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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the death of Israeli mezzo-soprano Mira Zakai, who died on May 20, 2019. She was seventy-six.

Mira Zakai in 2013 (Daniel Tchetchik photo)

Zakai appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on several notable occasions, both in the concert hall and in the recording studio. A complete list is below.

MOZART Mass in C Major, K. 317 (Coronation)
March 13, 14, and 15, 1980, Orchestra Hall
Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Alexander Oliver, tenor
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Originally recorded by WFMT for radio broadcast, this was released on the CSO’s From the Archives, vol. 13 (Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration).

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
May 5, 6, 7, and 8, 1980, Medinah Temple, (recording sessions only)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Isobel Buchanan, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The symphony was performed in Orchestra Hall on April 24, 25, and 26 in Orchestra Hall and on May 2 and 3, 1980, in Carnegie Hall with Buchanan and Christa Ludwig as soloists. James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock and John Dunkerley were the balance engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
October 2, 3, 4, and 6, 1980, Orchestra Hall
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Faye Robinson, soprano (October 2, 3, and 4)
Jill Gomez, soprano (October 6)
Teresa Cahill, soprano
Jo Ann Pickens, soprano
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (October 2, 3, and 4)
Dennis Bailey, tenor (October 6)
Brent Ellis, baritone
Theo Adam, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

SCHOENBERG Moses und Aron
April 19 and 21, 1984, Orchestra Hall
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Franz Mazura, speaker
Philip Langridge, tenor
Barbara Bonney, soprano
Daniel Harper, tenor
Kurt Link, baritone
Aage Haugland, bass
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Herbert Wittges, baritone
Thomas Dymit, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Members of the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
The opera was recorded in Orchestra Hall on April 23, 24, 30, and May 1, 1984. James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock and John Pellowe were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

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During his tenure as music director, Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra traveled to Carnegie Hall nearly every season. A complete list of those concerts are below:

January 8, 1970
HAYDN Symphony No. 102 in B-flat Major
BARTÓK Dance Suite
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

January 9, 1970
MAHLER Kindertotenlieder
Helen Watts, contralto
MAHLER Symphony No. 5

December 7, 1970
LEVY Concerto for Piano No. 1
Earl Wild, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

December 8, 1970
MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor

April 27, 1971
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Woglinde Karen Altman, soprano
Wellgunde Huguette Tourangeau, mezzo-soprano
Flosshilde Helen Watts, contralto
Alberich Rolf Kuhne, bass
Wotan David Ward, bass
Fricka Mignon Dunn, mezzo-soprano
Freia Karen Altman, soprano
Fasolt Martti Talvela, bass
Fafner Hans Sotin, bass
Donner Thomas Paul, bass
Froh Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Loge Gerhard Stolze, tenor
Mime John Lanigan, tenor
Erda Helen Watts, contralto

November 17, 1971
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (Rhenish)
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra
WAGNER Prelude to Act 1 of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

November 20, 1971
SCHOENBERG Moses and Aron
Moses Hans Hotter, speaker
Aron Richard Lewis, tenor
A Young Girl Karen Altman, soprano
A Young Man Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Another Man Benjamin Matthews, baritone
Priest Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
An Invalid Woman Emilie Miller, mezzo-contralto
Ephraimite Stephen Swanson, baritone
A Naked Youth Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Four Naked Virgins Barbara Pearson and Nancy Clevenger, sopranos; Sharon Powell, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Muir-Lewis, alto
Three Elders Alfred Reichel and Jack Abraham, baritones; Eugene Johnson, bass
Six Solo Voices in the Orchestra Barbara Pearson, soprano; Sharon Powell, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Muir-Lewis, alto; William Wahman, tenor; Stephen Swanson and Arthur Berg, baritones
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Barbara Born, director

April 19, 1972
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 (Unfinished)
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Shirley Verrett, mezzo-soprano
Stuart Burrows, tenor

April 22, 1972
CARTER Variations for Orchestra
STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14A

December 6, 1972
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Marguerite Josephine Veasey, contralto
Faust Stuart Burrows, tenor
Mephistopheles Robert Savoie, baritone
Brander Roger Soyer, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

December 9, 1972
MENDELSSOHN Overture to Fingal’s Cave, Op. 26
BARTÓK Concert for Violin, No. 2
Isaac Stern, violin
STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40

May 2, 1973
WAGNER Act 3 of Götterdämmerung
Gutrune Karen Altman, soprano
Brunnhilde Helga Dernesch, soprano
Woglinde Barbara Pearson, soprano
Wellgunde Gwendolyn Jones, mezzo-soprano
Flosshilde Sandra Walker, mezzo-soprano
Siegfried Jess Thomas, tenor
Gunther Donald Gramm, bass
Hagen Martti Talvela, bass
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Richard Boldrey, assistant director

May 4, 1973
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

November 14, 1973
WEBER Overture to Oberon
HENZE Heliogabalus Imperator
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

November 17, 1973
BACH Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

May 1, 1974
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120
BARTÓK Bluebeard’s Castle
Judith Tatiana Troyanos, mezzo-soprano
Bluebeard Zoltán Kelemen, baritone

May 4, 1974
MOZART Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 (Haffner)
ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma)
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

December 17, 1974
BACH Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047
Samuel Magad, violin
Ralph Zeitlin, recorder
Ray Still, oboe
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
SCHOENBERG Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

December 18, 1974
STRAUSS Salome
Salome Birgit Nilsson, soprano
Herodias Ruth Hesse, mezzo-soprano
Herod Antipas Ragnar Ulfung, tenor
Jokanaan Norman Bailey, baritone
Slave Sarah Beatty, soprano
The Page of Herodias Sandra Walker, mezzo-soprano
Narraboth George Shirley, tenor
Cappadocian Gershon Silins, bass
Two Nazarenes Cory Winter, tenor; Franz Mazura, bass-baritone
Four Jews Philip Creech, Jerry Jennings, John Lanigan, and William Wahman, tenors; Eugene Johnson, bass
Two Soldiers Curtis Dickson and Thomas Paul, basses

December 20, 1974
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano
ELGAR Symphony No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 63

December 21, 1974
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

April 29, 1975
STRAVINSKY Symphony in C
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major

April 30, 1975
VERDI Requiem
Leontyne Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 2, 1975
HAYDN Symphony No. 101 in D Major (The Clock)
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
Tamás Vásáry, piano
STRAUSS Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30

May 10, 1976
BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28

May 12, 1976
MENDELSSOHN Selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Alicia de Larrocha, piano
DEBUSSY La mer

May 14, 1976
WAGNER Der fliegende Höllander
The Dutchman Norman Bailey, bass-baritone
Senta Janis Martin, soprano
Daland Martti Talvelabass
Erik René Kollo, tenor
The Steersman Werner Krenntenor
Mary Isola Jonesmezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 8, 1976
MOZART Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K. 546
VERDI Four Sacred Pieces
Jo Ann Pickens, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
David Ward, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 10, 1976
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)

November 12, 1976
RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin
DEBUSSY Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
RAVEL La valse
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

May 9, 1977
HAYDN Symphony No. 103 in E-flat Major
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

May 11, 1977
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
MAHLER Symphony No. 5

May 13, 1977
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis, Op. 123
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Solti was scheduled to conduct four concerts at Carnegie Hall in October and November 1977; however after suffering a fall in Chicago, he was forced to cancel the first two appearances. The October 31 performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony was conducted by Chorus Director Margaret Hillis, and the November 1 program (identical to the November 2 concert) was led by Associate Conductor Henry Mazer.

November 2, 1977
ROSSINI Overture to The Barber of Seville
STRAVINSKY Jeu de cartes
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Lucia Popp, soprano
STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20

November 4, 1977
TIPPETT Symphony No. 4
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

May 8, 1978
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Alfred Brendel, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

May 9, 1978
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

May 10, 1978
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Alfred Brendel, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

May 12, 1978
BRAHMS Tragic Overture, Op. 81
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 14 & 15, 1979
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major

May 16 & 18, 1979
MUSSORGSKY/Rimsky-Korsakov Prelude to Khovanshchina
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 1, Op. 10
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 (Great)

May 19, 1979
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
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

April 28 & 30, 1980
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastorale)
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

April 29, 1980
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (Scottish)
WAGNER “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser
Leontyne Price, soprano
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Leontyne Price, soprano
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

May 2 & 3, 1980
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Isobel Buchanan, soprano
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

April 27 & 29, 1981
MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major

April 28, 1981
BRUCKNER Symphony No.4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra

May 1 & 2, 1981
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Marguerite Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Faust Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1); Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
Mephistopheles José van Dam, baritone
Brander Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

April 18, 1983
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Wotan Siegmund Nimsgern, bass-baritone
Alberich Hermann Becht, baritone
Fricka Gabriele Schnaut, mezzo-soprano
Loge Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor
Mime Robert Tear, tenor
Erda Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Fafner Malcolm Smith, bass
Fasolt Gwynne Howell, bass
Freia Mary Jane Johnson, soprano
Donner John Cheek, bass-baritone
Froh Dennis Bailey, tenor
Woglinde Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Wellgunde Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Flosshilde Emily Golden, mezzo-soprano

April 19, 1983
MOZART Overture to The Magic Flute, K. 620
BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)

April 29, 1985
VERDI Falstaff
Sir John Falstaff Guillermo Sarabia, baritone
Ford Wolfgang Brendel, baritone
Fenton Yordi Ramiro, tenor
Dr. Caius Heinz Zednik, tenor
Bardolph Francis Egerton, tenor
Pistol Aage Haugland, bass
Mistress Alice Ford Katia Ricciarelli, soprano
Nannetta Kathleen Battle, soprano
Mistress Quickly Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Mistress Meg Page Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

April 30, 1985
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 9, Op. 70
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Unfinished)

May 1, 1985
BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op 56a
LUTOSŁAWSKI Symphony No. 3
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

May 3, 1985
MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor

May 4, 1985
BERG Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
BERG Concerto for Violin
Salvatore Accardo, violin
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

May 18, 1987
MAHLER Symphony No. 9

May 19, 1987
STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

May 20, 1987
HAYDN Symphony No. 103 in E-flat Major (Drumroll)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

February 10, 1989
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485
SCHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 65

February 11, 1989
BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
BARTÓK Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

April 15 & 18, 1991
TIPPETT Byzantium
Faye Robinson, soprano
MAHLER Symphony No. 5


April 16 & 19, 1991

VERDI Otello
Otello Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Desdemona Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Iago Leo Nucci, baritone
Emilia Elzbieta Ardam, mezzo-soprano
Cassio Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor
Roderigo John Keyes, tenor
Montano Alan Opie, baritone
Lodovico Dimitri Kavrakos, bass
A Herald Richard Cohn, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Terry Edwards, guest chorus master
Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus
Elena Doria, director

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For the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s centennial season in 1990-91—also Sir Georg Solti’s final season as music director—fourteen works were commissioned, including Sir Michael Tippett‘s Byzantium.

The work was commissioned jointly by the CSO and Carnegie Hall (also celebrating its centennial that season), and was underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. A. Watson Armour III in memory of Mrs. Armour‘s sister Anne Wood Mitchell.

Solti conducted performances at Orchestra Hall on April 11 and 13, and again at Carnegie Hall on April 15 and 18, 1991. Soprano Faye Robinson was the soloist.

The composer contributed to the program note: “My own attraction to [Yeats’s poem], as a vehicle for composition, was twofold: firstly, the crystalline intensity of the poem itself offered a challenge in setting its verbal imagery to music; secondly, I identified completely with its emphasis on the notion of artifact, enshrining values that can be set against the impermanence of the everyday world and the complexities of the human beating heart.” The text for Byzantium can be found here.

Solti, Sir Michael Tippett, and Faye Robinson receive applause following the April 15, 1991, performance in Carnegie Hall

The work was recorded live during the Carnegie Hall performances for London Records. Michael Haas was the producer, John Pellowe was the engineer, and Sally Drew was the tape editor.

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Theodore Thomas

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