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Duain Wolfe in 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to Duain Wolfe, Grammy Award–winning chorus director and conductor of the Chicago Symphony Chorus!

In 1994, ninth music director Daniel Barenboim appointed Wolfe to succeed Margaret Hillis, founder and first director of the Chorus. Since then, he has prepared the ensemble for over 150 programs for concerts in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, as well as at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Carnegie Hall, and Berlin’s Philharmonie. Wolfe’s activities have earned him an honorary doctorate and numerous awards, including the Bonfils Stanton Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and Chorus America’s Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art.

Wolfe also has prepared the Chicago Symphony Chorus for numerous commercial recordings, and a complete list is below.

BARTÓK The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in December 1994 for Deutsche Grammophon. The album was executive produced by Roger Wright and produced by Karl-August Naegler, Rainer Maillard was the balance engineer, Stephan Flock and Hans-Rudolf Müller were the recording engineers, and Stephan Flock and Rainer Maillard were the editors.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13 in B-flat Minor, Op. 113 (Babi Yar)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sergej Aleksashkin, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in February 1995 for London Records. The album was produced by Michael Woolcock, John Dunkerley and Andy Groves were the recording engineers, and Nigel Gayler was the recoding editor.

ROUGET DE L’ISLE/Berlioz La Marseillaise
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
The Orchestra and Chorus were recorded in Orchestra Hall in May 1995; Domingo was later recorded at the Hochschule für Musik Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. For Teldec, the album was executive produced by Nikolaus Deckenbrock and produced by Martin Fouqué, Ulrich Ruscher was the recording engineer, Jens Schünemann and Paul Nedel were assistant engineers, and Andreas Florcak and Stefan Witzel were digital editors.

WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Eva Karita Mattila, soprano
Magdalene Iris Vermillion, mezzo-soprano
Walther von Stolzing Ben Heppner, tenor
David Herbert Lippert, tenor
Hans Sachs José van Dam, bass-baritone
Veit Pogner René Pape, bass
Sixtus Beckmesser Alan Opie, baritone
Kunz Vogelgesang Roberto Saccà, tenor
Konrad Nachtigall Gary Martin, baritone
Fritz Kothner Albert Dohmen, bass-baritone
Balthasar Zorn John Horton Murray, tenor
Ulrich Eisslinger Richard Byrne, baritone
Augustin Moser Steven Tharp, tenor
Hermann Ortel Kevin Deas, bass-baritone
Hans Schwarz Stephen Morscheck, bass-baritone
Hans Foltz, Ein Nachtwächter Kelly Anderson, baritone
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 1995 for London Records. The recording was produced by Michael Woolcock; James Lock, John Pellowe, and Neil Hutchinson were the balance engineers; and Krzysztof Jarosz was the location engineer. The recording won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.

SCRIABIN Prometheus, Op. 60
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Anatol Ugorski, piano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in December 1996 for Deutsche Grammophon. The album was executive produced by Roger Wright and Ewald Markl and produced by Karl-August Naegler; Ulrich Vette was the balance engineer; Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were the recording engineers; and Karl-August Naegler and Ulrich Vette were the editors.

STRAVINSKY Symphony of Psalms
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Emily Ellsworth, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 1997 for London Records. The album was produced by Michael Woolcock, and James Lock and Philip Siney were the balance engineers. Duncan Mitchell was the location engineer, and Sally Drew and Nigel Gayler were the recording editors.

American Spirit
KELLEY/Davis Home on the Range
STEFFE/Davis Battle Hymn of the Republic
WARD/Davis America the Beautiful
Chip Davis, conductor
Mannheim Steamroller Symphony
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, conductor
Recorded at Saint Michael’s Catholic Church in Old Town, Chicago in March 2003 for American Gramaphone. The album was produced by Chip Davis; Chris Sabold, Mike Konopka, and Dick Lewsey were the engineers; and Mat Lejeune, Brian Pinke, Mike Scasiwicz, Darren Styles were the assistant engineers.

MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in October 2006 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

MENOTTI Amahl and the Night Visitors
Alastair Willis, conductor
Amahl Ike Hawkersmith, treble
Mother Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano
King Kaspar Dean Anthony, tenor
King Melchior Todd Thomas, baritone
King Balthazar Kevin Short, bass-baritone
Page to the Kings Bart LeFan, baritone
Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus
George Mabry, director
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Laura Turner Concert Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2006 for Naxos. The album was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, and John Hill and Mark Donahue were the engineers.

RAVEL L’enfant et les sortilèges
Alastair Willis, conductor
L’enfant Julie Boulianne, mezzo-soprano
Maman, La libellule, L’écureuil Geneviève Després, mezzo-soprano
La tasse chinoise, Un pâtre, La chatte Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano
La théière, Le petit viellard, La rainette Philippe Castagner, tenor
L’horloge comtoise, Le chat Ian Greenlaw, baritone
Le fauteuil, Un arbre Kevin Short, bass-baritone
La princesse, La chauve-souris Agathe Martel, soprano
Le feu, Le rossignol Cassandre Prévost, soprano
La bergère, Une pastourelle, La chouette Julie Cox, soprano
Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus
George Mabry, director
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chattanooga Boys Choir
Vincent Oakes, director
Recorded in Laura Turner Concert Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2006 for Naxos. The album was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, and John Hill and Mark Donahue were the engineers.

POULENC Gloria
RAVEL Daphnis and Chloe

Bernard Haitink, conductor
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 2007 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Miah Persson, soprano
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 2008 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

VERDI Messa da Requiem
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in January 2009 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by Christopher Alder, Christopher Willis was the recording engineer, and David Frost and Tom Lazarus were the mixing engineers.
The recording received 2010 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance.

BERLIOZ Lélio ou le retour à la vie
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Gérard Depardieu, narrator
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 2010 for CSO Resound. The album was produced and mixed by David Frost, Christopher Willis was the recording engineer, and Silas Brown was the mixing and mastering engineer.

VERDI Otello
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Otello Aleksandrs Antonenko, tenor
Desdemona Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano
Iago Carlo Guelfi, baritone
Emilia Barbara di Castri, mezzo-soprano
Cassio Juan Francisco Gatell, tenor
Roderigo Michael Spyres, tenor
Montano Paolo Battaglia, bass
Lodovico Eric Owens, bass-baritone
A Herald David Govertsen, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in April 2011 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Christopher Willis was the recording engineer; and Tim Martyn, Silas Brown, and Richard King were the mixing engineers.

SCHOENBERG Kol Nidre, Op. 39
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Alberto Mizrahi, narrator
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 2012 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Christopher Willis was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.

WILLIAMS Lincoln (original motion picture soundtrack)
John Williams, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in May 2012 for Sony. The recording was produced by John Williams, Ramiro Belgardt was the music editor, Shawn Murphy was the recording and mixing engineer, Robert Wolff was the recording editor, Brad Cobb was the technical engineer, and Patricia Sullivan Fourstar was the mastering engineer.

Riccardo Muti conducts Italian Masterworks
VERDI Gli arredi festivi from Nabucco
VERDI Patria oppressa! from Macbeth
BOITO Prologue to Mefistofele
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Riccardo Zanellato, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in June 2017 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Charlie Post was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13, Op. 113 (Babi Yar)
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Alexey Tikhomirov, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 2018 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mastered by David Frost; Charlie Post was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.

Happy, happy birthday!

Duain Wolfe acknowledges the Chicago Symphony Chorus following a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe on April 5, 2018 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the wonderful Welsh bass, Gwynne Howell!

Gwynne Howell (Guy Gravett photo)

Howell has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions and on several award-winning recordings between 1974 and 1990. A complete list is below (concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted).

April 12 and 13, 1974
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Jerry Jennings, tenor
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

April 24 and 26, 1975
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

January 29, 30, and 31, 1976
STRAVINSKY Oedipus Rex
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Peter Pears, tenor
Josephine Veasey, mezzo-soprano
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mallory Walker, tenor
Dominic Cossa, baritone
Werner Klemperer, narrator
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

May 5, 6, and 7, 1977
May 13, 1977 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
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.

May 10 and 12, 1979
May 19, 1979 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Peter Hofmann, tenor
David Kübler, tenor
Theo Adam, baritone
Hans Sotin, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Robert Johnson, tenor
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director
The opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

April 7, 9, and 12, 1983
April 18, 1983 (Carnegie Hall)
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Siegmund Nimsgern, bass-baritone
Hermann Becht, baritone
Gabriele Schnaut, mezzo-soprano
Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor
Robert Tear, tenor
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Malcolm Smith, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mary Jane Johnson, soprano
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Dennis Bailey, tenor
Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Emily Golden, mezzo-soprano

September 27, 28, and 29, 1984
HANDEL Messiah
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Anne Gjevang, contralto
Keith Lewis, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
David Schrader, harpsichord
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded in Orchestra Hall on October 1, 2, and 9, 1984. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were balance engineers.

January 25, 26, and 28, 1990
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Felicity Lott, soprano
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
William Shimell, baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990, in Orchestra Hall. For London Records, Michael Haas was the recording producer, and Stanley Goodall and Simon Eadon were the balance engineers. The recording won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Performance of a Choral Work from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Check out the video below, produced by Wild Plum Arts, in which Howell talks about working with Solti and many others.

Happy, happy birthday!

Under the leadership of chorus directors Margaret Hillis and Duain Wolfe, the Chicago Symphony Chorus has won ten Grammy awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in the category of Best Choral Performance.*

Recordings have been led by music directors Sir Georg Solti and Riccardo Muti, principal guest conductor Pierre Boulez, and Ravinia Festival music director James Levine on RCA, London, Deutsche Grammophon, and CSO Resound.

1977 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on June 1 and 2, 1977, for RCA
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
Paul Goodman, recording engineer

1978 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977, for London
Ray Minshull, producer
Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes, balance engineers

1979 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 15 and 16, 1978, for London
James Mallinson, recording producer
Kenneth Wilkinson and Colin Moorfoot, balance engineers

1982 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981, for London
James Mallinson, recording producer
James Lock and Simon Eadon, balance engineers

1983 – Best Choral Performance
HAYDN The Creation
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sylvia Greenberg, soprano
Norma Burrowes, soprano
Rudiger Wohlers, tenor
James Morris, bass-baritone
Siegmund Nimsgern, bass
David Schrader, harpsichord
Frank Miller, cello
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 9, 10, and 11, 1981, for London
Paul Myers, recording producer
James Lock and John Dunkerley, balance engineers

1984 – Best Choral Performance
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 5 and 6, 1983, for RCA
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
Paul Goodman, recording engineer
John Newton and Thomas MacCluskey, engineers

1986 – Best Choral Performance
ORFF Carmina burana
James Levine, conductor
June Anderson, soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 9 and 10, 1984, for Deutsche Grammophon
Steven Paul, producer
Cord Garben, recording supervisor
Klaus Scheibe, recording engineer
Jürgen Bulgrin, editing

1991 – Best Performance of a Choral Work
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Felicity Lott, soprano
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
William Shimmell, baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Richard Webster, organ
John Sharp, cello
Willard Elliot, bassoon
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990, for London
Michael Haas, recording producer
Stanley Goodall and Simon Eadon, balance engineers

1993 – Best Performance of a Choral Work
BARTÓK Cantata profana
Pierre Boulez, conductor
John Aler, tenor
John Tomlinson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on December 16, 1991, for Deutsche Grammophon
Alison Ames, executive producer
Karl-August Naegler, recording producer
Rainer Maillard, balance engineer
Oliver Rosalla, editing

2010 – Best Choral Performance
VERDI Messa da Requiem
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on January 15, 16, and 17, 2009, for CSO Resound
Christopher Alder, producer
Christopher Willis, recording engineer
David Frost and Tom Lazarus, mixing
Silas Brown and David Frost, stereo mastering

*The name of the category has changed slightly over the years; see here for details.

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.

____________________________________________________

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Georg Solti led Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in March 1970 in Chicago and again in May 1979, with concerts in Chicago and New York City.

March 12, 14, and 16, 1970, at Orchestra Hall
Leonore Anja Silja, soprano
Marzelline Lucia Popp, soprano
Florestan Jess Thomas, tenor
Jaquino Frank Porretta, tenor
Don Pizarro Herbert Fliether, baritone
Rocco Kurt Boehme, bass
Don Fernando Thomas Paul, bass
Two Prisoners William Wahman, tenor and Gary Kendall, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Fidelio rehearsal in Orchestra Hall, May 1979 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

May 10 and 12, 1979, at Orchestra Hall
May 19, 1979, at Carnegie Hall
Leonore Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Marzelline Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Florestan Peter Hofmann, tenor
Jaquino David Kübler, tenor
Don Pizarro Theo Adam, baritone
Rocco Hans Sotin, bass
Don Fernando Gwynne Howell, bass
Two Prisoners Robert Johnson, tenor and Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Following the performance in Carnegie Hall, the opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

In Gramophone, W.S.M. wrote: “No comparative sets are listed above because in one sense, this new Fidelio is at present hors concours: it is the first digitally recorded opera to be released, and in an ensemble opera the new technique pays handsome dividends. . . .

“This Decca/Solti suggests a large studio with a quite reverberant acoustic, actually the Medinah Temple in Chicago. For the outdoor scenes it works well, the garden with sparring lovers, the spacious fresh-air into which the prisoners emerge, later the square where they are freed (at least we hope so) and dramatic complications are resolved. The dungeon scene doesn’t actually sound misplaced, in the literal sense, but neither does it suggest a different, cramped, deep, awesome location. This is not a theatrical representation, or we would hear the guards enter and leave, steps ascended and descended, doors opened, perhaps the rattle of chains, something to suggest that Fidelio is not just an oratorio. . . .

Solti and Margaret Hillis listen to Fidelio playbacks

“Solti views Fidelio steadily and whole; intent on the menace and the ultimate victory of humanity. His tempi are steady, for the most part, only in the duet for Pizarro and Rocco seemingly too slow for the singers. He seldom needs to add ritardandi or accelerandi as other Fidelio conductors do, and he is able to care for nuance and details of part-writing, for example in the canon quartet. Here too each new vocal entry is truly soils tore, a wonderful effect of rapt self-communion, until Jaquino’s, not rapt at all but infuriated, therefore loud, but soon blending into the others. The Prisoners’ Chorus shows the Solti approach at its finest and most moving. If the Florestan were tip to the rest, I would count this the most desirable of recorded Fidelios.”

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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