) live at Orchestra Hall for Erato. Vic Muenzer was producer, Lawrence Rock was the sound engineer, assisted by Christopher Willis; and Konrad Strauss was the mastering engineer. All four symphonies were recorded live in 1993: the First and Third in May, the Fourth in September, and the Second in October.

Recordings of the individual symphonies by other conductors are listed below.

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Recorded by Mercury in Orchestra Hall in April 1952
David Hall, recording director
C. Robert Fine and George Piros engineers

Günter Wand, conductor
Recorded live for RCA in Orchestra Hall in January 1989
Norman Pellegrini and David Frost, producers
Mitchell Heller, recording engineer
John Purcell, post-production engineer

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90

Frederick Stock, conductor
Recorded by Columbia in New York’s Liederkranz Hall in November 1940

Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded by RCA in Orchestra Hall in December 1957
Richard Mohr, producer

Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Recorded by Angel in Medinah Temple in October 1969
Peter Andry, producer
Carson Taylor, balance engineer

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Brahms’s four symphonies at Orchestra Hall in May. Details here and here.

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Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Bruckner’s ten symphonies between January 1979 and October 1995 for London Records.

Symphony No. 0 in D Minor
Michael Woolcock, producer
Michael Mailes and Simon Eadon, engineers
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
October 1995

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Linz version, 1865-66)
Michael Woolcock, producer
John Dunkerley and Andrew Groves, engineers
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
February 1995

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
John Pellowe, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
October 1991

Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (1877 version, ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
November 1992

Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (ed. Nowak)
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
January 1981

Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
January 1980

Symphony No. 6 in A Major
Ray Minshull, producer
Colin Moorfoot, James Lock, and Kenneth Wilkinson, engineers
Recorded at Medinah Temple
January and June 1979
The recording of the Sixth Symphony won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Michael Haas, producer
Simon Eadon, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
October 1986

Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (1890 version, ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot and James Lock, engineers
Recorded at Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonia (now the Saint Petersburg Philharmonia)
November 1990

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
September and October 1985

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Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Brahms’s four symphonies between May 1978 and January 1979 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures), and that set won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

For the liner notes, Solti contributed the following:

“I would like to make a few comments about aspects of our recording of the Brahms symphonies, which formed part of a Brahms cycle that included the German Requiem, the Hadyn Variations, and the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures.

“The recordings, which were all made in the Medinah Temple, Chicago, took place over a period of approximately fifteen months, between October 1977, when we started with the Haydn Variations and January 1979, when we completed the cycle with the First and Second symphonies. My principal aim was to try to capture the feeling of real performances on record, and with this in mind, we always recorded whole movements without breaks. I am convinced that this is the only way, especially in the symphonies, to keep the musical architecture of the works alive. It is a tribute to the splendid quality of my Chicago orchestra and chorus that we seldom made more than two takes of anything, and there is in fact one movement of the Requiem which required just a single take.

“I would just like to highlight a few of my thoughts on each of the symphonies:

“The First Symphony is a work of dramatic tension, passion, and grandeur, which inspired von Bülow to refer to it as Beethoven’s Tenth—not, I feel, so much in relation to Beethoven as in this very sense of grandeur. In the first movement, the drama is so effectively created by Brahms by the relentless flow of rhythmic ostinati from the timpani beats at the outset to the throbbing on horns and timpani which underlies the final bars. The second movement has, in contrast, such a gentle, nostalgic, and lyrical quality and gives, together with the third and fourth movements, a variety of beautiful solos for the section leaders.

“In the Second and Third symphonies, while the coloring is much lighter, I have tried again to achieve structural clarity and to reproduce the chamber music quality which is so in evidence in these works, especially in the second and third movements of both. So as to enhance this, we used slightly fewer than full string strength and also undoubled woodwinds.

“The Fourth Symphony is structurally quite differently formed from the first three. The first movement is relatively shorter and the middle two movements much larger both in conception and content. With the last movement comes the complete break with both his own and symphonic tradition, by the creation of such a marvelous passacaglia.

“The question of first movement exposition repeats in the first three symphonies is a debated one. For each of these, Brahms composed prima and seconda volta bars which contain of course marvelous music. In live performances, I feel it should be left to the conductor’s discretion. Nearly always the repeats are omitted, as they make the works rather longer, but I felt that for recording it was important to preserve these few bars, and I have therefore kept in all the repeats. I was interested to discover that I was not alone in never having played the repeat in the First Symphony in all the performances I had ever conducted up until this recording. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had also never done so in the almost ninety years of its existence. So we were all hearing these bars for the first time!

“We had enormous joy in making these records and we felt, at the same time, a very great artistic responsibility. I hope that we have managed to convey some of both.”

All recordings on the set were produced by James Mallinson; Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, and Michael Mailes were the engineers.

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
January 1979

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Tragic Overture, Op. 81
May 1978

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Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first trip to the Soviet Union and Hungary in November 1990, also including a single stop in Vienna.

Program page for the November 24 concert in Moscow

November 21, 1990 – Bolshoi Hall of the Philharmonie, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Soviet Union
Saturday, November 24, 1990 – Great Hall of the Conservatory, Moscow, Soviet Union
Friday, November 30, 1990 – Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, Austria
BARTÓK Dance Suite
MAHLER Symphony No. 5

November 22, 1990 – Bolshoi Hall of the Philharmonie, Leningrad, Soviet Union
Monday, November 26, 1990 – Great Hall of the Conservatory, Moscow, Soviet Union
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8

Wednesday, November 28, 1990 – Congress Centre, Budapest, Hungary
BARTÓK Dance Suite
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 3
András Schiff, piano
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra

Solti, along with members of the Orchestra and staff, poses in front of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square

Two recordings were made during the tour, both for London Records. The performance of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony was recorded live in Leningrad on November 22 (London’s first recording venture in the Soviet Union); Michael Haas was the producer, James Lock and Colin Moorfoot were the engineers, and Sally Drew was the tape editor. Mahler’s Fifth Symphony was recorded live in Vienna on November 30, Michael Haas was the producer, Stan Goodall was the engineer, and Matthew Hutchinson was the tape editor.

The concerts in Leningrad and Moscow were part of a cultural exchange that brought the Leningrad Philharmonic to Chicago for two weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, with Music Director Yuri Temirkanov and Associate Conductor Mariss Jansons sharing the podium:

November 13, 15, and 18, 1990
Yuri Temirkanov, conductor
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Viktor Tretyakov, violin
TCHAIKOVSKY Manfred Symphony, Op. 58

November 16 and 17, 1990
Mariss Jansons, conductor
PROKOFIEV Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
Dmitri Alexeev, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

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Theodore Thomas

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This afternoon CSO musicians performed at the Tierrasanta Library in San Diego as part the CSO's 2017 Fall US Tour. Comment below if you recognize the piece they're playing! The link to the CSO's tour schedule is in our bio. Photos by @toddrphoto. #CSOonTour

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