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To honor Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gave a gala concert of the highest order on October 9, 1987.

Governor James R. Thompson opened the concert with welcoming remarks, and after the intermission, Mayor Harold Washington presented Sir Georg with the City of Chicago’s Medal of Merit. The concert program was as follows:

CORIGLIANO Campane di Ravello (world premiere)
Kenneth Jean, conductor

J. STRAUSS Overture to Die Fledermaus
Plácido Domingo, conductor

MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Sir Georg Solti, conductor and piano
Murray Perahia, piano

STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa perform a scene from Verdi’s Otello (Jim Steere photo)

VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
David Huneryager, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

The commemorative program contained letters and testimonials from numerous public officials, conductors, musicians, and industry professionals, including: Ronald Reagan, James R. Thompson, Harold Washington, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Carlo Maria Giulini, Rafael Kubelík, John Corigliano, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rudolf Serkin, Henry Fogel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christa Ludwig, Birgit Nilsson, Witold Lutosławski, Sir Charles Mackerras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Klaus Tennstedt, David Del Tredici, Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Slatkin, Werner Klemperer, José van Dam, Elliott Carter, Karel Husa, Isaac Stern, Morton Gould, Hans Werner Henze, Itzhak Perlman, Anja Silja, Erich Leinsdorf, Josef Suk, Plácido Domingo, Michael Tippett, Kiri Te Kanawa, Murray Perahia, Leontyne Price, András Schiff, Kenneth Jean, Andrzej Panufnik, Dame Janet Baker, Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Minton, Herbert Blomstedt, Mira Zakai, Margaret Hillis, Gunther Herbig, Ray Minshull, Ann Murray, Philip Langridge, Raymond Leppard, Vladimir Ashkenazy, George Rochberg, Gwynne Howell, Ardis Krainik, Michael Morgan, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Henry Mancini, and Barbara Hendricks.

Solti and Perahia as soloists in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (Jim Steere photo)

The concert was covered widely in the press, in the Chicago Tribune (here, here, and here) and Sun-Times (here and here), as well as Time, Newsweek, the Post-Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many others.

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On October 7, 8, and 9, 1976, Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere performances of David Del Tredici’s Final Alice. Twenty-seven-year-old Barbara Hendricks was the soprano soloist.

The work was performed again on October 26 and 27, 1979, and recorded by London Records with sessions on October 27 and January 29 and 30, 1980. The recording was produced by James Mallinson; James Lock, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the recording engineers. It recently was released on CD for the first time.

The composer supplied comments for the recording’s liner notes: “Final Alice, commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by the National Endowment for the Arts in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial . . . is dedicated to Sir Georg Solti. Scored for huge forces—an amplified soprano/narrator, a solo concertante group of folk instruments (mandolin, banjo, accordion, two soprano saxophones) and a very large orchestra—Final Alice unfolds a series of elaborate arias interspersed and separated by dramatic episodes from the last two chapters of [Lewis Carroll‘s] Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: the Trial in Wonderland (which gradually turns to pandemonium) and Alice’s subsequent awakening and return to ‘dull reality.’ To these I have added an Apotheosis. The work teeters between the worlds of opera and symphonic music, and were I to invent a category I would call Final Alice an ‘Opera, written in concert form.’

David Del Tredici with Sir Georg Solti and Barbara Hendricks in Chicago, October 1976

Final Alice tells two stories at once; primarily, it is the tale of Wonderland itself, with all its bizarre and unpredictable happenings painted as vividly as possible. But between the lines, as it were, is the implied love of Lewis Carroll for Alice Liddell, as suggested by ‘Alice Gray’ and the Acrostic Song. By introducing these additional poems into the Trial as depositions of evidence, given by the White Rabbit (acting as a kind of chief prosecutor), I wished to bring that love story closer to the surface—not so close as to disturb the amusing, eccentric, sometimes terrifying story, but close enough to leave a recognition. I wished, that is, to add what one might call the human dimension of the man, seen only intermittently to be sure, but, hopefully, always affectingly—perhaps lingering in the memory after the dream of Wonderland itself has faded.”

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Theodore Thomas

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