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RCA Red Seal Records (a division of Sony Classical) is releasing a set of complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings—some available for the first time on CD—led by Seiji Ozawa, recorded during his tenure as the first music director of the Ravinia Festival from 1964 until 1968.
“With the success of [Fritz] Reiner’s CSO recordings, RCA was eager to continue expanding its catalog with the Orchestra, and the label wasted no time engaging both [Jean] Martinon (who began his tenure as the orchestra’s seventh music director in 1963) and Ozawa,” writes Frank Villella in the liner notes for the set. “Martinon first recorded with the Orchestra for RCA in November 1964, and Ozawa’s first recording—Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto with [seventeen-year-old Peter] Serkin—was made at Orchestra Hall in June 1965.”
Additional highlights from the set include Serkin performing Bartók’s First Piano Concerto and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto, one of the seven recordings of the Orchestra performing Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth symphonies, and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, among others.
When Ozawa announced that he would step down as the Festival’s music director, he said that “Ravinia was the first organization to invite me to be its music director. Without the belief you had in me, I do not think I would have any career at this moment. The Chicago Symphony is one of the greatest orchestras I have ever conducted, and I have had no greater glory in music than I have experienced here.”
The set is available for pre-order via the Symphony Store here. It will be available domestically on April 21, 2017.
On Wednesday, February, 22, the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York City hosted a concert and exhibit opening for Vienna and New York: 175 Years of Two Philharmonics. Featuring artifacts highlighting the founding and history of both the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the exhibit also included the manuscript score of Richard Strauss’s Symphony no. 2 in F minor from the Theodore Thomas collection in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rosenthal Archives.
Musicians from both orchestras—clarinet Daniel Ottensamer and violins Daniel Froschauer and Harald Krumpöck from the Vienna Philharmonic, and viola Cynthia Phelps and cello Carter Brey from the New York Philharmonic—were on hand to perform Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet at the beginning of the program. Remarks were delivered by the presidents of both orchestras, Andreas Großbauer and Matthew VanBesien, along with Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s minister for foreign affairs and integration. And in the entryway to the Forum, COSMIC ROCKET, a temporary art installation by Nives Widauer, utilized tour trunks from both orchestras.
The exhibit will be open to the public until March 10 and then travel on to Vienna (the Strauss score will only be included in the New York leg of the exhibit), opening on March 28 at the Haus der Musik and on display through January 2018.
Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s first music director, died on January 4, 1905. For many years after, the Orchestra would dedicate the first concerts of the new year to his memory, frequently performing works closely associated with their founder. We continue that tradition on this week’s radio broadcast, as Frank Villella, director of the CSO’s Rosenthal Archives, co-hosts a retrospective of works that Thomas introduced to audiences in the United States, both with the Chicago Orchestra and other ensembles.
In 1879, the University of Breslau in Poland bestowed upon Johannes Brahms an honorary doctorate, and to show his appreciation, he composed the Academic Festival Overture the following summer. The composer himself led the first public performance at the university in January 1881, and later that year on November 29, Thomas led the U.S. premiere in New York.
Daniel Barenboim, early in his tenure as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director, recorded Brahms’s complete symphonies, along with the Tragic Overture, Variations on a Theme by Haydn, and the Academic Festival Overture, all for Erato Records.
In the nineteenth century, Thomas was Richard Wagner’s greatest advocate in the United States, both before and after he founded the Chicago Orchestra. During his fourteen seasons as music director, he programmed Wagner’s music on nearly half of his concerts, both in Chicago and with the Orchestra on tour. Thomas gave the U.S. premiere of the Prelude from Tristan and Isolde in New York on February 10, 1866, less than a year after the opera’s first complete performances in Munich; and he also gave the first U.S. performance of the Prelude paired with the Liebestod in Boston on December 6, 1871. Thomas programmed these two works together fifteen times on subscription concerts during his tenure as music director.
Artur Rodzinski was the Orchestra’s fourth music director for only one season (1947–48). One of his great successes was a concert performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde in November 1947, featuring soprano Kirsten Flagstad in her first operatic appearance in the United States since the end of World War II. The legendary Chicago Tribune critic Claudia Cassidy called the performance “the dawn of a new operatic day in Chicago.” A month later, Rodzinski and the Orchestra recorded the Prelude and Liebestod for RCA.
Thomas gave the U.S. premiere of Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations with the Chicago Orchestra on January 3, 1902, and it was such a crowd-pleaser that he programmed it a second time later that season. A few years later in April 1907, second music director Frederick Stock invited the composer himself to lead several of his works, including In the South, the first Pomp and Circumstance March, and the Enigma Variations. The Chicago Tribune reported that, “The men of the Orchestra gave him their closest attention and heartiest sympathy yesterday, and the result was a performance of the three compositions which was technically and tonally of highest worth. Sir Edward himself seemed genuinely pleased and his assertion after the concert that the ‘work of the Orchestra surpassed all his fondest expectations’ evidently was the expression of his true feeling.”
Sir Georg Solti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director, recorded the Enigma Variations on May 15, 1974, at Medinah Temple for London Records.
During the summer of 1883, Thomas visited Europe and according to his Memoirs—edited by his widow, Rose Fay Thomas—the conductor, “had met, in Munich, a young and almost unknown composer, one Richard Strauss, who has recently finished writing a symphony. Thomas secured the first movement of the work, and was so much impressed with it that he requested young Strauss to let him have the other movements, promising to bring out the whole work in a concert of the Philharmonic Society.” Thomas kept that promise and in New York in December 1884, he led the world premiere of the Second Symphony in F minor—the first music of Richard Strauss to be performed in the United States. Strauss would later send new scores, and Thomas introduced several works to the United States with the Orchestra, including Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Don Quixote, along with Ein Heldenleben, first performed in Chicago on March 9, 1900.
Near the end of his first season as sixth music director, Fritz Reiner made his first recordings with the Orchestra for RCA. In Orchestra Hall on March 6, 1954, they recorded Strauss’s Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome and Ein Heldenleben, with violin solos performed by then-concertmaster John Weicher. Reiner’s CSO recordings of music by Strauss have never been out of print, and in 2013, Sony re-issued Reiner’s complete CSO catalog on RCA, a boxed set of sixty-three CDs.
TCHAIKOVSKY Final Waltz and Apotheosis from The Nutcracker, Op. 71
Morton Gould, conductor
Recorded by RCA in Orchestra Hall, January 1966
Thomas gave the U.S. premiere of a suite from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker on October 22, 1892, on the first concert of the Orchestra’s second season. The program note described Tchaikovsky as the “composer, who, in his fifth symphony, has led us into the highest realms of art and stirred our very soul,” and the note described the selections from the ballet as “miniature pictures painted with infinite grace and care,” showing the composer, “in one of his playful and trifling moods.”
Morton Gould, a frequent guest conductor on Popular concerts in the 1960s, recorded selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker at Orchestra Hall on January 31, 1966, for RCA. A six-disc set of Gould’s complete recordings with the Orchestra was released by Sony in February 2016.
Virtually every Chicago Symphony Orchestra musician studied with a great teacher, who studied with great teachers before that—a process that traces back to Bernstein, Brahms, and Bach. Along with our beloved Italian maestro, Riccardo Muti, the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association are a living link to past generations of legendary performers, conductors, and composers, and our artist musicians hail from many different countries who share a common musical heritage.
As we conclude the celebrations surrounding the Orchestra’s festive 125th season, the CSOAA also celebrates an anniversary this year—its twenty-fifth. The CSOAA consists of nearly 130 members—including retired and former musicians, spouses, and children—an astonishing aggregate total of well over a thousand years of service to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! In 1991, Isadore Zverow (viola, 1945–1988) fostered the idea of the CSOAA, and subsequent presidents have included Sam Denov (percussion, 1954–1985), Phillip Kauffman (violin and viola, 1927–1930 and 1964–1984), Jerry Sabransky (violin, 1949–1997), and currently Tom Hall (violin, 1970–2006).
Having performed for many years together on stages all over the world, alumni continue to interact with each other through the CSOAA; and each season, members receive discounts to concerts and the Symphony Store. The organization enjoys the warm embrace of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, which holds its former musicians close as senior members of the Orchestra’s family. Current CSOA President Jeff Alexander has been most gracious in supporting the retirees, some of whom are well into their nineties. The CSOAA board of directors meets several times a year to plan annual reunion dinners, which are usually held at the historic Cliff Dwellers club. Members also have contributed to the CSOA’s Rosenthal Archives—a treasure trove of history, recordings, music scores, artifacts, and databases of former orchestra members—lovingly curated and managed by our liaison, director Frank Villella.
So the next time you stroll through Symphony Center’s first-floor arcade, try to imagine the many great musicians of earlier generations behind each portrait—beautifully taken by photographer Todd Rosenberg—of the superb musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
This article also appears in the September/October CSO program book.
Donald Moline was a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra cello section from 1967 until 2006, and he currently serves as secretary of the CSOAA.
On October 16 and 17, 1891, founder and first music director Theodore Thomas led the Chicago Orchestra’s inaugural concerts at the Auditorium Theatre. A group of more than fifty businessmen—including Chicago pioneers Armour, Fay, Field, Glessner, McCormick, Potter, Pullman, Ryerson, Sprague, and Wacker—had agreed to serve as guarantors, each pledging their continued financial support.
At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., this giving spirit is the focus of a long-term Philanthropy Initiative announced on #GivingTuesday that includes a new display, “Giving in America” unveiled on December 1, 2015, and on view through November 2016. Included in this display is a very special artifact from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rosenthal Archives: the oldest of Thomas’s scores for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a work prominently featured on those inaugural concerts.
In the Thomas collection, there are four copies of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: three are held in the Rosenthal Archives and one at the Newberry Library. Several months ago, Newberry Library manuscripts and archives librarian Alison Hinderliter and I carefully evaluated all four copies. While it’s impossible to determine exactly which score was used for the October 1891 concerts, we decided the most likely candidate was the oldest of the four scores. That particular edition clearly bears Thomas’s markings—particularly bowings in the string parts—along with the conductor’s personal stamp on numerous pages. Several weeks ago, it was carefully packaged and shipped to Washington, D.C. for the exhibit.
According to museum’s website, the preview cases for “Giving in America,” will “provide a look at how philanthropy has shaped American civic culture in two eras—the Gilded Age (1870s–1900) and the present day. The display showcases the role of philanthropy in creating some of the nation’s most enduring museums, libraries, orchestras, universities, and hospitals. It also examines the involvement of women in nineteenth-century philanthropy. Artifacts include a register book showing the 1,600 libraries financed by Andrew Carnegie, an 1881 gown designed by Charles Frederick Worth for philanthropist Mary Eno Pinchot . . . a nurse’s cap worn by a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing student (circa 1945), and current civic philanthropy stories.”
For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu.
But as CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, one Chicago institution has won more than five dozen.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is known for its performances, but in the music world, it’s also known for its Grammy wins.
Over the past five decades, recordings by the CSO have garnered 62 Grammys.
“It was for the Orchestra’s recording of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste conducted by our then-music director Fritz Reiner,” Villella says.
Dozens more Grammys followed.
“The latest Grammys would be for our recording of Verdi’s Requiem,” explains Villella, referring to the two Grammys won in 2010. “These were our Music Director Riccardo Muti‘s first Grammy awards.”
With so many Grammys connected to the CSO, Villella says it’s hard to pick his favorite.
“A couple would come to mind. This recording featuring the Orchestra and the Chorus, Bartok’s The Wooden Prince and Cantata profana [conducted by Pierre Boulez]. This recording actually won four Grammy awards.”
While it may be difficult to pick a favorite recording or Grammy, Villella says when it comes to conductors the late Sir Georg Solti has no competition.
“It makes us all here feel tremendously proud,” Villella says.
If you’re interested in taking a tour of the Rosenthal Archives call the CSO at (312) 294-3000.
This year’s Grammy Awards telecast is Sunday evening, February 10, on CBS. Following the telecast, CBS 2 Chicago will be running a brief feature on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s extensive history with the awards. Weekend co-anchor Mai Martinez visited the Rosenthal Archives earlier this week and the segment was taped in the vault, including an interview with yours truly. A few images of the visit and taping are included here.
Recordings by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have earned sixty-two Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. A complete list of those recordings and awards can be found here. And, of course, the CSO’s eighth music director, Sir Georg Solti, is still the all-time Grammy champ, with thirty-one awards to his credit.
A brief recap of Wednesday’s events, celebrating the Glessner family event and their generosity to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:
Several descendants of Harry Weisbach, concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1912 until 1921, traveled to Chicago for the Glessner House and Museum event. Before Wednesday evening’s dinner and presentation, four family members visited the Rosenthal Archives to view materials in our collections that document Weisbach’s tenure, and they were all planning to attend the CSO concert on Thursday evening.
One of Mrs. Glessner’s favorite songs was Arthur J. Mundy’s “The Drum Major of Schneider’s Band,” and she loved playing it on the family Steinway piano. In her honor, the music on the doll orchestra’s music stands, individually handwritten by Frederick Stock, is a section from that song.
On the evening of January 17, 1913, Mrs. Glessner herself sat at the piano in the music room and played the song while the family and members of the Orchestra sang along. And on Wednesday evening just before dinner—sitting at that same piano—Bill Tyre (Glessner House executive director and curator) and yours truly performed the song for the dinner guests, which included not only descendants of Harry Weisbach but also the great-granddaughter of Frederick Stock.
A little sample of the song’s text: “But ven you heers dot moosic blay so sveet / See dot Band a marchin oop de street / Vy it vas you tink dey blay so grand / Who it vas you tink dot leads dot Band / You hear de moosic gay / You hear de beeples say / It surely must be Schneider leads dot Band!”
And to complete the evening in the coach house, Bill gave an in-depth presentation—using images and artifacts from the museum’s collections—illustrating the extensive and deep relationship between the Glessner family and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, its musicians, and its first two music directors Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock.
It was simply a wonderful event and collaboration to celebrate the generosity of a great Chicago family.
And just a reminder that the doll collection will only be on exhibit through February 24, 2013. Details on museum tours are here.
My good friend Bill Tyre, executive director and curator of the Glessner House and Museum, and I were interviewed yesterday by Channel 7’s Frank Mathie. The video is available here and a transcript of the segment is below.
Back in the late 1800s, the John Glessner family helped form the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
One family member even created a miniature orchestra to honor the symphony. Now, 100 years later, the tiny musicians have returned home to the South Side.
The historic Glessner House area at 18th and Prairie was the original Gold Coast for Chicago’s wealthy like John Glessner, whose money helped create the CSO.
Seventy-five miniature musicians playing miniature instruments under the direction of 5-inch-tall conductor Frederick Stock were also created.
“This is a model created in 1913 by Frances Glessner Lee as a birthday gift for her mother. And it represents the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as it appeared at that time,” said Bill Tyre, executive director and curator, Glessner House.
Frances Glessner Lee would become a famous miniaturist later in life, but this was her first big project. She was a perfectionist and made sure everything was perfect down to the last note, so she attended rehearsals.
“She would sit in the house and sketch the orchestra while they were rehearsing. But then also during the breaks she would go up to the individual musicians and usually taking one of the doll’s heads, she would sketch the facial hair . . . the hair on the top of the head,” said Frank Villella, archivist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
So the faces and body types you see now are what Frances Glessner Lee saw then as she made her little music men. The orchestra has spent most of the last 100 years in the CSO archives. But now it’s back home for public viewing starting Wednesday night and running until Sunday, February 24.
Some things never change. For instance, the CSO today plays the same symphonies played back in 1913. But other things do change. It was all white men.
“The orchestra now is about 65 percent men and about 35 percent women, and, of course, many more ethnic diversities are represented as well,” Villella said.*
On Wednesday night at a 7:00 p.m. lecture, descendants of conductor Frederick Stock and concertmaster Harry Weisbach will be there to welcome the orchestra back to Glessner House.
(Copyright ©2013 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
*My numbers were a little bit off: according to the program book for this week (January 17-19, 2013), there are 103 rostered members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, of which 41 (39.8%) are women and 62 (60.2%) are men. To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest percentage of women ever in the Orchestra.