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Renée Fleming (Timothy White photo for Decca)

Wishing a very happy sixtieth birthday to the incomparable American soprano Renée Fleming!

For nearly thirty years, Fleming has been a regular guest with the Chicago Symphony, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, as follows:

January 16, 17, and 18, 1992, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Requiem in D Minor, K. 626
Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano
John Aler, tenor
Peter Rose, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

January 27, 28, 29, and 30, 1993, Orchestra Hall
FAURÉ Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48
Andreas Schmidt, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Vance George, director
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

August 5, 1994, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Te Deum from Quattro pezzi sacri
ROSSINI Stabat mater
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Gregory Kunde, tenor
Dean Peterson, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

January 15, 16, 17, and 20, 1998, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
STRAUSS Moonlight Music and Morgen mittag um elf! from Capriccio
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming onstage at Orchestra Hall, January 26, 1998 (Dan Rest photo)

January 26, 1998, Orchestra Hall
BERNSTEIN Tonight from West Side Story
BERNSTEIN Somewhere from West Side Story
GOUNOD Il se fait tard . . . O nuit d’amour from Faust
VERDI Già nella notte densa from Otello
LEHÁR Lippen schweigen from The Merry Widow
ELLINGTON In a Sentimental Mood
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano
This special concert—entitled Star-Crossed Lovers—featured Fleming with Plácido Domingo in songs, arias, and duets, along with narrators Lynn Redgrave and Timothy Dalton. The concert was recorded for a Great Performances telecast and a London Records release.

August 8, 1998, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
BARBER Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 31, 2004, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Marie Theres’! . . . Hab’ mir’s gelobt and Ist ein Traum from Der Rosenkavalier
Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

August 1, 2004, Ravinia Festival
HANDEL Morrai, sì l’empia tua testa and Ombre, piante from Rodelinda
MASSENET Adieu, notre petite table and Obéissons quand leur voix appellee from Manon
STRAUSS Moonlight Music and Morgen mittag um elf! from Capriccio
TRADITIONAL/Grusin Shenandoah
TRADITIONAL/Grusin The Water is Wide
PORTER So in Love from Kiss Me, Kate
RODGERS You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel
CATALANI Ebben, ne andrò lontana from La Wally
PUCCINI O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi
VERDI Merci jeunes amies from Les vêpres siciliennes
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

August 5, 2006, Ravinia Festival
BARBER Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24
CILEA Poveri fiori from Adriana Lecouvreur
PUCCINI O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi
PUCCINI Vissi d’arte from Tosca
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

Chicago Symphony Orchestra opening night gala, October 3, 2009

October 3, 2009, Orchestra Hall
BARBER Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24
STRAUSS Freundliche Vision, Op. 48, No. 1
STRAUSS Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1
STRAUSS Winterweihe, Op. 48, No. 4
STRAUSS Verführung, Op. 33, No. 1
Paavo Järvi, conductor

July 24, 2010, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

In recital, Fleming also has appeared in Orchestra Hall on three occasions:

October 27, 1996
SCHUBERT Die Männer sind méchant, D. 866, No. 3
SCHUBERT Du bist die Ruh, D. 776
SCHUBERT Im Frühling, D. 882
SCHUBERT Der Tod und das Mädchen, D. 531
SCHUBERT Nacht und Träume, D. 827
SCHUBERT Gretchen am Spinnrade, D. 118
STRAUSS Befreit, Op. 39, No. 4
STRAUSS Muttertändelei, Op. 43, No. 2
STRAUSS Waldseligkeit, Op. 49, No. 1
STRAUSS Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2
WOLF Heiß’ mich nicht reden (Mignon I)
WOLF Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Mignon II)
WOLF So laßt mich scheinen (Mignon III)
WOLF Kennst du das Land (Mignon’s Song)
FAURÉ Lydia, Op. 4, No. 2
FAURÉ Clair de lune, Op. 46, No. 2
FAURÉ Chanson d’amour, Op. 27, No. 1
FAURÉ Les roses d’Ispahan, Op. 39, No. 4
FAURÉ Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1
ELLINGTON Prelude to a Kiss
ELLINGTON Do Nothin’ till You Hear from Me
ELLINGTON In a Sentimental Mood
ELLINGTON It Don’t Mean a Thing
Christoph Eschenbach, piano

January 24, 1999
SCHUBERT Suleika I, D. 720
SCHUBERT Scene from Faust, D. 126
SCHUBERT Gretchen am Spinnrade, D. 118
GLINKA Gretchen am Spinnrade
LISZT Kennst du das Land, S. 275/1
MENDELSSOHN Suleika, Op. 57, No. 3
WOLF Heiss mich nicht reden (Mignon I)
WOLF Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Mignon II)
WOLF So lasst mich scheinen (Mignon III)
WOLF Kennst du das Land (Mignon IV)
DEBUSSY Ariettes oubliée
STRAUSS Einerlei, Op. 69, No. 3
STRAUSS Ich trage meine Minne, Op. 32, No. 1
STRAUSS Efeu from Mädchenblumen, Op. 22, No. 3
STRAUSS All mein’ Gedanken, Op. 21, No. 1
STRAUSS Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4
STRAUSS Ich liebe dich, Op. 37, No. 2
Steven Blier, piano

April 18, 2004
HANDEL Ritorna, o caro e dolce mio tesoro from Rodelinda
HANDEL Mio caro bene! from Rodelinda
SCHUBERT Lachen und Weinen, D. 777
SCHUBERT Die Männer sind méchant, D. 866, No. 3
SCHUBERT Du bist die Ruh, D. 776
SCHUBERT Seligkeit, D. 433
BERG Seven Early Songs
PREVIN The Giraffes Go to Hamburg
RAVEL Shéhérazade
Mary Stolper, flute and alto flute
Richard Bado, piano

And be sure to catch Fleming with Evgeny Kissin in recital next season at Symphony Center, on Sunday, April 19, 2020!

Happy, happy birthday!

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Norman Schweikert in 1988 (Jim Steere photo)

It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of Norman Schweikert, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s horn section from 1971 until 1997, who passed away at his home on Washington Island, Wisconsin on December 31, 2018, after a brief illness. He was 81.

A native of Los Angeles, Schweikert began piano lessons at the age of six, added violin soon after, and turned to the horn at age thirteen. His first horn teachers were Odolindo Perissi and Sinclair Lott, both members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. During high school, Schweikert won a scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival, where he studied with Joseph Eger. In 1955, he auditioned for Erich Leinsdorf, then music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and won his first professional post as fourth horn there. He was its youngest member and in succeeding years played second and third horn.

While in Rochester, Schweikert attended the Eastman School of Music and performed and recorded with the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Frederick Fennell. Studying with Morris Secon and Verne Reynolds, he graduated in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree and a performer’s certificate in horn. During his eleven-year tenure in Rochester, Schweikert served three years with the United States Military Academy Band at West Point as well as five years on the faculty of the Interlochen Arts Academy as instructor of horn and a member of the Interlochen Arts Quintet.

In June 1971—at the invitation of music director Georg Solti—Schweikert joined the Chicago Symphony as assistant principal horn, just in time for the Orchestra’s first tour to Europe. In 1975, he was named second horn, the position he held until his retirement in 1997 (he continued to play as a substitute or extra until June 2006). Schweikert appeared as a soloist with the Orchestra on a number of occasions, and in March 1977 he—along with colleagues Dale Clevenger, Richard Oldberg, and Thomas Howell—was soloist in the recording of Schumann’s Konzertstück for Four Horns under the baton of Daniel Barenboim for Deutsche Grammophon.

In 1970, Schweikert chaired the International Horn Society’s organizing committee and served as its first secretary and treasurer. He continued on the advisory council, contributed many articles to The Horn Call, and was elected an honorary member in 1996. From 1973 until 1998, Schweikert served as associate professor of horn on the faculty of Northwestern University.

In his retirement, Schweikert and his wife Sally—a thirty-year veteran of the Chicago Symphony Chorus—made their home on Washington Island in Wisconsin, where he performed with the Washington Island Music Festival. They were longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association, regularly attending annual reunions. Schweikert also continued his research into the lives of U.S. orchestra members, a project that he started while studying at Eastman, and his collection of material on the subject is likely the largest private collection of its kind in the world. In 2012, Schweikert’s book The Horns of Valhalla—the story of horn players Josef and Xaver Reiter—was published by WindSong Press Limited.

Schweikert is survived by Sally, his beloved wife of fifty-seven years; and their son Eric, principal timpani of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. Details for a memorial service are pending.

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the fantastic Australian mezzo-soprano, Yvonne Minton!

Minton has appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions—in concert and on recording—between 1970 and 1981, indicated below:

April 2 and 3, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records on April 1 and 7, 1970, in Orchestra Hall. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Gordon Parry and James Lock were the balance engineers.

April 1 and 7, 1970 (recording sessions only, no public performances)
MAHLER Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“Das irdische Leben,” “Verlorne Müh’,” “Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen,” and “Rheinlegendchen”)
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records in Orchestra Hall. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Gordon Parry and James Lock were the balance engineers.

May 4, 5, and 6, 1972, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
René Kollo, tenor
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records on May 8 and 9, 1972, at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Kenneth Wilkinson and Gordon Parry were the balance engineers.

May 12 and 13, 1972, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Pilar Lorengar, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
René Kollo, tenor
Martti Talvela, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records on May 15, 16, and 26, 1972, at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers. This recording was ultimately released as part of a set of Beethoven’s complete symphonies (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.

April 24 and 26, 1975, Orchestra Hall
April 30, 1975, Carnegie Hall
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 5, 6, and 7, 1977, Orchestra Hall
May 13, 1977, Carnegie Hall
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
The work was recorded in Chicago’s Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer and Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The recording won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BRUCKNER Te Deum
Jessye Norman, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
David Rendall, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
The work was recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 28, 1981. For Deutsche Grammophon, Steven Paul was the executive producer, Werner Mayer the recording producer, and Klaus Scheibe was the balance engineer and editor. 

Happy, happy birthday!

We have just received word that Rubén D’Artagnan González, a concertmaster with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1986 until 1996, died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 13, 2018, after a long illness. He was 79.

González began studying the violin at the age of five in his native Argentina. He became a student of Osvaldo Pessina in Buenos Aires, later completing his studies with Salomon Baron in France and Riccardo Brengola in Italy. First prize winner of the International Competition of Barcelona in 1965, González also received the silver medal at the Geneva Competition and the diploma of honor of the Chigiana Academy in Siena, Italy.

A former member of I Virtuosi di Roma, González was music director of the Camerata Bariloche, Argentina’s leading chamber orchestra, with which he toured extensively and recorded Martinů’s Concerto da camera for Philips. Other solo recordings included violin sonatas by Prokofiev and Honegger along with works by Ginastera.

González served as concertmaster of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra, associate concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1977 until 1981, and later concertmaster of the Houston Symphony from 1981 until 1986, when he was invited by Sir Georg Solti to be one of two concertmasters (along with Samuel Magad) of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. González appeared on numerous recordings and as soloist with the Orchestra on several occasions, including Beethoven’s Violin Concerto under Solti, Busoni’s Violin Concerto with James Paul, Chausson’s Poème and Haydn’s C major violin concerto under Erich Leinsdorf, Ginastera’s Violin Concerto with Dennis Russell Davies, Mozart’s D major Serenade under Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with Herbert Blomstedt, and Strauss’s Violin Concerto under Daniel Barenboim. In 1996, González resigned as concertmaster to continue his work as a conductor and composer.

As an educator, González served on the faculties of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, the University of Minnesota, Congress of Strings, and the Bariloche Foundation in Argentina. He was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

Upon his resignation, González wrote to his colleagues, “The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been the crowning of my career as an orchestral musician and concertmaster. I keep the Orchestra in my heart as the jewel of my music-making life. I am most grateful to all of you for your support, help, and friendship throughout these ten years.”

Services have been held.

Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to the remarkable soprano Kathleen Battle! She has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of occasions, in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in Carnegie Hall, as follows:

June 27, 1974, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
James Levine, conductor
Edda Moser, soprano
Clarice Carson, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, contralto
Gwendolyn Killebrew, contralto
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Lawrence Shadur, baritone
Justino Díaz, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

June 26, 1975, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Mass in C Minor, K. 427
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle
Maria Ewing, soprano
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Ara Berberian, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 17, 1976, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Bella mia fiamma . . . Resta, o cara, K. 528
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 2, 1977, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 23, 1977, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio, K. 418
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 24, 1977, Ravinia Festival
HADYN The Creation
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Benita Valente, soprano
Seth McCoy, tenor
Donald Gramm, bass-baritione
Arnold Voketaitis, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 24 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Claudine Carlson, mezzo-soprano
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 30, 1978, Ravinia Festial
BERLIOZ Les Troyens, part 1
James Levine, conductor
A Trojan Soldier, Pantheus John Cheek, bass
Cassandra Nadine Denize, soprano
Chorebus Lenus Carlson, baritone
Aeneas Guy Chauvet, tenor
Helenus David Kuebler, tenor
Ascanius Kathleen Battle, soprano
Hecuba Patricia O’Neill, soprano
Priam, The Ghost of Hector Ara Berberian, bass
A Greek Captain Philip Kraus, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 1, 1978, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Les Troyens, part 2
James Levine, conductor
Dido Shirley Verrett, soprano
Anna, Ghost of Cassandra Claudine Carlson, mezzo-soprano
Iopas David Kuebler, tenor
Ascanius Kathleen Battle, soprano
Pantheus, Mercury, Ghost of Priam John Cheek, bass
Narbal, Ghost of Hector Ara Berberian, bass
Aeneas Guy Chauvet, tenor
Hylas Philip Creech, tenor
First Sentry, Ghost of Chorebus James Kalkbrenner, bass
Second Sentry Philip Kraus, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 9, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
James Levine, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Jessye Norman, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Kirk Stuart, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 16, 1978, Ravinia Festival
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
David Kuebler, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Arthur Thompson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

July 3, 1980, Ravinia Festival
SCHUBERT Mass No. 6 in E-flat Major, D. 950
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano
Vinson Cole, tenor
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 13, 1980, Ravinia Festival
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano
Vinson Cole, tenor
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Arthur Thompson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 30, 1983, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Brahms’s Requiem was recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 5 and 6, 1983, for RCAThomas Z. Shepard was the producer, Paul Goodman the recording engineer, and John Newton and Thomas MacCluskey were engineers. The recording won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance from the  National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

July 3, 1983, Ravinia Festival
HANDEL L’Allegro ed il Penseroso from L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Mary Sauer, harpsichord
Chicago Symphony Chorus
James Winfield, associate director

April 25, 26, and 27, 1985, Orchestra Hall
April 29, 1985, Carnegie Hall
VERDI Falstaff
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sir John Falstaff Guillermo Sarabia, baritone
Ford Wolfgang Brendel, baritone
Fenton Yordi Ramiro, tenor
Dr. Caius Heinz Zednik, tenor
Bardolph Francis Egerton, tenor
Pistol Aage Haugland, bass
Mistress Alice Ford Katia Ricciarelli, soprano
Nannetta Kathleen Battle, soprano
Mistress Quickly Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Mistress Meg Page Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 29, 1986, Ravinia Festival
BACH Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
VILLA-LOBOS Bachiana Brasileira No. 5
MAHLER Symphony No. 4
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
Lynn Harrell, cello

July 3, 1987, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60
James Levine, conductor
A Music Master Hermann Prey, baritone
The Major-Domo Nico Castel, tenor
The Composer Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano
The Tenor, Bacchus Gary Lakes, tenor
An Officer Edward Ozaki, tenor
A Dancing Master Andrea Velis, tenor
A Wig Maker David Huneryager, bass
A Lackey Richard Cohn, baritone
Zerbinetta Kathleen Battle, soprano
Prima Donna, Ariadne Margaret Price, soprano
Harlequin Christopher Trakas, baritone
Scaramuccio Allan Glassman, tenor
Truffaldino James Courtney, bass
Brighella Philip Creech, tenor
Naiad Gail Dobish, soprano
Dryad Hillary Johnsson, mezzo-soprano
Echo Dawn Upshaw, soprano

February 4, 5, and 6, 1988, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Alfred Muff, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

July 8, 1988, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Don Giovanni, K. 527
James Levine, conductor
Leporello Renato Capecchi, baritone
Donna Anna Karen Huffstodt, soprano
Don Giovanni Thomas Hampson, baritone
Commendatore Jeffrey Wells, bass-baritone
Don Ottavio Vinson Cole, tenor
Donna Elvira Patricia Schuman, soprano
Zerlina Kathleen Battle, soprano
Masetto Julien Robbins, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 21, 1991, Ravinia Festival
DONIZETTI The Elixir of Love
James Levine, conductor
Giannetta Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Nemorino Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Adina Kathleen Battle, soprano
Belcore Mark Oswald, baritone
Dulcamara Paul Plishka, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 24, 1993, Ravinia Festival
PREVIN Honey and Rue
DONIZETTI C’en est donc fait . . . Par le rang et par l’opulence from The Daughter of the Regiment
John Nelson, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 29, 1994, Ravinia Festival
GOUNOD Je veux vivre from Romeo and Juliet
BERLIOZ Je vais le voir from Beatrice and Benedict
VILLA-LOBOS Bachiana Brasileira No. 5
Hugh Wolff, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

September 16, 1994

September 16, 1994, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
STRAUSS Ständchen, Op. 17, No. 2
STRAUSS Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4
STRAUSS Ich schwebe, Op. 48, No. 2
GERSHWIN Summertime from Porgy and Bess
BERNSTEIN Somewhere from West Side Story
PREVIN Take My Mother Home from Honey and Rue
ELLINGTON/Sadin Come Sunday
Daniel Barenboim, harpsichord, piano, and conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

August 5, 1995, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Deh vieni non tardar from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
MOZART Misera! dove son . . . Ah! non son io che parlo, K. 369
MOZART Un moto di gioia mi sento, K. 579
STRAVINSKY No word from Tom from The Rake’s Progress
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano

July 11, 1998, Ravinia Festival

July 11, 1998, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Sul fil d’un soffio estesio from Falstaff
ROSSINI Una voce poco fa from The Barber of Seville
ROSSINI Dunque io son from The Barber of Seville
MOZART Crudel! perchè finora from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
GOUNOD Je veux vivre from Romeo and Juliet
KORNGOLD Glück, das mir verblieb from Die tote Stadt
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone

July 12, 2003, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Deh vieni non tardar from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
GOUNOD Amour ranime mon courage from Romeo and Juliet
GABRIEL/Sadin His Eye is on the Sparrow
TRADITIONAL/Smith Witness
TRADITIONAL/Bonds He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Bobby McFerrin, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director

Between 1993 and 1996, James Levine led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in recording sessions at Medinah Temple for Fantasia 2000, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s classic 1940 Fantasia. One of the works recorded was excerpts from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches featuring Battle and the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

Under the auspices of Allied Arts, CSO Presents, and Symphony Center Presents, Battle also gave recitals in Orchestra Hall on the following dates:

  • April 20, 1986
  • December 13, 1991
  • April 24, 1996
  • April 18, 1999
  • April 11, 2001

Happy, happy birthday!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony were given on April 6 and 7, 1950, in Orchestra Hall under the baton of guest conductor George Szell. Since then, the work has been led by music directors Rafael Kubelík, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim; principal conductor Bernard Haitink; principal guest conductors Carlo Maria Giulini and Pierre Boulez; and Ravinia Festival music directors James Levine and James Conlon; along with guest conductors Sir John Barbirolli, Lawrence Foster, Michiyoshi Inoue, Hans Rosbaud, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

The Orchestra has recorded the work on three notable occasions, as follows.

Carlo Maria Giulini, the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor, led Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in December 1971 and March 1975 before returning in April 1976 to perform and record the work. Following the first concert of that residency, Karen Monson in the Chicago Daily News wrote that “each time the aristocratic maestro meets the transcendent symphony, the relationship becomes more and more special, Giulini and the Orchestra have delved into the deepest secrets of this music, and Thursday evening they delivered a performance so rich and complete . . .”

In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis called the performance “one of Giulini’s great nights in Orchestra Hall.” Recording sessions were scheduled for the following week, and “by the time the tape is rolling, this could be the most heartfelt and compelling recorded version of Mahler’s grief-stricken penultimate symphony. . . . The Chicago Symphony players will take any risks for Giulini. If he wishes them to play softer than soft, applying bow to string, or breath to mouthpiece or reed, they proceed to just this side of bobble or discomfiting silence. . . . No other guest has such control over orchestral color and emotional variation.”

Deutsche Grammophon was on hand on April 5 and 6, 1976, to record the symphony in Medinah Temple. Günther Breest was the executive producer and Klaus Scheibe the recording engineer. The release won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti first led the Orchestra in Mahler’s symphony at Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall in April 1981 before taking it on the road to Lucerne, Paris, Amsterdam, and London later that year. Back in Chicago, Solti led a concert performance (benefiting the musicians’ pension fund) on April 28, 1982, and recorded the symphony on May 2 and 4 in Orchestra Hall.

Reviewing in Gramophone magazine, Richard Osborne noted: “When Solti conducted Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in London in the autumn of 1981 the critic of The Financial Times observed: ‘Solti obviously knew how this music should gobut not why.’ Such a reading would be an evident act of self-parody, for it is to this very theme—the modern world’s nightmarish preoccupation with sensation, spiraling, self-referring and impossible to assuage—that Mahler so fearlessly addresses himself in the symphony’s third movement, the Rondo Burleske. It’s clear, though, from the present recording, made in Orchestra Hall, Chicago in May 1982, that Solti’s sense of the music is a good deal more rooted than it appeared to be amid the unsettling razzmatazz of an end-of-tour London performance.

“The new performance has a measure of repose about it as well as much splendour. The second movement is robust and resilient as Mahler directs. There is defiance and obstinacy in the third movement, an awful power which illuminates the music rather than the orchestra’s known expertise.”

James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock was the engineer for London Records. The recording won 1983 Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Recording, Best Engineered Recording—Classical, and Best Classical Album.

Soon after being named as the Orchestra’s third principal guest conductor, Pierre Boulez was in Chicago to lead four performances of Mahler’s Ninth in November December 1995.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote that Boulez led “one of classical music’s most profound meditations on relentless death and tumultuous life” as a “study in musical clarity, elegant balances, and proportion. . . . Many conductors play up the contrasts, creating dramatic mood shifts. Boulez and the CSO were after something more subtle.” John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune added that Boulez “[filtered] the work through his own modernist sensibility. Granted, there are ambiguities and uncertainties in this symphony that resist so rational an approach. But there are also levels of purely musical meaning few other conductors have uncovered. The otherworldly stillnesses, the demonic humor, the desolate nostalgia, the strange lapses into folkish banality registered that much more strongly because the hand organizing them was so calm and precise. . . . Let us hope the studio sessions capture in full the splendor of the live performances.”

For Deutsche Grammophon, the work was recorded at Medinah Temple on December 2 and 4, 1995. Roger Wright was the executive producer, Karl-August Naegler recording producer and editor, Ulrich Vette was the balance engineer, and Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were recording engineers. The release won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony no. 9 on May 17, 18, 19, and 22, 2018.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has performed Aaron Copland‘s Lincoln Portrait on several occasions and with a number of notable narrators. A complete list is below.

Carl Sandburg

Poet, writer, and editor Carl Sandburg was narrator for the Orchestra’s first performances of Lincoln Portrait on March 15 and 16, 1945, in Orchestra Hall; third music director Désiré Defauw conducted. At the time, Sandburg was the country’s leading authority on Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth U.S. president. He had written the two-volume Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years in 1926, and in 1940, he completed the four-volume Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, for which he won his second Pulitzer Prize.

Claude Rains

The composer himself conducted the first performance at the Ravinia Festival on July 21, 1956. Popular stage and screen character actor Claude Rains was narrator for the occasion. Winner of a Tony Award and nominated four times for an Academy Award (in the best supporting actor category), he appeared in such classic films as The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Casablanca, Notorious, and Lawrence of Arabia.

Illinois Governor Otto J. Kerner rubs the nose of Gutzon Borglum‘s Lincoln bust in 1964 (World Telegraph & Sun photo by Roger Higgins)

Copland was again on the podium at the Ravinia Festival on July 6, 1963, when Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. was narrator. Kerner was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and served as a judge in the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County before his election as the thirty-third governor of Illinois in 1960, winning re-election in 1964. He resigned as governor in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Kerner was later convicted of mail fraud, conspiracy, and perjury and sentenced to three years in federal prison; he was released early following his being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The next three performances, all in Orchestra Hall, were narrated by voices quite familiar to Chicagoans. On March 28, 1970, Mel Zellman, an announcer for WFMT for forty years, shared the stage with conductor Irwin HoffmanJim Tilmon, a longtime television reporter for WTTW and NBC, narrated the work on February 25, 1976, with associate conductor Henry Mazer on the podium. On January 29, 1979, Bill Kurtis, then a news anchor with WBBM-TV, was narrator, again under Mazer’s direction.

For a special July 4 celebration in 1982 at the Ravinia Festival, Aaron Copland himself was narrator. Erich Kunzel conducted.

Jane Byrne (Associated Press photo by Fred Jewell)

Jane Byrne was the first woman to serve as Chicago’s mayor—the city’s fortieth—from 1979 until 1983. On October 1, 1982, in Orchestra Hall, she was narrator in Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with Reynald Giovaninetti on the podium. According to her obituary in the Chicago Tribune, “Over her single term in office, Byrne launched Taste of Chicago and crowd-pleasing celebrations like Blues Fest, inspired the redevelopment of Navy Pier and the Museum Campus and encouraged movie making here in a big way by luring production of box office hits like The Blues Brothers.

Aaron Copland and William Warfield in 1963 (Library of Congress photo)

On October 4, 1997, Symphony Center officially opened its doors with a gala concert. The program included a performance of Lincoln Portrait with bass-baritone William Warfield as narrator and ninth music director Daniel Barenboim conducting. Warfield had become well known following a star turn as Joe—singing “Ol Man River“—in MGM‘s 1951 remake of Show Boat. He also recorded a highly acclaimed album of selections from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with soprano Leontyne Price in 1963. Long associated with Copland, Warfield had sung the premiere performances of the first set of Old American Songs (for soloist and orchestra) as well as the second set (for soloist and piano).

Steppenwolf Theatre Company actors Martha Lavey, Amy Morton, K. Todd Freeman, and Tracy Letts shared narrating duties at the Ravinia Festival on July 4, 2004. David Alan Miller conducted.

Senator Barack Obama narrates Copland’s Lincoln Portrait in Millennium Park on September 11, 2005. William Eddins conducts (Todd Rosenberg photo)

On September 11, 2005, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave a free concert at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Guest conductor William Eddins led the Orchestra in The Star-Spangled Banner, William Schuman’s arrangement of Ives’s Variations on America, Rimsky- Korsakov’s Sheherazade, and Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with freshman U.S. Senator Barack Obama as narrator. In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote: “When September 11 comes around each year, the craving for a moment of proverbial silence—a chance to slow down, remember, and mourn—is strong. Sunday’s concert, led by former CSO resident conductor William Eddins and featuring Senator Barack Obama as narrator in Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, provided just that kind of beneficent moment. Despite the steamy weather, a large crowd filled the pavilion’s seats and lawn, giving the CSO in general, and Obama in particular, vociferous applause. . . . Obama brought an orator’s skill without an actor’s slick veneer to Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. The comforting quality of his voice gave added emotional resonance to Lincoln’s words. The CSO was a powerful surging force behind him, alternately sinking into meditation and swelling to majestic heights.”

Most recently, James Earl Jones was narrator at Orchestra Hall on February 21 and 24, 2009, under the baton of James Gaffigan, and on July 18, 2009, soprano Jessye Norman was narrator with James Conlon conducting at the Ravinia Festival.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Copland’s Lincoln Portrait on April 12, 13, 14, and 17, 2018. John Malkovich will be the narrator.

Fritz Reiner (Oscar Chicago photo)

One of Fritz Reiner’s primary goals, early in his tenure as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s sixth music director, was to program major choral works. However, the repertory he wished to perform was, in his opinion, too demanding for the amateur and student groups usually engaged.

While visiting New York in February 1954, Reiner observed a rehearsal of the New York Concert Choir, under the direction of its founder, Margaret Hillis. He was so impressed that on his return to Chicago, Reiner convinced the board of trustees to hire Hillis and her ensemble for performances the following season of Barber’s recently composed Prayers of Kirkegaard and Orff’s Carmina burana, both new to the Orchestra’s repertoire. (For performances of Beethoven’s “less demanding” Ninth Symphony, the local Swedish Choral Club was engaged.)

Margaret Hillis

Hillis and the New York Concert Choir first traveled to Chicago in March 1955 for three performances of the works by Barber and Orff. Roger Dettmer, writing for the American, exclaimed, “it was Miss Hillis’s magnificent choir of sixty which matched most closely the Orchestra’s astonishing virtuosity by giving Dr. Reiner the fullest measure of choral artistry.” In the Daily News, Irving Sablosky added, “We’re not used to hearing choral singing of such refinement and nuance in symphony concerts. I hope we’ll hear more.”

Despite scheduling challenges, Reiner reengaged Hillis the following season for Mozart’s Mass in C minor and Bruckner’s Te Deum in January 1956. Dettmer wrote that the Orchestra and “Margaret Hillis’s magnificent [choir], easily the finest professional chorus in this country today, [performed] with uncommon brilliance, and maestro himself was in supremely spirited command.”

For the 1957–58 season, Reiner hoped to perform and record Verdi’s Requiem, and again he contacted Hillis. The New York Concert Choir averaged only sixty voices, and she informed Reiner they would need nearly double that in order to do justice to the Verdi. It would simply be too expensive.

This impasse gave Reiner an idea. He persuaded board president Eric Oldberg to hire Hillis to organize a chorus permanently affiliated with the Orchestra in Chicago. She initially agreed to advise on how to audition a director and choristers, but Reiner insisted there would be no chorus unless Hillis herself was the director. At the trustees meeting on September 20, 1957, Oldberg reported on successful negotiations and the plan to hire Hillis was approved.

Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1957

“As choral literature takes on increasing importance in the orchestral sphere, the Chicago Symphony is making its move to institutionalize the trend,” wrote Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune on September 22. “From Orchestra Hall comes word that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus is to be a new factor in the city’s musical life.”

Auditions began on October 5, and in less than two weeks the Sun-Times reported that they had “produced an exceptionally high rate of successful applicants. . . . Skill in sight-reading, interpretative ability, and voice quality were the main prerequisites for success. Voices with a tremolo or breathless quality were automatically rejected.” On October 13, the Daily News advertised that auditions were continuing: “Men’s voices are still urgently needed.”

Chicago Tribune, December 1, 1957

The Chicago Symphony Chorus, nearly one hundred voices strong, began rehearsals on October 28, and on November 30, the ensemble made an informal debut at a private concert for guarantors and sustaining members. On the first half of the concert, Reiner led Cailliet’s orchestration of Bach’s Little G minor fugue and Strauss’s Oboe Concerto (with principal Ray Still), and after intermission, Hillis took the podium, becoming the first woman to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She led the Orchestra and Chorus in Thompson’s Alleluia and Billings’s Modern Music (both a cappella), the final section of Purcell’s Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day, and the Servants’ Chorus from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. Dettmer reported in the American that the debut was “more than promising . . . Miss Hillis’s choristers were fresh-voiced, musically sensitive, already balanced internally . . . she has accomplished much in the briefest time span.”

When popular guest conductor Bruno Walter informed the Orchestral Association that his March 1958 appearances would be his last in Chicago, Oldberg insisted that he should lead Mozart’s Requiem with the new chorus as his swansong. To prepare for both sets of concerts, Hillis and the Chorus began their work in earnest on Mozart’s and Verdi’s requiems, with Reiner regularly attending rehearsals.

Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1958

On March 13 and 14, 1958, the Chicago Symphony Chorus made its official debut in Mozart’s Requiem, under Walter’s baton with soloists Maria Stader, Maureen Forrester, David Lloyd, and Otto Edelmann. In the Chicago Tribune, Claudia Cassidy wrote: “The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is in high estate, with the kind of clairvoyance that gives a conductor what he wants in sound. . . . The evening’s card up the Mozartean sleeve was the new Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus of about 100 voices, expertly chosen and admirably trained by Margaret Hillis. It had balance and hints of brilliance, it was adroit in attack and it had moments of reassuringly imaginative song. The Confutatis in particular caught the haunted terror that was Mozart’s when the mysterious commission for the Requiem convinced him that the death knell he wrote was his own.”

Program page for Verdi’s Requiem, performed on April 3 and 4, 1958. It was repeated the following Tuesday, April 8.

Less than a month later, the Chorus appeared in Verdi’s Requiem with Reiner conducting and soloists Leonie Rysanek, Regina Resnik, David Lloyd, and Giorgio Tozzi. In the Sun-Times, Robert C. Marsh wrote that “Miss Hillis’s chorus proved its virtues earlier this season. Again its excellent enunciation, reliable intonation, and intelligent response were praiseworthy.”*

The following season, at Reiner’s invitation, Hillis conducted the Orchestra and Chorus in Honegger’s Christmas Cantata in December 1958. In the Daily News, Donal Henahan wrote, “Miss Hillis, who has been until now unknown except by name to most symphony subscribers, ruled her vast forces with a firm beat and a sure hand.” And the critic in the American noted, “With a clear (if inflexible) beat, Miss Hillis marshalled her forces, choral and orchestra, in a tight, sensitive, sweet-sounding statement of the music. . . . All in all, a glorious Christmas program.”

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus onstage in March 1959. Also pictured is chorus director Margaret Hillis, music director Fritz Reiner, and associate conductor Walter Hendl (Oscar Chicago photo).

Later that season in March 1959, Reiner led Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky. “The climactic ‘Battle on the Ice’ was approached with expansive calm and deliberation. . . . A conductor who tries to pile climax after climax into this work can never achieve the hair-raising thrust that Reiner drew from Margaret Hillis’s Chicago Symphony Chorus at such a moment,” observed Henahan in the Daily News. The Chorus “produced a pleasing sound in all voices and a more homogeneous tone than at any time since Miss Hillis began her missionary work in Chicago.” On March 7, Reiner, the Orchestra, and Chorus committed their performance to disc for RCA, collaborating for the first time in recording sessions.

The Chorus’s first recording with the Orchestra: Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, released by RCA in May 1960

Margaret Hillis directed the Chicago Symphony Chorus for thirty-seven years, preparing and leading concerts—in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, as well as on tour to Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert Hall, and Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus—and amassing an award-winning discography. Following her death in February 1998, the Rosenthal Archives received her collection of papers, photographs, over 1,000 scores bearing her markings, awards (including nine Grammy statuettes), recordings, and memorabilia. Representing an exceptional and pioneering career, the collection is regularly accessed by researchers, scholars, and musicians.

In June 1994, following an international search, music director Daniel Barenboim appointed Duain Wolfe to succeed Hillis. Currently in his twenty-fourth season, Wolfe continues in Hillis’s tradition, maintaining the Chorus’s extraordinarily high standards of excellence.

*Due to scheduling conflicts, Reiner was unable to get the soloists—primarily Zinka Milanov and Jussi Björling—he wanted to record Verdi’s Requiem in Chicago. He, along with Leontyne Price, Rosalind Elias, Björling (in his last commercial recording), and Giorgio Tozzi, recorded it in Vienna in June 1960 with the Vienna Singverein and Philharmonic for RCA.

This article also appears in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s March 2018 program book and here.

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to John Corigliano!

The recipient of numerous honors—including a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, the Grawemeyer Award, and multiple Grammy awards—Corigliano served as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first composer-in-residence from 1987 until 1990.

The Orchestra first performed Corigliano’s Concerto for Piano in February 1969, with Sheldon Shkolnik as soloist and acting music director Irwin Hoffman on the podium. Under the baton of Sir Georg Solti, the Orchestra performed the Concerto for Clarinet with Larry Combs, as well as the Tournaments Overture on concerts in Orchestra Hall and during the 1985 tour to Europe, performing the work in Hamburg, Madrid, Paris, and London.

On March 15, 1990, music director designate Daniel Barenboim led the world premiere of Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, jointly commissioned for the Orchestra’s centennial by the Chicago Symphony and the Meet-the-Composer Orchestra Residencies Program.

“During the past decade I have lost many friends and colleagues to the AIDS epidemic, and the cumulative effect of those losses has, naturally, deeply affected me. My First Symphony was generated by feelings of loss, anger, and frustration,” wrote Corigliano in the program note for the premiere. “A few years ago, I was extremely moved when I first saw ‘The Quilt,’ an ambitious interweaving of several thousand fabric panels, each memorializing a person who had died of AIDS, and, most importantly, each designed and constructed by his or her loved ones. This made me want to memorialize in music those I have lost, and reflect on those I am losing.”

The live recording—Barenboim and the Orchestra’s first on the Erato label—featured principal cello John Sharp and, offstage, pianist Stephen Hough. The recording was recognized with two 1991 Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Performance and Best Contemporary Composition. Barenboim programmed the symphony again in 1992, also taking it on tour to Carnegie Hall, Madrid, and London.

Corigliano’s First Symphony also has been performed at the Ravinia Festival under the batons of Christoph Eschenbach in 1996 and Marin Alsop in 2003; Eschenbach also led performances in Orchestra Hall in 1998.

With the Orchestra, Neeme Järvi conducted the Pied Piper Fantasy with Sir James Galway; Eschenbach led The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra with Joshua BellWilliam Eddins conducted Phantasmagoria on The Ghosts of Versailles; and Leonard Slatkin has led Three Hallucinations, Fantasia on an Ostinato, and The Mannheim Rocket.

To celebrate Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday in 1987, associate conductor Kenneth Jean led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Corigliano’s Campane di RavelloWritten while on vacation in Ravello, Italy, the composer remarked, “On Sundays, the multitude of churches in Ravello and the surrounding towns play their bells, each in a different key and rhythm. The cacophony is gorgeous, and uniquely festive. My tribute to Sir Georg attempts to make the sections of the symphony orchestra sound like pealing bells: that tolling, filigreed with birdcalls in the woodwinds, provides the backdrop for a theme that grows more and more familiar as it is clarified. At the end, it is clear and joyous—a tribute to a great man.”

Jean also led the work on the Centennial Gala concert on October 6, 1990, and current music director Riccardo Muti conducted it on September 19, 2015, on the Symphony Ball concert launching the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 125th season.

Corigliano and Stephanie Jeong at the Harris Theater on October 2, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

MusicNOW, the Orchestra’s contemporary music series, kicked off its twentieth season on October 2, 2017, at the Harris Theater with a concert celebrating past composers-in-residence. Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek honored their predecessors by programming works by Anna Clyne, Osvaldo Golijov, and Mark-Anthony Turnage, along with—in attendance—Mason Bates, Shulamit Ran, Augusta Read Thomas, and Corigliano.

CSO violins Yuan-Qing Yu and Hermine Gagné, viola Danny Lai, and cello Kenneth Olsen performed Corigliano’s A Black November Turkey (in the composer’s string quartet arrangement), and violin Stephenie Jeong soloed in the Red Violin Caprices. The Chicago Classical Review’s Lawrence A. Johnson observed, “Jeong delivered a powerful tour de force performance, sensitively serving the pages of introspective melancholy and throwing off Corigliano’s artful retake on nineteenth-century Paganini-esque fiddle fireworks with blazing virtuosity and panache. It was wonderful to see the veteran composer join the CSO’s young associate concertmaster for a double curtain call.”

And next season, in January 2019, Thomas Hampson will perform the song “One Sweet Morning” from Corigliano’s song cycle One Sweet Morning, commissioned to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Bramwell Tovey will conduct.

Happy, happy birthday!

Daniel Barenboim (Don Getsug photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director, Daniel Barenboim!

Before and during his tenure as music director, Barenboim led the Orchestra on numerous international tours (see here, here, here, and here); made dozens of recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Erato, and Teldec, in addition to other labels; conducted over thirty world and U.S. premieres; and was a frequent chamber music collaborator and recitalist.

From all of your friends here in Chicago, we wish you a happy, happy birthday, Maestro!

This article also appears here.

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