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Defauw

On February 11, 1943, Edward L. Ryerson, president of the Orchestral Association, announced that Désiré Defauw would become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s third music director, beginning with the 1943–44 season. The Belgian conductor had made his debut with the Orchestra only a month before, leading one program of subscription concerts on January 7 and 8 (Wagner’s Overture to The Flying Dutchman, Debussy’s Clouds and Festivals from Nocturnes, Franck’s Le chasseur maudit, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony) and a Popular Concert on January 9 (Weber’s Overture to Euryanthe, Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela from Four Legends of the Kalevala, selections from Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony).

Defauw’s years with the Orchestra coincided with the time when American involvement in World War II was at its peak, an unsettled era when musicians were off to war (making room for more women to join orchestras) and servicemen were able to hear concerts for free when seats were unsold or empty. Patriotism was in high gear and the Stars and Stripes became a permanent fixture over the stage of Orchestra Hall. For the first concerts of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown concerts following the end of the war—Defauw led the Orchestra in the national anthems of the Allied nations: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Music director Désiré Defauw and the Orchestra onstage on October 12, 1943

Music director Désiré Defauw and the Orchestra onstage on October 12, 1943

Serving for four seasons through 1946–47, Defauw introduced Chicago audiences to the works of several contemporary composers, including Barber, Bloch, Carpenter, Chadwick, Copland, Elgar, Goldmark, Milhaud, Sibelius, Walton, and Warlock. For RCA, Defauw and the Orchestra recorded a wide variety of repertoire, including works by Borodin, Franck, Grétry, Handel, Prokofiev, Respighi, Smetana, and Stravinsky, along with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with Mischa Elman, Strauss’s Burleske and Weber’s Konzertstück with Claudio Arrau, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Erica Morini.

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CSO musicians explore the city and Principal Trombone Jay Friedman conducts a master class during the day off in Florence. Musicians visit the Duomo, the cathedral of Florence, which features Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of The Last Judgment; the Uffizi Gallery, which houses works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo among other artists; and Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge, built over the Arno River, is known for the shops that are built on top of it. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto
CSO musicians travel from Naples to Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region. Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, the city has been the home of historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Dante, political theorist Machiavelli, astronomer Galileo, the Medici family, navigator Amerigo Vespucci and humanitarian Florence Nightingale. Riccardo Muti leads the CSO’s debut performance at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with a program featuring works by Wagner, Hindemith and Prokofiev. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto
The CSO and Maestro Muti perform a program featuring Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) at the historic Teatro di San Carlo for a capacity audience. Taking the podium to announce the evening’s encore—Giordano’s Intermezzo from Fedora—Muti noted “although, I’m 100% Italian, I’m 200% Southern Italian.” After the concert, Maestro Muti and his wife hosted the musicians of the Orchestra and distinguished guests for a post-concert dinner featuring traditional Neapolitan cuisine. On Sunday morning before the concert, Maestro Muti and three CSO musicians—Jennifer Gunn, piccolo; Charles Vernon, trombone; and Gene Pokorny, tuba—share an informal performance with young men and women at a juvenile justice center in nearby Nisida. The program was presented by the Negaunee Music Institute with assistance from the administrative staff of the Teatro di San Carlo. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto

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