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April 7 and 8, 1960

Two years after winning the prestigious 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Van Cliburn made his first appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on April 7 and 8, 1960, performing Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto with Fritz Reiner conducting. On April 12 he was soloist in Schumann’s A minor concerto with the Orchestra, also with Reiner on the podium.

“Van Cliburn cannot be accused of looking for the easy road to success,” wrote Donal Henahan in the Chicago Daily News following the first performance of Brahms’s concerto. The twenty-five year-old pianist gave “a performance of glitter and grace, and one that was breathtakingly well played . . . perhaps no one but Horowitz today could play those double-note scales in both hands with as much apparent ease.”

recording

RCA’s release of Schumann’s Piano Concerto, recorded in Orchestra Hall on April 16, 1960

Cliburn would appear four more times during Reiner’s tenure, and their performances of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto in April 1963 were Reiner’s last public appearances. Cliburn later appeared in Chicago under Jean Martinon as well as at the Ravinia Festival with Georges Prêtre, Seiji Ozawa, Donald Johanos, Bruno Maderna, and James Levine. His final appearance with the Orchestra was on July 16, 2005, at Ravinia in Grieg’s Piano Concerto, under festival music director James Conlon.

On the RCA label, he made several recordings with the Orchestra, including Beethoven’s Fourth and Fifth concertos, Brahms’s Second, Rachmaninov’s Second, and Schumann’s concerto with Reiner; and MacDowell’s Second and Prokofiev’s Third concertos with Walter Hendl.

A complete list of Van Cliburn’s appearances and recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can be found here.

This article also appears here.

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Ozawa headshot

Congratulations to Seiji Ozawa—the Ravinia Festival‘s first music director from 1964 until 1968—who will be a recipient of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors! Additional honorees, announced today, include American rock band the Eagles, singer-songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress and singer Rita Moreno, and actress Cicely Tyson.

The gala event will be broadcast on CBS on December 29, 2015.

As a last-minute replacement for Georges Prêtre in July 1963, Seiji Ozawa was called upon to lead the Orchestra in two concerts at the Ravinia Festival. The twenty-seven-year-old conductor made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on July 16, leading Beethoven’s Leonore Overture no. 3, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Byron Janis, and Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony. Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune reported that Ozawa was “instantly in command when in possession of a baton and a musical idea. His conducting technique reminds you of his teacher, Herbert von Karajan, in that it lays the score in the lap of the orchestra with transparency of gesture and human communication, then commands acceptance.” On July 18, he conducted Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Christian Ferras, Debussy’s Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, Takemitsu’s Requiem for Strings, and selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

June 16, 1964

June 16, 1964

Only a month later it was announced that Ozawa would become the Ravinia Festival’s first music director and resident conductor beginning with the 1964 season, replacing Walter Hendl, who had served as artistic director since 1959. For his first concert as music director on June 16, 1964, Ozawa led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Barber’s Piano Concerto with John Browning, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.

He served as music director of the Ravinia Festival through the 1968 season and as principal conductor for the 1969 season, returning regularly as a guest conductor. Ozawa most recently appeared there on July 14, 1985, leading Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in D major and Takemitsu’s riverrun with Peter Serkin, along with Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony.

Ozawa LP

Between 1965 and 1970—both at Orchestra Hall and in Medinah Temple—Ozawa and the Orchestra recorded a number of works for both Angel and RCA, including Bartók’s First and Third piano concertos and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with Peter Serkin, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade with concertmaster Victor Aitay, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, among numerous others.

Ozawa most recently appeared in Chicago at Orchestra Hall on February 9, 1996, leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Duain Wolfe), Heidi Grant Murphy, and Michelle DeYoung in Mahler’s Second Symphony; and on January 10, 2001, conducting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with the Saito Kinen Orchestra.

Congratulations, Maestro Ozawa!

Van Cliburn and Fritz Reiner in 1960

Van Cliburn and Fritz Reiner in 1960

We’ve just heard news of the death of the remarkable American pianist Van Cliburn, as reported in the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

Two years after winning the prestigious 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Cliburn made his first appearance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with Fritz Reiner conducting. Cliburn would perform four more times during Reiner’s tenure, and their performances of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto in April 1963 were Reiner’s last public appearances.

Complete lists of Van Cliburn’s appearances and recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are below.

Appearances (subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

April 7 and 8, 1960
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Fritz Reiner, conductor

April 12, 1960
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Fritz Reiner, conductor

October 20 and 21, 1960
MACDOWELL Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 23
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Walter Hendl, conductor

March 29 and 30, 1962
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Fritz Reiner, conductor

April 18, 19, and 20, 1963
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Fritz Reiner, conductor

April 23, 24, and 25, 1964
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Jean Martinon, conductor

July 24, 1965 (Ravinia Festival)
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Georges Prêtre, conductor

August 11 and 13, 1966 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

January 12 and 13, 1967
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Jean Martinon, conductor

August 1, 1967 (Ravinia Festival)
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Donald Johanos, conductor

June 29, 1971 (Ravinia Festival)
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Bruno Maderna, conductor

July 17, 1974 (Ravinia Festival)
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
James Levine, conductor

July 16, 2005 (Ravinia Festival)
GRIEG Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16
James Conlon, conductor

Recordings:

BEETHOVEN Concerto for Piano No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, April 1963
Fritz Reiner, conductor
RCA

BEETHOVEN Concerto for Piano No. 5 in E flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, May 1961
Fritz Reiner, conductor
RCA

BRAHMS Concerto for Piano No. 2 in B flat Major, Op. 83
Recorded live in Orchestra Hall, April 8, 1960
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Testament

BRAHMS Concerto for Piano No. 2 in B flat Major, Op. 83
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, May 1961
Fritz Reiner, conductor
RCA

MACDOWELL Concerto for Piano No. 2 in D Minor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, October 1960
Walter Hendl, conductor
RCA

PROKOFIEV Concerto for Piano No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, October 1960
Walter Hendl, conductor
RCA

RACHMANINOV Concerto for Piano No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March and April 1962
Fritz Reiner, conductor
RCA

SCHUMANN Concerto for Piano in A Minor, Op. 54
Recorded live in Orchestra Hall, April 12, 1960
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Testament

SCHUMANN Concerto for Piano in A Minor, Op. 54
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, April 1960
Fritz Reiner, conductor
RCA

Updated to include Testament recording release of two live performances — FV

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Last night - Maestro Riccardo Muti and the CSO with pianist Kirill Gerstein (@kgerstein) perform Puccini’s Preludio sinfonico, R. Strauss’ Suite from Le bourgeois gentilhomme and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1. Photos by @toddrphoto.

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