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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.

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Margaret Hillis

One of Fritz Reiner‘s primary goals early in his tenure as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s sixth music director was to schedule and perform major choral works. However, the repertory he wished to perform was, in his opinion, too demanding for the amateur groups usually engaged. Reiner sought out Margaret Hillis—then founder and director of the New York Concert Choir—and convinced her to come to Chicago to start a chorus on a par with the Orchestra.

On March 13 and 14, 1958, the Chicago Symphony Chorus made its official debut in Mozart’s Requiem. Bruno Walter conducted and the soloists were Maria Stader, Maureen Forrester, David Lloyd, and Otto Edelmann. In the Chicago Tribune, Claudia Cassidy wrote: “It was a wonderfully strong performance Mr. Walter gave us, deploying his forces with a direct, powerful simplicity of style. In the Mozart Requiem, the chorus is the focal point, the orchestra and soloists of the highest quality are taken for granted. 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.”

March 13 & 14, 1958

March 13 & 14, 1958

Less than a month later, on April 3, 4, and 8, 1958, the Chorus appeared in Verdi’s Requiem with Reiner conducting. The soloists included Leonie Rysanek, Regina Resnik, David Lloyd, and Giorgio Tozzi. In the Chicago 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, Hillis led the Orchestra and Chorus in Honegger’s Christmas Cantata on December 26 and 27, 1958, becoming the first woman to conduct subscription concerts.

This article also appears here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra first performed Mozart’s Requiem on subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall on March 29 and 30, 1951. Bruno Walter conducted and the soloists were Nancy Carr, Nan Merriman, Eugene Conley, and Cesare Siepi, along with the combined choral organizations of Northwestern University, prepared by George Howerton. And in 1957 when Walter—a frequent and beloved guest conductor as well as a highly regarded Mozart specialist—informed CSO management that his March 1958 appearances would be his last in Chicago, Eric Oldberg, president of The Orchestral Association, insisted that he should conduct the Requiem again with the newly formed Chicago Symphony Chorus.

The Chicago Symphony Chorus's formal debut on March 13 and 14, 1958

March 13 and 14, 1958

On March 13 and 14, 1958, the Chorus made its official debut in Mozart’s Requiem. Walter, in his final appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted, and the soloists were Maria Stader, Maureen Forrester, David Lloyd, and Otto Edelmann. (According to Erik Ryding and Rebecca Pechefsky‘s excellent biography of Bruno Walter, “the two female soloists [made] an amusing picture onstage: the diminutive Maria Stader stood beside the towering Maureen Forrester, then in an ‘advanced’ stage of pregnancy. To make the discrepancy in their appearance less striking, Walter placed Stader on a platform.”)

In the Chicago Tribune, Claudia Cassidy was critical of the work itself. She wrote that Mozart’s Requiem “is not a fully satisfying work—like all things finished by another’s hand it leaves the tantalizing question of what it might have been had Mozart’s haunted, tormented spirit found whatever haven it sought of peace, whether of joy or of oblivion. When [Franz] Suessmayer takes over much beauty remains, but the aura of this special Mozart, which is unlike any other, has vanished. The Requiem ends, but the toll of the bell has lost its terror.”

Walter Mozart Requiem

But of the concert, she continued: “It was a wonderfully strong performance Mr. Walter gave us, deploying his forces with a direct, powerful simplicity of style. In the Mozart Requiem, the chorus is the focal point, the orchestra and soloists of the highest quality are taken for granted. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is in high estate, with the kind of clairvoyance that gives a conductor what he wants in sound. The four soloists, three of them new to the orchestra, were tiny Maria Stader of the soprano that sounds like an angelic flute, stately Maureen Forrester of the contralto so big, warm and gentle it makes you feel rested just to listen, David Lloyd of the musicianly tenor, and Otto Edelmann, who could give no more than a tempting sample of the big bass-baritone so renowned in the opera realms of Hans Sachs and Baron Ochs. They made a wonderful Mozart quartet.

Margaret Hillis

Margaret Hillis

“None of this was surprising. 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.” The complete review is here.

A recording of the Lacrimosa from those performances was released on Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration (volume 13 from the CSO’s From the Archives series) in 1998. The complete story of the Chorus’s founding was included in a CSO program book feature article in the fall of 1997.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has performed Verdi’s Requiem on numerous occasions, and a complete list of all documented performances is below:

Northwestern, June 1910 - Lutkin conducting

North Shore May Festival, Northwestern University Gymnasium, Evanston, June 1910 – Peter C. Lutkin conducting

June 4, 1910 (Northwestern University Gymnasium, Evanston, Illinois)
Peter C. Lutkin conductor
Jane Osborn-Hannah, soprano
Rose Lutiger-Gannon, contralto
Evan Williams, tenor
Allen Hinckley, bass
North Shore Festival Chorus

February 7, 1912 (Massey Music Hall, Toronto, Ontario)
February 28, 1912 (Carnegie Hall, New York)
A.S. Vogt, conductor (for 2/7, not confirmed for 2/28)
Florence Hinkle, soprano
Christine Miller, mezzo-soprano
George Hamlin, tenor
Clarence Whitehill, bass-baritone
Mendelssohn Choir of Toronto

February 26, 1912 (Convention Hall, Buffalo, New York)
February 29, 1912 (Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts)
(Excerpt: Libera me)
A.S. Vogt, conductor (not confirmed)
Florence Hinkle, soprano
Mendelssohn Choir of Toronto

May 15, 1913 (Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Albert A. Stanley, conductor
Florence Hinkle, soprano
Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto
Lambert Murphy, tenor
Henri Scott, bass
University Choral Union

February 2, 1914 (Massey Music Hall, Toronto)
(Excerpts: Offertorium, Sanctus and Benedictus, Responsorium)
A.S. Vogt, conductor (not confirmed)
Florence Hinkle, soprano
Mildred Potter, contralto
Reed Miller, tenor
Horatio Connell, baritone
Mendelssohn Choir of Toronto

Pabst Theatre, April 1951 - Herman A. Zeitz conducting

Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 1951 – Herman A. Zeitz conducting

April 5, 1915 (Pabst Theater, Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Herman A. Zeitz, conductor
Lucille Stevenson, soprano
Charlotte Peege, mezzo-soprano
Albert Lindquest, tenor
Burton Thatcher, bass
Milwaukee Musical Society Mixed Chorus

April 18, 1915 (Orchestra Hall)
Daniel Protheroe, conductor
Marjorie Dodge Warner, soprano
Rose Lutiger-Gannon, contralto
Albert Lindquest, tenor
Marion Green, bass
Allen W. Bogen, organ
“50 Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra”
Irish Choral Society

May 14, 1915 (Elmwood Music Hall, Buffalo, New York)
Frederick Stock, conductor
Anna Case, soprano
Margarete Matzenauer, contralto
Paul Althouse, tenor
Clarence Whitehill, bass-baritone
Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus
Andrew T. Webster, director

April 11, 1918 (Orchestra Hall)
Harrison M. Wild, conductor
Adelaide Fischer, soprano
Emma Roberts, alto
Theodore Karle, tenor
Henri Scott, bass
Apollo Chorus of Chicago

April 13, 1919 (Auditorium Theatre)
(Given in memory of the heroes of the U.S. and Allied nations)
May 18, 1919 (Bartlett Gymnasium, University of Chicago)
(Given in memory of members of the University of Chicago fallen in the war)
Harrison M. Wild, conductor
Monica Graham Stultz, soprano
Louise Harrison Slade, alto
Robert Quait, tenor
Arthur Middleton, bass
Apollo Chorus of Chicago

North Shore Music Festival, May 1928 - Frederick Stock conducting

North Shore May Festival, Northwestern University Gymnasium, Evanston, May 1928 – Frederick Stock conducting

May 20, 1920 (Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Albert A. Stanley, conductor
Leona Sparkes, soprano
Carolina Lazzari, contralto
William Wheeler, tenor
Léon Rothier, bass
University Choral Union

May 21, 1928 ((Northwestern University Gymnasium, Evanston, Illinois))
Frederick Stock, conductor
Isabel Richardson Molter, soprano
Alvene Resseguie, contralto
Eugene F. Dressler, tenor
Rollin M. Pease, baritone
Festival Chorus of 600 Singers
A Cappella Choir

April 16, 1929 (Orchestra Hall)
Edgar Nelson, conductor
Else Harthan Arendt, soprano
Lilian Knowles, contralto
Edwin Kemp, tenor
Raymund Koch, bass
Chicago Sunday Evening Club Choir
Apollo Chorus of Chicago

Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, May 1930 - Moore conducting

Ann Arbor May Festival, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 1930 – Earl V. Moore conducting

May 17, 1930 (Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Earl V. Moore, conductor
Nanette Guilford, soprano
Kathryn Meisle, contralto
Paul Althouse, tenor
Chase Baromeo, bass
Palmer Christian, organ
University Choral Union

February 20, 1934 (Orchestra Hall)
Edgar Nelson, conductor
Margery Maxwell, soprano
Lilian Knowles, alto
William Miller, tenor
Mark Love, bass
Apollo Chorus of Chicago

April 21, 1941 (Orchestra Hall)
Edgar Nelson, conductor
Esther Hart, soprano
Ruth Heizer, alto
William Miller, tenor
Mark Love, bass
Robert Birch, organ
Apollo Chorus of Chicago

April 8, 1949 (Orchestra Hall)
Edgar Nelson, conductor
Maud Nosler, soprano
Lili Chookasian, contralto
Edward Richmond, tenor
David Austin, bass
Robert Birch, organ
Apollo Chorus of Chicago

Ravinia Festival, July 1951 - William Steinberg conducting

Ravinia Festival, July 1951 – William Steinberg conducting

July 31, 1951 (Ravinia Festival)
William Steinberg, conductor
Frances Yeend, soprano
Elena Nikolaidi, mezzo-soprano
Jan Peerce, tenor
Yi-Kwei Sze, bass
Northwestern University Summer Chorus
George Howerton, director

February 14 and 15, 1952 (Orchestra Hall)
Bruno Walter, conductor
Zinka Milanov, soprano
Elena Nikolaidi, mezzo-soprano
David Poleri, tenor
Cesare Siepi, bass
Combined Choral Organizations of Northwestern University
George Howerton, director

August 2, 1956 (Ravinia Festival)
William Steinberg conductor
Frances Yeend, soprano
Regina Resnik, mezzo-soprano
Jan Peerce, tenor
Nicola Moscana, bass
Northwestern University Summer Chorus
George Howerton, director

Orchestra Hall, April 1958 - Fritz Reiner conducting

Orchestra Hall, April 1958 – Fritz Reiner conducting

April 3 and 4, 1958 (Orchestra Hall)
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Leonie Rysanek, soprano
Regina Resnik, mezzo-soprano
David Lloyd, tenor
Giorgio Tozzi, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

April 22, 1960 (Orchestra Hall)
Henry Veld, conductor
Alice Riley, soprano
Evelyn Reynolds, alto
Thomas MacBone, tenor
Lionel Godow, bass
Apollo Chorus of Chicago

July 30, 1966 (Ravinia Festival)
William Steinberg, conductor
Saramae Endich, soprano
Maureen Forrester, mezzo-soprano
Jacob Barkin, tenor
John Macurdy, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 14, 15, and 16, 1968 (Orchestra Hall)
Jean Martinon, conductor
Martina Arroyo, soprano
Carol Smith, mezzo-soprano
Sándor Kónya, tenor
Malcolm Smith, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Orchestra Hall, March 1971 - Carlo Maria Giulini conducting

Orchestra Hall, March 1971 – Carlo Maria Giulini conducting

March 25, 26, and 27, 1971 (Orchestra Hall)
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Martina Arroyo, soprano
Shirley Verrett, mezzo-soprano
Carlo Cossutta, tenor
Ezio Flagello, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

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

May 31, 1977 (Orchestra Hall)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Dame Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 24, 1983 (Ravinia Festival)
James Levine, conductor
Leona Mitchell, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano
Ermanno Mauro, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Orchestra Hall, November 1986 - Claudio Abbado conducting

Orchestra Hall, November 1986 – Claudio Abbado conducting

November 13, 14, and 16, 1986 (Orchestra Hall)
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Margaret Price, soprano
Linda Finnie, mezzo-soprano
Vinson Cole, tenor
Bonaldo Giaiotti, bass (November 13 and 14)
Samuel Ramey, bass (November 16)
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 23, 1989 (Ravinia Festival)
James Levine, conductor
Andrea Gruber, soprano
Tatiana Troyanos, mezzo-soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 3 and 4, 1989 (Orchestra Hall)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor (November 3)
Michael Morgan, conductor (November 4)
(Excerpt: Sanctus)
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Terry Edwards, guest chorus master

September 17, 18, 23, and 25, 1993 (Orchestra Hall)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Alessandra Marc, soprano
Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano
Vicente Ombuena, tenor
Ferruccio Furlanetto, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Ravinia Festival, June 1996 - Christoph Eschenbach conducting

Ravinia Festival, June 1996 – Christoph Eschenbach conducting

June 23, 1996 (Ravinia Festival)
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Shinobu Satoh, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano
Richard Leech, tenor
Roberto Scandiuzzi, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

April 24, 26, and 28, 2001 (Orchestra Hall)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Margaret Jane Wray, soprano (April 24)
Deborah Voigt, soprano (April 26 and 28)
Violeta Urmana, mezzo-soprano
Johan Botha, tenor
René Pape, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

June 30, 2001 (Ravinia Festival)
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Adina Nitescu, soprano
Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano
Vinson Cole, tenor
John Relyea, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

July 8, 2006 (Ravinia Festival)
James Conlon, conductor
Christine Brewer, soprano
Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano
Frank Lopardo, tenor
Vitalij Kowaljow, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

Orchestra Hall, January 2009 - Riccardo Muti conducting

Orchestra Hall, January 2009 – Riccardo Muti conducting

June 14, 15, and 16, 2007 (Orchestra Hall)
David Zinman, conductor
Sondra Radvanovsky, soprano
Yvonne Naef, mezzo-soprano
Giuseppe Sabbatini, tenor
Morris D. Robinson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

January 15, 16, and 17, 2009 (Orchestra Hall)
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

As we count down the days to Giuseppe Verdi‘s 200th birthday and our performance and simulcast of his Requiem led by Riccardo Muti, here are all of the recordings of the work by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Our eighth music director, Sir Georg Solti, was the first to commercially record Verdi’s Requiem. The work was recorded in Medinah Temple on June 1 and 2, 1977.

Solti

1977 – Sir Georg Solti

The soloists were Leontyne Price, soprano; Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; Veriano Luchetti, tenor; and José van Dam, bass-baritone. The Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis.

Thomas Z. Shepard produced the recording, and Paul Goodman was the engineer for RCA (this was one of the few records Solti made independent of London/Decca). The recording won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Barenboim

1993 – Daniel Barenboim

Ninth music director Daniel Barenboim led recording sessions for Verdi’s Requiem on September 20 and 21, 1993, in Orchestra Hall.

Soloists included Alessandra Marc, soprano; Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano; Plácido Domingo, tenor; and Ferruccio Furlanetto, bass. The Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis.

Martin Sauer produced the recording; Jean Chatauret was the sound engineer, assisted by Christopher Willis; and Martine Guers was the editor for Erato.

In his first concerts at the CSO’s music director designate, Riccardo Muti led performances of Verdi’s Requiem at Orchestra Hall on January 15, 16, and 17, 2009. The performances were recorded live for CSO Resound.

Muti

2009 – Riccardo Muti

The soloists were Barbara Frittoli, soprano; Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano; Mario Zeffiri, tenor; and Ildar Abdrazakov, bass. The Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Duain Wolfe.

Christopher Adler produced the recording, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer. David Frost and Tom Lazarus did the mixing, and Frost and Silas Brown performed the stereo mastering. The recording won 2010 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

But wait, there’s more . . .

Fritz Reiner, the CSO’s sixth music director, led performances of the Requiem at Orchestra Hall on April 3 and 4, 1958. Soloists included Leonie Rysanek, soprano; Regina Resnik, mezzo-soprano; David Lloyd, tenor; and Giorgio Tozzi, bass. The Chicago Symphony Chorus—in their second subscription concert appearances—was prepared by Margaret Hillis.

The March 4 performance was recorded for radio broadcast and since then, it has surfaced on a variety of unauthorized releases. An Italian release on Melodram in 1986 even mistakenly labeled the LP jacket as “Orchestra e Coro: Chicago Lyric Opera.” Most recently, we have seen it on a CD release from Archipel. Unfortunately, the sound quality on both is not great, even though it does provide an interesting snapshot of Reiner’s interpretation of the work, not to mention the sound of a very young Chicago Symphony Chorus.

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Theodore Thomas

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