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Gerard McBurney (Dan Rest photo)

On November 13, 2005—under the leadership of Martha Gilmer, vice president of artistic administration, and composer and writer Gerard McBurney—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched Beyond the Score with an in-depth analysis followed by a complete performance of Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. Daniel Harding conducted.

“The introduction deftly mixed vintage photos projected onto a huge overhead screen, excerpts from Strauss’s letters, commentary from his contemporaries, and short excerpts from the tone poem itself,” wrote Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The pacing was seamless, the information on Strauss and his era coming in easily digestible but never watered-down nuggets. When the CSO played the entire work straight through after intermission, the large audience couldn’t help but feel like newly minted connoisseurs. Enjoying subtleties well below the surface beauties of Strauss’s tone poem, they were attentive, at times rapt. McBurney and his colleagues at the CSO succeeded brilliantly with the most difficult aspect of these kinds of programs: keeping the focus on the music.”

In May 2006, McBurney officially joined the staff of the CSOA as artistic programming advisor. Since then, the Beyond the Score concept evolved into freer and more vivid presentations and collaborations with a wide variety of art collections, scholars, libraries, folk musicians, and actors from all over the world.

A Pierre Dream

A Pierre Dream, November 14, 2014 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Highlights of the series have included thorough analyses of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Holst’s The Planets, and Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony. Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde were presented as seamless dramatizations, and Pierre Boulez led Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin and closely advised on Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire. Concertmaster Robert Chen was featured in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade; and Gwendolyn Brown, an alumna of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, performed Negro spirituals as part of Dvořák’s New World Symphony. In 2014, McBurney—collaborating with architect Frank Gehry—presented a special and comprehensive examination of music by Pierre Boulez.

This article also appears here.

Pierre Boulez (Philippe Gontier photo)

Pierre Boulez (Philippe Gontier photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association congratulates Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez as a recipient of a 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The recognition is given to “performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.”

In a message sent to Maestro Boulez earlier today, Music Director Riccardo Muti said, “Dear Maestro, The news that you are the recipient of the 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award makes me and the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra family extremely happy and proud. You are a giant in the musical world, and we are all so grateful for your great contribution to Music. Congratulations with great admiration, affection, and friendship.”

CSO bass Stephen Lester, chairman of the Members Committee, added, “The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are very pleased that Pierre Boulez has been given this special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy. He is one of the most important and influential musicians and composers of our time. We in Chicago are proud to have had a rewarding and meaningful relationship with him for over thirty years. His contribution to music in Chicago, as well as the world, is important in many ways, helping to open all of our minds, and ears, at every opportunity. Congratulations, Maestro Boulez!”

“As peerless conductor, glittering composer, restless thinker, and polemical champion of the loftiest musical values, Pierre Boulez is simply sans pareil,” commented Gerard McBurney, the CSO’s creative director for Beyond the Score. “He has influenced, irritated, provoked, disturbed, and inspired us all, yes, even those sleepers who do not even dream, that they too have been touched by his ceaseless energy and powers of invention!”

With twenty-six Grammy Awards to his credit, Boulez—along with fellow Lifetime Achievement Award recipients the Bee Gees, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Flaco Jiménez, The Louvin Brothers, and Wayne Shorter—will be honored at a special ceremony in Los Angeles on February 7, 2015, as well as during the Grammy Awards telecast on Sunday, February 8 on CBS.

The CSO’s Beyond the Score series, which “weaves together theater, music, and design to draw audiences into the concert hall and into the spirit of a work,” recently honored Boulez’s upcoming ninetieth birthday. The show was entitled A Pierre Dream by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who designed the production. Click here for a discussion with the creative forces, the genesis of the immersive experience, and a gallery of images from the production.

For more information on Pierre Boulez, click here for a complete list of his Grammy Awards, a complete list of his recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a timeline of his extensive partnership with the CSO, details of his debut with the CSO in 1969, and a select bibliography.

Update: A video of the world-premiere performances of A Pierre Dream can be viewed here. Also, Martha Gilmer, the CSO’s former vice president for artistic planning and audience development, accepted the award on behalf of Boulez in Los Angeles on February 7 (added March 10, 2015).

Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich perform piano works of Boulez at Symphony Center on March 15, 2015.

the vault

Theodore Thomas


The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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