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To commemorate the Orchestra’s 1990 tour to Russia, a limited number of Russian nesting—or Matryoskha—dolls were hand-crafted. The dolls represented the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eight music directors: Sir Georg Solti, Jean Martinon, Fritz Reiner, Rafael Kubelík, Artur Rodzinski, Désiré Defauw, Frederick Stock, and Theodore Thomas.

The dolls were sold as a premium in conjunction with the Women’s Association annual Radiothon fundraiser in March 1992.

Image of the complete set of dolls along with other Solti-themed premiums from the 1992 Radiothon catalog.



On October 25, 1973, Sir Georg Solti conducted the world premiere of Bohuslav Martinů’s First Violin Concerto with Josef Suk as soloist.

From Arrand Parsons’s program note: “It is a curious fact that a major work by a major 20th century composer has remained unknown and only in manuscript for over 40 years. (The Martinů Violin Concerto composed for Mischa Elman in 1943 and now known to be No. 2 was performed at CSO concerts on November 16-17, 1944, with Elman as soloist and with Désiré Defauw conducting.) The manuscript comes to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from the Hans Moldenhauer Archives, today one of the great collections of original manuscripts, a portion of which is held by Northwestern University. It was Dr. Moldenhauer who suggested to Josef Suk the idea of presenting the premiere performances in Chicago, to be followed shortly afterwards with performances in Prague. The Northwestern University Library made the score available to Sir Georg Solti, who was happy to program the premiere with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Concerto, composed for the Polish-born American violinist Samuel Dushkin probably in 1933, comprises three movements. It is a work of commanding virtuosity yet retaining an expressive lyricism characteristic of the composer, and it also reflects certain Czech qualities found in the works of Martinů in the 1930s when he lived in Paris but felt a nostalgia for his homeland.”

The program notes are here, and reviews of the premiere are here.

Perhaps you’ve heard . . . a new era is about to begin.

Riccardo Muti will officially begin his tenure as our tenth music director on September 19, leading a free concert for Chicago in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

The program:
VERDI Overture to La forza del destino
LISZT Les préludes
TCHAIKOVSKY Romeo and Juliet
RESPIGHI Pines of Rome

Which made me wonder . . . what did our previous music directors choose for their official first concerts? Here’s what I found:

Theodore Thomas
October 16 and 17, 1891, Auditorium Theatre
WAGNER A Faust Overture
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Rafael Joseffy, piano
DVOŘÁK Husitzká Overture, Op. 67
(Of course, these were not only Theodore Thomas’s first concerts as music director but also the first concerts of the newly formed Chicago Orchestra, as we were then called.)

Frederick Stock
April 14 and 15, 1905, Orchestra Hall
BACH/Abert Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue (BWV 849 and BWV 542)
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
WAGNER Bacchanale from Tannhäuser
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
WAGNER Kaisermarsch
(Following Thomas’s death in January 1905, assistant conductor Frederick Stock took over the podium duties as the trustees began their search for a successor. After Felix Mottl, Felix Weingartner, and Hans Richter were considered, on April 11, 1905, the board of trustees met and “unanimously elected [Stock] conductor.”)

Désiré Defauw
October 14 and 15, 1943, Orchestra Hall
HANDEL Concerto Grosso No. 10 in D Minor
John Weicher and Franz Polesny, violins
Edmund Kurtz, cello
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
SCHUBERT/Stock String Quintet in C Major, Op. 163 (D. 956)
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28
(Frederick Stock completed his orchestration of Schubert’s quintet in August 1942. However, he would not live to hear the finished work; he died in Chicago on October 20 of that year, having conducted only the first week of subscription concerts. The programming of the Schubert the following year was an appropriate memorial by Defauw to his predecessor.)

Artur Rodzinski
October 9 and 10, 1947, Orchestra Hall
BACH/Wertheim Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
COPLAND Suite from Appalachian Spring
RAVEL Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe
(Copland’s ballet premiered in 1944 and he arranged a suite the following year. It was first performed by the New York Philharmonic on October 4, 1945, under Rodzinski’s baton.)

Rafael Kubelík
October 12 and 13, 1950, Orchestra Hall
BACH Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069
BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
(A champion of new music, Kubelík began his tenure with the orchestra’s first performances of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta.)

Fritz Reiner
October 15 and 16, 1953, Orchestra Hall
BERLIOZ Overture to Benvenuto Cellini
STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
(Reiner was certainly pleased with his first-concert choices. He and the orchestra recorded Heldenleben the following March, one of his first recordings with the orchestra for RCA.)

Jean Martinon
October 10 and 11, 1963, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Symphony No. 104 in D Major (London)
STRAUSS Suite from Le bourgeois gentilhomme
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
(Like Thomas and Defauw before him, Martinon chose Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the repertoire—to open his first season.)

Georg Solti
November 27, 28, and 29, 1969, Orchestra Hall
IVES Three Places in New England
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Jacqueline du Pré, cello
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
(Solti’s first concert as music director was on Thanksgiving Day, during the tenth subscription week. The first four weeks of the season were led by Carlo Maria Giulini, the orchestra’s new—and first—principal guest conductor, followed by Irwin Hoffman, Eliahu Inbal, Erich Leinsdorf, and Georg Semkow.)

Daniel Barenboim
September 21, 1991, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park
SMITH The Star-Spangled Banner
VERDI Overture to La forza del destino
DVOŘÁK Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, No. 8
BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G Minor
MONIUSZKO Mazurka from Halka
GRAINGER Irish Tune from County Derry
GINASTERA Final movement from Estancia
WAGNER Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre
HAILSTORK Celebration!
BEETHOVEN Fourth movement from Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Tina Kiberg, soprano
Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano
Jon Frederic West, tenor
Robert Holl, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director
FISHER/Gould Chicago
Larry Combs, clarinet
SOUSA The Stars and Stripes Forever
(Barenboim’s first concert as music director was also a free concert for Chicago, designed to honor the city’s many ethnic diversities and neighborhoods.)

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.


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