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Gary Graffman (Carol Rosegg photo)

Wishing a very happy (albeit slightly belated) ninetieth birthday to the great American pianist and teacher Gary Graffman!

Graffman appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of occasions between 1951 and 1976, listed below:

January 13, 1951, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
George Schick, conductor

April 7, 1956, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
George Schick, conductor

February 10, 12, and 13, 1959, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Walter Hendl, conductor
Recorded by RCA on May 5, 1959, in Orchestra Hall. Richard Bayne was the engineer and Richard Mohr was the producer.

February 18, 1961, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Walter Hendl, conductor

July 29, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Paul Hindemith, conductor

August 5, 1961, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 43
Izler Solomon, conductor

January 10, 11, and 13, 1974, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Guido Ajmone-Marsan, conductor

July 22, 1976, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
André Previn, conductor

October 14, 15, and 17, 1976, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Happy, happy birthday!

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Young Herbie at the piano (image from Hancock's autobiography Possibilities, used with permission)

Young Herbie at the piano (image from Hancock’s autobiography Possibilities, used with permission)

Eleven-year-old Herbie Hancock—a seventh-grade student at the Forestville School, located in the Kenwood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side—was a CSO Youth Auditions winner, and he appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a Young People’s Concert at Orchestra Hall on February 5, 1952. He performed the first movement (Allegro) from Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 26 in D major, K. 537 (Coronation) under the baton of George Schick, the Orchestra’s assistant conductor.

In the years since, Hancock—the winner of multiple Grammy awards (including one for Lifetime Achievement) and a recipient of a Kennedy Center Honors in 2013—has appeared at Orchestra Hall on numerous occasions with a variety of artists.

February 1952

February 5, 1952

This article also appears here.

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Margaret Harris (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Harris leads the Orchestra in Maywood on July 26, 1971 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

While a student at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, ten-year old Margaret Harris won a youth audition and the opportunity to perform with the Orchestra on Young People’s Concerts. On November 17 and December 1, 1953, she was soloist in a movement from Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 in D minor with associate conductor George Schick. Shortly thereafter, Harris won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute, and by the age of twelve she was a student at the Juilliard School, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 1970, she took over the reins of the Broadway musical Hair, conducting the seven-piece orchestra (all male, all older) from the keyboard.

Margaret Harris and the Orchestra in Maywood on July 26, 1971 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Harris addresses the Maywood audience on July 26, 1971 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

During the summer of 1971, Harris became the first African American woman to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, leading three Symphony in the Streets concerts—free outdoor concerts presented in cooperation with the Illinois Arts Council—on July 26 near the village hall in Maywood, on August 1 in Lincoln Park, and on August 6 on the grounds of the First Lutheran Church in Harvey. She led works by Borodin, Granados, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Smetana, Wagner, and a suite from Galt MacDermot’s score for Hair.

Harris “thoroughly earned her assignment by her own talents,” wrote Bernard Jacobson in the Chicago Daily News following the concert in Maywood. “Her work showed a cool competence that was particularly impressive in view of her limited symphonic experience.” The reviewer praised “the sense of spontaneous musicality she conveys. ‘Let the Sunshine In,’ the final number from Hair urges; and that is exactly what Margaret Harris did.”

This article also appears here.

Bartok Bloch

Happy (almost) 100th birthday, maestro!

Rafael Kubelík and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra made a series of landmark recordings in Orchestra Hall for Mercury Records during our fifth music director’s brief tenure. A complete list of those recordings is below.

BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
April 1951

BLOCH Concerto grosso No. 1
April 1951
George Schick, piano

Dvorak

BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
April 1952

DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)
November 1951

HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber
April 1953

MOZART Symphony No. 34 in C Major, K. 338
December 1952

MOZART Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 (Prague)
December 1952

Mussorgsky

MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition
April 1951

SCHOENBERG Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16
April 1953

SMETANA Má Vlast
December 1952

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
November 1951

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)
April 1952

Tchaikovsky
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On its From the Archives series, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also released several Kubelík-conducted works, all originally recorded for radio broadcast between 1950 and 1991.

BARBER Capricorn Concerto for Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, and Strings, Op. 21
December 2 & 5, 1982
Donald Peck, flute
Ray Still, oboe
Adolph Herseth, trumpet

BRITTEN Sinfonia da requiem, Op. 24
November 3 and 4, 1983

A Tribute to Rafael Kubelik

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major
December 9 & 11, 1982

DELLO JOIO Variations, Chaconne, and Finale
December 2 & 5, 1982

DVOŘÁK Husitzká Overture, Op. 67
October 18, 1991

DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88
December 8, 1966

HARRIS Symphony No. 5
December 2 & 5, 1982

KUBELÍK Sequences for Orchestra
November 9, 1980

MARTINŮ Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani
March 20 & 22, 1980
Mary Sauer, piano
Donald Koss, timpani

MOZART Finale (Allegro) from Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major, K. 447
September 27, 1950
Philip Farkas, horn

MOZART Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477
March 15, 1980

A Tribute to Rafael Kubelik II

MOZART Mass in C Major, K. 317 (Coronation)
March 15, 1980
Lucia Popp, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Alexander Oliver, tenor
Malcolm King, bass

RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin
November 3 and 4, 1983

ROSSINI Overture to Tancredi
November 27, 1951

ROUSSEL Symphony No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 42
November 3, 4, & 6, 1983
(Released on Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The First 100 Years)

SUK Meditations on an Ancient Czech Chorale, Op. 35 (Holy Wenceslaus)
December 25, 1951

WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
December 22 and 23, 1966

WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
March 30, 1952 (University of Illinois Auditorium; Urbana, Illinois)
Nelson Leonard, baritone
University of Illinois Choir and Men’s Glee Club
Paul Young, director
University of Illinois Women’s Glee Club
John Bryden, director
University of Illinois Brass Bands
Lyman Starr and Haskell Sexton, directors

This week Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s First Symphony, almost exactly one hundred years since Frederick Stock first conducted it in Chicago.

Program page for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first performances of Mahler's First Symphony

Program page for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Mahler’s First Symphony

That first performance of the symphony (sandwiched between Handel’s Concerto grosso, op. 6, no. 2 and Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Josef Hofmann) on November 6, 1914, left Ronald Webster of the Chicago Daily Tribune a bit puzzled: “The Mahler symphony is less important but more interesting to talk about because it is strictly earthy. There is a suggestion in the program notes that Mahler was not wholly serious in this symphony. It was obvious yesterday that he was not serious at all. Even the finale is not serious, though it is tiresome, being too long. But it is the quality of the humor which is likely to cause people to turn up their noses. The humor is a little coarse, definitely ironical, of a barnyard kind and healthy. Mahler is himself partly to blame for such ideas about him. Definite conceptions such as his (though he may not have been serious about them either) are death to all mystic attitude toward this work. . . . He suggests that the first movement is nature’s awakening at early morning. One suspects that Mahler included in nature the cows and chickens as well as the cuckoo and the dewy grass.” The complete review is here.

Despite that critic’s early apprehensions, the symphony soon became a staple in the Orchestra’s repertoire and has been led—at Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, and on tour—by a vast array of conductors, including: Roberto Abbado, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Adam Fischer, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Irwin Hoffman, Paul Kletzki, Kirill Kondrashin, Rafael Kubelík, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Igor Markevitch, Henry Mazer, Eugene Ormandy, Seiji Ozawa, George Schick, Leonard Slatkin, Sir Georg Solti, William Steinberg, Klaus Tennstedt, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, Bruno Walter, and Jaap van Zweden.

And the Orchestra has recorded the work six times, as follows:

Giulini 1971Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Recorded by Angel at Medinah Temple in March 1971
Christopher Bishop, producer
Carson Taylor, engineer
Giulini’s recording won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance—Orchestra from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Abbado 1981Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon at Orchestra Hall in February 1981
Rainer Brock, producer
Karl-August Naegler, engineer

Solti 1983Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London at Orchestra Hall in October 1983
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer

Tennstedt 1990Klaus Tennstedt, conductor
Recorded by EMI at Orchestra Hall in May and June 1990
John Fraser, producer
Michael Sheady, engineer

Boulez 1998Pierre Boulez, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon at Orchestra Hall in May 1998
Karl-August Naegler, producer
Rainer Maillard and Reinhard Lagemann, engineers

Haitink 2008Bernard Haitink, conductor
Recorded by CSO Resound at Orchestra Hall in May 2008
James Mallinson, producer
Christopher Willis, engineer

For more information on Muti’s performances of Mahler’s First this week, please visit the CSO’s website.

Kennedy Center Honors recipients Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Shirley MacLaine, and Martina Arroyo in Washington, D.C. on December 8, 2013

Kennedy Center Honors recipients Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Shirley MacLaine, and Martina Arroyo in Washington, D.C. on December 8, 2013

Congratulations to two very special members of the extended CSO family—Martina Arroyo and Herbie Hancock—upon receiving Kennedy Center Honors at a ceremony held yesterday in Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama saluted the honorees saying, “The diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven’t just proven themselves to be the best of the best. Despite all their success, all their fame, they’ve remained true to themselves—and inspired the rest of us to do the same.” Also receiving Kennedy Center Honors were Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, and Shirley MacLaine. The gala will be broadcast on CBS on December 29, 2013.

Martina Arroyo

Soprano Martina Arroyo first appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall on November 14, 15, and 16, 1968, in Verdi’s Requiem. Music director Jean Martinon conducted and the vocal soloists included Carol Smith, Sándor Kónya, and Malcolm Smith. She again appeared in Verdi’s Requiem on March 25, 26, and 27, 1971, under the baton of principal guest conductor Carlo Maria Giulini. Soloists included Shirley Verrett, Carlo Cossutta, and Ezio Flagello. For both sets of performances, the Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. At the Ravinia Festival, Arroyo appeared with the Orchestra in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on July 31 and August 2, 1969, with Alain Lombard conducting; and on August 7 and 9, 1969, in Verdi’s Aida with Giuseppe Patanè conducting. On August 3, 1974, she joined tenor Richard Tucker in a concert of opera arias and duets by Giordano, Mascagni, Puccini, and Verdi with James Levine conducting; and she also was soloist in Strauss’s Four Last Songs on August 12, 1976, with Lawrence Foster conducting.

Herbie Hancock Feb 1952

Eleven-year-old Herbie Hancock—a grade 7A student at the Forestville School, located in the Kenwood neighborhood on Chicago’s south side—was a CSO youth auditions winner and appeared with the Orchestra on a Young People’s Concert at Orchestra Hall on February 5, 1952. He performed the first movement (Allegro) from Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 26 in D major, K. 537 (Coronation). The conductor was George Schick, the CSO’s assistant conductor. In the years since, Hancock has appeared at Orchestra Hall on numerous occasions with a variety of artists as well as with his own quartet.

János Starker

Legendary cellist and teacher János Starker, principal cello (1953–1958) and frequent soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, died on April 28, 2013, in Bloomington, Indiana. He was 88.

János Starker was born in Budapest, Hungary to Russian émigré parents. He began cello studies at age six, taught his first lesson at age eight, and gave his first public performance at age ten. He studied at the Franz Liszt Royal Academy, where faculty included Béla Bartók, Zoltan Kodály, Ernst von Dohnányi, and Leo Weiner. It was also at the Liszt Academy where he met his lifelong friend and future CSO concertmaster, Victor Aitay.

After imprisonment in a internment camp (on Csepel Island, in the Danube next to Budapest) during World War II, Starker became principal cello of the Budapest Opera and Philharmonic orchestras. With Aitay, he left Hungary in 1946 for Vienna, performing as soloist and in Aitay’s string quartet. Starker immigrated to the United States in 1948 and joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as principal cello at the invitation of Antal Doráti. The next year, he occupied the same position in New York City’s Metropolitan Opera under the direction of fellow Hungarian Fritz Reiner. With Reiner, Starker came to Chicago and became principal cello of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953. He became an American citizen in 1954.

The maestro joined the newest members of the Orchestra for an informal photo in 1953. The new musicians are (left to right): Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; and János Starker, cello.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in 1953: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; and Starker.

In 1958, Starker left Chicago and resumed his career as an international soloist and for the next five decades, he appeared in recitals and as soloist with the world’s leading orchestras. In addition to performing all the major works from the cello repertoire, he performed concertos written for him by David Baker, Doráti, Bernhard Heiden, Jean Martinon, Miklós Rózsa, Robert Starer, and Chou Wen-chung. Starker was the subject of countless news articles, magazine profiles, and television documentaries, and his performances have been broadcast on radio and television around the world.

Starker’s discography includes more than 270 recordings of over 180 pieces, many of which have become landmark records of cello literature. He made an unprecedented five recordings of J.S. Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello; the final album received the 1997 Grammy Award for best instrumental soloist performance (without orchestra). Starker’s first recording of Kodály’s Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello received France’s Grand prix du disque in 1948.

Starker was equally renowned as a teacher. He joined the faculty of Indiana University in 1958 and was named a distinguished professor in 1962. He taught at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada for seventeen years and at the Hochschule für Musik in Essen, Germany for five years, and many of his students (including the CSO’s own Brant Taylor) have won prestigious awards and occupy prominent positions in chamber ensembles and major orchestras. Starker published and recorded a series of studies entitled An Organized Method of String Playing which remains an important piece of cello instruction. He published or edited numerous musical scores and articles, and developed the Starker Bridge designed to enhance the acoustics of stringed instruments. His autobiography, The World of Music According to Starker, was published by Indiana University Press in 2004.

Starker received five honorary degrees and numerous awards including the Kodály Commemorative Medallion from the Government of Hungary in 1983 and the Chevalier de l’Order des Arts et des Lettres from the French Republic in 1997. He played the Lord Aylesford Stradivarius cello between 1950 and 1964, and he also played a 1705 Matteo Goffriller cello throughout his career.

For the United States premiere of Martinon’s Cello Concerto on July 31, 1965, former principal cello János Starker returned as soloist at the Ravinia Festival. Shown here during a rehearsal are the composer, soloist, and conductor, Ravinia music director Seiji Ozawa.

Starker was soloist in the United States premiere of Martinon’s Cello Concerto at the Ravinia Festival on July 31, 1965. Seiji Ozawa, the Festival’s music director, conducted.

A complete list of János Starker’s solo appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are below (subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

November 19 and 20, 1953
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Fritz Reiner, conductor

November 24, 1953
SCHUBERT/Cassadó Cello Concerto in A Minor
Fritz Reiner, conductor

February 4 and 5, 1954
BEETHOVEN Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
Bruno Walter, conductor
George Schick, piano
John Weicher, violin

January 6 and 7, 1955
BRAHMS Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102
Bruno Walter, conductor
John Weicher, violin

April 14 and 15, 1955
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 58
Fritz Reiner, conductor

October 6, 7, and 11, 1955
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Fritz Reiner, conductor
John Weicher, violin
Milton Preves, viola

January 5 and 6, 1956
SCHUMANN Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129
Fritz Reiner, conductor

February 28, March 1, and 12, 1957
BRAHMS Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102
Fritz Reiner, conductor
John Weicher, violin

March 14 and 15, 1957
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33
Fritz Reiner, conductor

June 28, 1957 (Ravinia Festival)
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Igor Markevitch, conductor

December 5 and 6, 1957
HINDEMITH Cello Concerto
Fritz Reiner, conductor

March 20, 21, and 25, 1958
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Fritz Reiner, conductor
John Weicher, violin
Milton Preves, viola

October 19 and 20, 1961
PROKOFIEV Symphony-Concerto for Cello, Op. 125
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor

July 23, 1963 (Ravinia Festival)
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, conductor

July 30, 1963 (Ravinia Festival)
WALTON Cello Concerto
Sir William Walton, conductor

December 3 and 4, 1964
HAYDN Cello Concerto in C Major
TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Jean Martinon, conductor

July 31, 1965 (Ravinia Festival)
MARTINON Cello Concerto, Op. 52
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 29, 1967 (Ravinia Festival)
LALO Cello Concerto in D Minor
Jean Martinon, conductor

May 9 and 10, 1968
HINDEMITH Cello Concerto
Jean Martinon, conductor

July 18, 1970 (Ravinia Festival)
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
István Kertész, conductor

November 4 and 5, 1971
RÓZSA Cello Concerto, Op. 32
Georg Solti, conductor

July 15, 1972 (Ravinia Festival)
HAYDN Cello Concerto in C Major
István Kertész, conductor

July 21, 1973 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
BRAHMS Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102
Sergiu Comissiona, conductor
Rudolf Buchbinder, piano
Franco Gulli, violin

July 27, 1974 (Ravinia Festival)
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33
TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Kazimierz Kord, conductor

August 2, 1975 (Ravinia Festival)
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107
Lawrence Foster, conductor

October 7, 8, and 9, 1976
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

November 22, 24, and 25, 1978
BOCCHERINI Cello Concerto B-flat Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

November 25, 27, and 28, 1987
HINDEMITH Cello Concerto
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor

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Theodore Thomas

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