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Fantasia 2000

Between 1993 and 1996, James Levine conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in recording sessions at Medinah Temple for Fantasia 2000, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s classic Fantasia from 1940. Levine led extended excerpts from Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no. 2 with Yefim Bronfman, Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals with pianists Gail Niwa and Philip Sabransky (both children of CSO members), Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches with soprano Kathleen Battle and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and Stravinsky’s The Firebird.

The movie was released on New Year’s Day 2000, and Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert described the IMAX version “not just as a film, but as an event.” He continued, “Movies like this renew my faith that the future of the cinema lies not in the compromises of digital projection, but by leaping over the limitations of digital into the next generation of film technology.”

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Top of the first page of the first bassoon part to The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Top of the first page of the first bassoon part to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

“This interesting novelty is by a composer little known to the musical world and whose name now appears for the first time on the programs of these concerts,” wrote Hubbard William Harris in the program book. “[Paul] Dukas’s composition is, as its name signifies, in a single movement and is constructed from thematic material so easily grasped as to require neither quotation nor extended explanation. . . . The composer has drawn his inspiration from Goethe’s ballad Der Zauberlehrling (The pupil in magic). The instrumentation is exceedingly rich and effective and in point of difficulty of execution the work stands side by side with the brilliant compositions of [Richard] Strauss, d’Indy, and other modern writers.”

January 13 and 14, 1899

January 13 and 14, 1899

Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra performed Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on January 13, 1899, the U.S. premiere of the thirty-three-year-old composer’s scherzo. Forty years later in Disney’s Fantasia, the work would be forever linked to Mickey Mouse’s apprentice, tormented by his inability to control an onslaught of brooms and buckets of water.

(Bruno Steindel, the Orchestra’s principal cello, originally was scheduled to be soloist in Raff’s Cello Concerto on this program; however, he canceled due to illness and Chabrier’s “interesting novelty,” the composer’s Suite pastorale, replaced the concerto.)

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