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Heroes of the Marne 117th Infantry Regiment, Georges Scott, France, 1915

The poster at left, from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library collections, shows French soldiers who fought in the First Battle of the Marne between September 6 and 12, 1914.

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In the years leading up to the United States entering World War I, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave a number of premieres, featured prominent guest soloists, and made its first commercial recording. Additionally, Orchestra Hall hosted an extraordinary variety of events, several of which are illustrated below (all events in Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted).

Albert Spalding (Moffett Chicago photo) and Arnold Schoenberg (Egon Schiele, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

On December 8, 1911, Albert Spalding is soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Sir Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Frederick Stock conducts.

Albert Capellani’s film Les misérables (parts 1 and 2)—starring Henry Krauss as Jean Valjean and billed as “the greatest motion picture ever made”—is screened from August 21 through October 10, 1913.

Frederick Stock leads the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra on October 31, 1913. (On February 8 and 9, 1934, the composer returns to Chicago to lead the work as guest conductor.)

Helen Keller (Library of Congress)

On February 5, 1914, the North End Woman’s Club presents Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller in a demonstration of the technique used by Sullivan to teach Keller—blind and deaf since she was nineteen months old—how to speak.

William Henry Hackney presents a Colored Composers’ Concert featuring music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Harry Burleigh, J. Rosamond Johnson, Will Marion Cook, and R. Nathaniel Dett on June 3, 1914. The Chicago Defender article (from June 6, 1914) describing the concert is here.

The Orchestra gives the U.S. premiere of Gigues from Claude Debussy’s Images for Orchestra on November 13, 1914. Frederick Stock conducts.

Apollo Club’s Messiah and Edith Lees with Havelock Ellis (Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science)

The Apollo Club of Chicago presents its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah at the Auditorium Theatre on December 27 and 28, 1914. Harrison M. Wild leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Edith Lees, author and the openly lesbian wife of Havelock Ellis, gives a lecture on February 4, 1915, advocating for the general acceptance of “deviants” (i.e. homosexuals). Offering Oscar Wilde and Michelangelo as examples of what the “abnormal” could accomplish, this is one of the earliest public calls for the acceptance of gay people.

On March 5, 1915, Frederick Stock leads the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Alexander Scriabin’s Prometheus.

Stock’s Festival Prologue

Celebrating the opening of the Orchestra’s twenty-fifth season on October 15, 1915, Frederick Stock leads the world premiere of his Festival Prologue, which he had written while in California for the Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Stock considered the work “an expression of his esteem not only for that noble band of artists which for a quarter of a century has uplifted and upheld the musical culture of our city, but also for those who have permitted themselves to be thus uplifted and upheld—the music-loving people of Chicago.”

Amy Beach and Percy Grainger (Library of Congress)

On February 4 and 5, 1916, Amy Beach is soloist in her Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor. Frederick Stock conducts.

Percy Grainger is soloist in the world premiere of John Alden Carpenter’s Concertino for Piano and Orchestra on March 10, 1916. Frederick Stock conducts.

Otterström’s American Negro Suite

On December 15, 1916, Frederick Stock leads the Orchestra in the world premiere of Thorwald Otterström’s American Negro Suite, incorporating melodies from Slave Songs of the United States—the first and most influential collection of African American music and spirituals, published in 1867.

Bengali poet and the first non-European recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sir Rabindranath Tagore reads from his own works on December 19, 1916.

On May 1, 1916, Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra record for the first time (in an unidentified Chicago location): Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Columbia Graphophone Company.

Violinist Maud Powell and pianist Arthur Loesser (half-brother of Broadway composer Frank Loesser) appear in recital on February 18, 1917.

On March 25, 1917, Walter Damrosch leads the New York Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Efrem Zimbalist and Brünnhilde’s Immolation from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with Julia Claussen.

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A Time for Reflection—A Message of Peace—a companion exhibit curated by the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library—will be on display in Symphony Center’s first-floor rotunda from October 2 through November 18, and the content also will be presented on CSO Sounds & Stories and the From the Archives blog.

This article also appears here. For event listings, please visit cso.org/armistice.

This exhibit is presented with the generous support of COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Founder and Chair, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, through the Pritzker Military Foundation.

Additional thanks to Shawn Sheehy and Jenna Harmon, along with the Arts Club of Chicago, Newberry Library, Poetry Foundation, and Ravinia Festival Association.

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Mendelssohn's Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s commercial recording legacy began under Frederick Stock on May 1, 1916. At that first session for the Columbia Graphophone Company (at an undocumented location in Chicago), they recorded Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre; and Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies, Heart Wounds and The Last Spring.

The next day, Stock and the Orchestra recorded Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah, Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty, Järnefelt’s Praeludium, and Stock’s arrangement of Dresden composer and violinist François Schubert’s The Bee. They returned to the studio the following week on Monday, May 8, for one more day of recording in 1916: Dvořák’s Largo from the New World Symphony, Bizet’s Entr’acte to act 4 of Carmen and the Farandole from L’arlésienne, and Wagner’s Procession of the Knights of the Holy Grail from act 1 of Parsifal and the Prelude to act 1 of Lohengrin.

Program book advertisement, October 13 and 14, 1916

Program book advertisement, October 13 and 14, 1916

Mendelssohn’s Wedding March and Grieg’s The Last Spring were on the first disc issued in October 1916, and a Columbia Records sales brochure raved, “The first offerings are two masterfully played compositions. The deepest glories vibrant in such a familiar composition as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March are unguessed until interpreted by such an orchestra as this. From the first trumpet fanfare to the great central crescendo is very joy and glory articulate! The resistless rhythm is filled with pulsing emotion and each instrument of the mighty orchestra throbs with life. . . . There can be no pleasure beyond enjoying such music as the Chicago Symphony here brings to every music-loving home.”

Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was subsequently rereleased on From Stock to Solti in 1976 and again on Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The First 100 Years, issued during the centennial season in 1991.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

MENDELSSOHN Wedding MarchThe commercial recording legacy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—under second music director Frederick Stock—began on May 1, 1916. For the Columbia Graphophone Company (at an undocumented location in Chicago), they recorded Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre; and Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies, Heart Wounds and The Last Spring.

Mendelssohn’s Wedding March and Grieg’s The Last Spring were each on the first 80-rpm disc issued in October 1916, and a Columbia Records sales brochure raved, “The deepest glories vibrant in such a familiar composition as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March are unguessed until interpreted by such an orchestra as this. From the first trumpet fanfare to the great central crescendo is very joy and glory articulate! . . . There can be no pleasure beyond enjoying such music as the Chicago Symphony here brings to every music-loving home.”

Recording_Centennial_Rotunda_Display_102.75x60

To commemorate this legacy, this collage of record and CD labels is on display in the first floor of Symphony Center’s Rotunda through the end of the Orchestra’s current—the 125th—season. Details of all of the recordings included are below (all recordings were made at Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted).

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4-2Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel made his debut with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on July 11, 1942, performing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with George Szell conducting. On July 22 and 24, Schnabel and the Orchestra recorded the Fourth along with Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto at Orchestra Hall for Victor Records. Frederick Stock conducted these, his last, recording sessions with the Orchestra; he died a few short months later on October 20.

PROKOFIEV Scythian Suite-2 WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod-2The Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave the U.S. premiere of Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite under the baton of the composer on December 6, 1918. On March 16, 1945, third music director Désiré Defauw recorded the work for RCA.

Fourth music director Artur Rodzinski led the Orchestra in a complete performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde—with Set Svanholm and Kirsten Flagstad in the title roles—at the Civic Opera House on November 16, 1947. A month later on December 14, he led the Orchestra in recording sessions for the Prelude and Liebestod at Orchestra Hall.

STRAUSS Ein HeldenlebenMUSSORGSKY Pictures at an ExhibitionFor Mercury Records, fifth music director Rafael Kubelík led the Orchestra’s first recording of Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on April 23 and 24, 1951. Principal trumpet Adolph Herseth performed the opening fanfare.

On March 6, 1954, sixth music director Fritz Reiner and the Orchestra recorded together for the first time: Strauss’s Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome and Ein Heldenleben for RCA. (Reiner’s complete CSO catalog recently was re-released by RCA.)

BARTOK Music for Strings, Percussion, and CelestaBRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2At the third annual Grammy awards ceremony on April 12, 1961, the Orchestra’s recording of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta received the award for Best Classical Performance–Orchestra. Reiner had conducted the RCA release. That same evening, the Orchestra’s recording of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto—also on RCA and with Erich Leinsdorf conducting—earned the award for Best Classical Performance–Concerto or Instrumental Soloist for Sviatoslav Richter. These were the first two Grammy awards earned for recordings by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

SCHUMANN Piano ConcertoPROKOFIEV Alexander NevskyReiner led the Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by its founder Margaret Hillis), and mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias in Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky for RCA—the first recording collaboration with the Orchestra and the Chorus—on March 7, 1959, at Orchestra Hall.

Two years after winning the prestigious 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Van Cliburn made his first recording with the Orchestra on April 16, 1960: Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Reiner conducting for RCA. (A complete list of Cliburn’s appearances and recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can be found here.)

MARTIN Concerto for Seven WindsOn March 19, 1966, seventh music director Jean Martinon led the Orchestra in recording sessions for Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra for RCA. Featured soloists were CSO principals Clark Brody (clarinet), Willard Elliot (bassoon), Donald Peck (flute), Dale Clevenger (horn, in his first week on the job), Ray Still (oboe), Adolph Herseth (trumpet), Donald Koss (timpani), and Jay Friedman (trombone). (Martinon’s complete CSO catalog recently was re-released by RCA.)

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 6-2NIELSEN Clarinet Concerto-2Benny Goodman recorded Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto with the Orchestra on June 18, 1966, for RCA. Morton Gould conducted. (Gould’s complete CSO catalog recently was re-released by RCA.)

At Medinah Temple on February 20 and 21, 1968, Leopold Stokowski and the Orchestra recorded Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 6  for RCA.

BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet-2RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade-2Carlo Maria Giulini—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor—recorded selections from Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet for Angel on October 13 and 14, 1969, at Medinah Temple.

The Orchestra made its second recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade on June 30 and July 1, 1969, at Medinah Temple for Angel. Seiji Ozawa, the Ravinia Festival’s first music director, conducted and concertmaster Victor Aitay was violin soloist.

DVORAK Cello Concerto-2MAHLER Symphony no. 5During eighth music director Georg Solti‘s first season as music director, the Orchestra performed Mahler’s Fifth Symphony at Carnegie Hall on January 9, 1970, and were called back for twelve curtain calls. Beginning on March 26 at Medinah Temple, Solti and the Orchestra committed their performance to disc—their first recording together—for London Records.

Daniel Barenboim, who would later become ninth music director, made his first recording with the Orchestra on November 11, 1970, at Medinah Temple. For Angel, he led sessions for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with his wife Jacqueline du Pré as soloist. (A summary of du Pré’s association with the Orchestra is here.)

MAHLER Symphony No. 8-2Before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed the first concert of its first tour to Europe in 1971, Solti led recording sessions for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony at the Sofiensaal in Vienna on August 30, 31, and September 1. Soloists included Heather HarperLucia Popp (more about Popp’s performances with the Orchestra is here), Arleen AugérYvonne MintonHelen WattsRené KolloJohn Shirley-Quirk, and Martti Talvela. The recording won three 1972 Grammy awards for Album of the Year–Classical, Best Choral Performance–Classical (other than opera) (for the Chorus of the Vienna State OperaSingverein Chorus, and Vienna Boys’ Choir), and Best Engineered Recording–Classical.

BEETHOVEN Fidelio BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6-2On December 13, 1977, Barenboim and the Orchestra recorded Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony for Deutsche Grammophon, part of a complete cycle of the composer’s symphonies that also included the Te Deum, Helgoland, and Psalm 150.

Following concerts in Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall, Solti led the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists (including Hildegard Behrens as Leonore and Peter Hofmann as Florestan) and in recording sessions for Beethoven’s Fidelio—”the first digitally recorded opera to be released,” according to Gramophone—at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979.

ORFF Carmina Burana DOWNS Bear Down, Chicago BearsSecond music director of the Ravinia Festival, James Levine led the Orchestra, Chorus, Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus, and soloists (June Anderson, Phillip Creech, and Bernd Weikl) in sessions for Orff’s Carmina burana on July 9 and 10, 1984, for Deutsche Grammophon. The recording was awarded the 1986 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera).

At the end of a subscription concert at Orchestra Hall on January 23, 1986, Solti led the Orchestra and Chorus in a spirited encore of  the Chicago Bears‘ fight song “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” in anticipation of the team’s Super Bowl victory. The day after the game, the work was recorded by London Records.

BRAHMS Double Concerto-2BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9-2Solti led recording sessions at Medinah Temple for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—the second time he and the Orchestra and Chorus had recorded the work—on September 28, 30, and October 7, 1986, for London. Soloists were Jessye Norman, Reinhild Runkel, Robert Schunk, and Hans Sotin. The release was awarded the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

Claudio Abbado, second principal guest conductor, led the Orchestra in Brahms’s Double Concerto with Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma (future Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant) as soloists on November 7 and 8, 1986, for CBS Records.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 7CORIGLIANO Symphony No. 1Closing the 97th season in June 1988, Leonard Bernstein led the Orchestra in performances of Shostakovich’s First and Seventh symphonies. Recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon, the release received the 1990 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

On March 15, 16, and 17, 1990, Barenboim led the world premiere performances of composer-in-residence John Corigliano’s Symphony no. 1, commissioned for the Orchestra. The live recording—Barenboim and the Orchestra’s first on the Erato label—was awarded two 1991 Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Performance and Best Contemporary Composition.

Fantasia 2000BARTOK The Wooden PrinceThe recording of Bartók’s The Wooden Prince and Cantata profana led by Pierre Boulez for Deutsche Grammophon—recorded on December 19, 20, and 21, 1991—was awarded four 1993 Grammy awards: Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance, Best Performance of a Choral Work, and Best Engineered Recording–Classical. (A complete list of Boulez’s recordings with the Orchestra is here and his complete Grammy awards are here.)

Between 1993 and 1996, Levine led the Orchestra and Chorus in recording sessions at Medinah Temple for Disney‘s feature film Fantasia 2000. The movie was released on January 1, 2000.

VARESE Amerique etcFALLA Gardens of SpainShortly after being named the Orchestra’s third principal guest conductor, Boulez led sessions for Varèse’s Amériques, Arcana, Déserts, and Ionisation in December 1995 and 1996. The Deutsche Grammophon release was awarded the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

In May 1997 at Medinah Temple, the Orchestra recorded Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain and The Three-Cornered Hat for Teldec. For Nights in the Gardens of Spain, Barenboim was piano soloist and Plácido Domingo conducted; for The Three-Cornered Hat, Jennifer Larmore was mezzo-soprano soloist and Barenboim conducted.

MAHLER Symphony no. 3BRAHMS Violin ConcertoA former Youth Auditions winner and member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Rachel Barton recorded Brahms’s and Joachim’s violin concertos for Cedille Records on July 2 and 3, 2002. Carlos Kalmar conducted.

In his first concerts as principal conductor on October 19, 20, and 21, 2006, Bernard Haitink led the Orchestra, women of the Chorus (prepared by Duain Wolfe), the Chicago Children’s Choir, and mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung in Mahler’s Third Symphony. The work is recorded as the inaugural release on CSO Resound.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 4CSOR_SP_booklet_rainbow_nobox.inddIn May 2008, Haitink and the Orchestra recorded Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony for CSO Resound. The release was awarded the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

Boulez led the Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, Symphony in Three Movements, and Four Studies in February and March 2009 for CSO Resound. Soloists in the Pulcinella were Roxana Constantinescu, Nicholas Phan, and Kyle Ketelsen.

BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastiqueVR_booklet_CSOR_901_1008.inddOn January 15, 16, and 17, 2009, Riccardo Muti—in his first concerts as music director designate—led the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists (Barbara FrittoliOlga Borodina, Mario Zeffiri, and Ildar Abdrazakov) in Verdi’s Requiem. The subsequent CSO Resound recording was awarded 2010 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance.

Following his first concert as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s tenth music director (for more than 25,000 people in Millennium Park) in September 2010, Muti led the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists (Gérard Depardieu, Mario Zeffiri, and Kyle Ketelsen) in Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Lélio. The two-disc set was released on CSO Resound in September 2015.

VERDI OtelloBates and ClyneOn April 7, 9, and 12, 2011, Muti led concert performances—recorded by CSO Resound—of Verdi’s Otello at Orchestra Hall. Along with the Orchestra, Chorus, and Chicago Children’s Chorus, soloists included Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role, Krassimira Stoyanova as Desdemona, and Carlo Guelfi as Iago.

In February 2012, Muti led world premieres by the Orchestra’s Mead Composers-in-Residence: Anna Clyne’s Night Ferry and Mason Bates’s Alternative Energy. Both works were recorded for CSO Resound and released as digital downloads.

LincolnFor Sony Classical, composer John Williams led the Orchestra and Chorus in recording sessions at Orchestra Hall for his soundtrack for the motion picture Lincoln. Director Steven Spielberg was on hand to supervise.

Cheers to the next 100!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s commercial recording legacy began ninety-nine years ago on Monday, May 1, 1916, shortly after the close of the twenty-fifth season. Those first recording sessions were led by our second music director Frederick Stock for the Columbia Graphophone Company at an undocumented location in Chicago. Four works were recorded that first day: Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre, and Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies (Heart Wounds and The Last Spring).

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first recording: Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Stupendous recordings by entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra. By far the greatest achievement of the day . . .,” raved an October 1916 Columbia Records brochure. “The first offerings are two masterfully played compositions. The deepest glories vibrant in such a familiar composition as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March are unguessed until interpreted by such an orchestra as this. From the first trumpet fanfare to the great central crescendo is very joy and glory articulate! The resistless rhythm is filled with pulsing emotion and each instrument of the mighty orchestra throbs with life.

“Only a love of divine harmony is needed to appreciate the unrivaled beauties of the coupling, Grieg’s tone-sketch Spring. All the dream imagery of Grieg’s Norwegian soul seems to live in the exquisite modulations of this gem. There can be no pleasure beyond enjoying such music as the Chicago Symphony here brings to every music-loving home.”

The next day (Tuesday, May 2), Stock and the Orchestra recorded the following: Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah, Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty, Järnefelt’s Praeludium, and Stock’s arrangement of François Schubert‘s The Bee.

They returned to the studio the following week on Monday, May 8 for one more day of recording in 1916: Dvořák’s Largo from the New World Symphony, Bizet’s Entr’acte to Act 4 of Carmen and the Farandole from L’arlésienne, and Wagner’s Procession of the Knights of the Holy Grail from Act 1 of Parsifal and the Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin.

The title page of Frederick Stock's post-1917 arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, the version currently used by the Orchestra.

The title page of Frederick Stock’s post-1917 arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, the version currently used by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

On September 14, 2014, we celebrate the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America. For many of us, most of the story is familiar, but did you know that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, like many American orchestras, played a role in promoting the song’s popularity?

The first flute part—slightly different from the score pictured above—indicates a minor rhythmic modification

The first flute part of Stock’s arrangement—slightly different from the score pictured above—indicates a minor rhythmic modification

In the midst of the War of 1812, thirty-five-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key witnessed the brutal twenty-five-hour attack on Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay by the British Navy that continued through the night of September 13, 1814. Early the next morning, Key’s sight of the U.S. flag—then fifteen stars and fifteen stripes—still flying over the fort inspired him to write the four-verse lyric Defence of Fort McHenry.

During the U.S. involvement in World War II (1941–1945), the forty-eight-star flag was a permanent fixture on the Orchestra Hall stage.

During the U.S. involvement in World War II (1941–1945), the forty-eight-star flag was a permanent fixture on the Orchestra Hall stage.

Contrary to many accounts, Key certainly had The Anacreontic Song (the song of a popular gentleman’s club in London), composed by John Stafford Smith, in mind when he wrote his lyric. After he completed it on September 16, it was printed as a broadside and initially distributed to the soldiers who had defended Fort McHenry. The first documented performance was a month later at the Baltimore Theatre.

Sir Georg Solti’s 1986 account of the National Anthem featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus

Sir Georg Solti’s 1986 account of the National Anthem featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus

Frederick Stock recorded his 1917 version with the CSO for the Columbia Graphophone Company

Frederick Stock recorded his 1917 version with the CSO for the Columbia Graphophone Company

During the nineteenth century, the song’s popularity grew and it was widely performed at public celebrations and as accompaniment to the raising of the flag. On the eve of U.S. involvement in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 ordered the song to be played at military and other notable events. Wilson also directed the U.S. Bureau of Education to compile an official version; the bureau tasked five musicians—Walter Damrosch, Will Earhart, Arnold J. Gantvoort, Oscar Sonneck, and John Philip Sousa—to develop and agree upon a standardized edition. (An appraisal of one of the standardization manuscripts, featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, can be seen here.) Damrosch conducted the premiere of that version with the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall on December 5, 1917.

Frederick Stock—the CSO's second music director from 1905 until 1942—on the podium in Orchestra Hall in the 1930s.

Frederick Stock—the CSO’s second music director from 1905 until 1942—on the podium in Orchestra Hall in the 1930s

Almost simultaneously, Frederick Stock—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s second music director from 1905 until 1942—made his own orchestration of the Banner along with America (My Country ’Tis of Thee) and recorded both of them with the Orchestra for the Columbia Graphophone Company on May 28, 1917. And keeping with the emerging popular custom (as evidenced in newspaper accounts and end-of-season indexes), the Orchestra performed the song at the beginning of all concerts during U.S. involvement in World War I, even though the song was rarely listed on program pages—a practice that continues today.

Although the tradition had become firmly established, President Herbert Hoover made it official on March 3, 1931, and signed into law that The Star-Spangled Banner was to be the national anthem of the United States of America. And during the U.S. involvement in the Second World War, Stock and later his successor Désiré Defauw continued the practice of performing The Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of every concert.

Program page from the first concert of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown CSO concerts following the end of World War II—at which music director Désiré Defauw conducted the national anthems of the Allied countries: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Program page from the first concert of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown CSO concerts following the end of World War II—at which music director Désiré Defauw conducted the national anthems of the Allied nations: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Currently, The Star-Spangled Banner generally is performed at the beginning of the first concert of both the Orchestra Hall and Ravinia Festival seasons in addition to Symphony Ball and Ravinia’s annual gala. One notable exception: Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were in Lucerne, Switzerland, on September 11, 2001, scheduled to perform Mahler’s Seventh Symphony that evening, only a few brief hours after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. At the beginning of the concert, Barenboim addressed the audience and announced that the Orchestra would begin the concert with the American National Anthem, “for tonight we are all of us Americans.”

Following the recording in 1917, Stock modified his orchestration, perhaps to conform to the standardized version. Stock’s version, with minor modifications, was later recorded by Fritz Reiner (the Orchestra’s sixth music director from 1953 until 1962) in 1957 by RCA; it was recently reissued as part of a comprehensive 63-CD set. The Banner was recorded a third time in 1986 for London Records, with Sir Georg Solti (our music director from 1969 until 1991) leading the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Margaret Hillis. (that same release included Bear Down, Chicago Bears and Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever). Stock’s orchestration—the one preferred by music director Riccardo Muti—is the version still used today.

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In the community, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also have performed The Star-Spangled Banner for Chicago sports teams. The brass section, led by associate conductor Kenneth Jean, helped open the Chicago Bears’s sixty-eighth season on September 14, 1987, performing the National Anthem at Soldier Field. And CSO violas—performing Max Raimi’s arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner—opened a Chicago White Sox game on August 25, 1998, at (new) Comiskey Park. On both occasions, the Chicago teams went on to victory: the Bears beat the New York Giants 34–19, and the Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 6–4.

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Kenneth Jean and members of the CSO brass at Soldier Field on September 14, 1987

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CSO violas at Comiskey Park on August 25, 1998

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A slightly abbreviated version of this article appears in the September/October CSO program book.

Thanks to Mark Clague, Ph.D.—associate professor at the University of Michigan (and a former member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago)—for his guidance, and a tremendous amount of information can be found online at the Star Spangled Music Foundation’s website. Also thanks to CSO librarians Peter Conover, Carole Keller, and Mark Swanson, and Rosenthal Archives intern William Berthouex.

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Marin Alsop conducts the CSO in the world premiere of Threnos by Bruno Mantovani, Prokofiev’s haunting Third Piano Concerto - performed by pianist Daniil Trifonov - and Copland’s Third Symphony. Photos by @toddrphoto. As part of a series of events honoring the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice, this concert features works that encourage reflection and inspire hope. Chamber music performances of works from the World War I era by musicians of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago as well as a free lecture featuring Mark Clague, foremost scholar on the Star Spangled Banner preceded the concert.
In a program that reflects on the patriotism and adversity of World War I, tenor Mario Rojas and baritone Christopher Kenney—both from the Ryan Opera Center—and pianist Shannon McGinnis showcase works by Ives, Butterworth, Gurney and more at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. Dr. William Brooks is the guest speaker. Photos by @toddrphoto. This performance is part of a series of public programs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, and is presented with leadership support from @tawanienterprises and @pritzkermilitary. And if you missed it, you can see this program on 10/23 at the @maynestage. #Armistice100
Tonight, the CSO performed Mahler’s monumental Third Symphony conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada. Over 600 students attended our College Night event, and Maestro Orozco-Estrada participated in a Q&A with the CSO Latino Alliance at their pre-concert networking event. Photos by @toddrphoto.

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