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by Linda Wolfe

Frederick Stock (George Nelidoff photo)

My parents were Frederick and Lorraine Wolfe. My father was the eldest of two sons of Vera and Alfred Wolfe, my grandparents. Vera was the only daughter of Frederick and Elisabeth Stock, my great-grandparents.

I have often been asked if I heard a lot of Frederick Stock stories growing up in Colorado, but unfortunately not. Stock was a formal photo on the wall with intensely piercing eyes. After my father died on March 13, 1989, I found a bundle of photographs and a packet of letters from Stock to my grandmother, his daughter Vera. The letters were full of cartoon characters and love. I was intrigued and wondered if Chicago knew that side of Stock.

A short time later, I was listening to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic on the radio. Henry Fogel, then executive director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was in town hosting their radiothon fundraiser. I reached out to him, and he said the CSO was preparing for its centennial season (1990–91), and they had been searching for my grandmother to invite her to Chicago for the festivities. I let him know that, unfortunately, she had died in January 1975. So, instead, Henry invited me to attend several events to celebrate the conclusion of the CSO’s centennial.

I traveled to Chicago for the first time with my oldest son, and we had the privilege of representing the Stock family. It was a whirlwind of activities, from attending the gala dinner with Theodore Thomas’s grandson and his wife, seeing three CSO music directors—Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti, and Rafael Kubelik—conducting on the same concert, having lunch with Lady Solti, attending the rededication of the Spirit of Music statue (the Theodore Thomas memorial, at the corner of Balbo and Michigan), seeing Stock’s full-size painting in the stairwell that leads up to the ballroom, and standing on the stage to see Orchestra Hall as Stock saw it. I was practically speechless.

Elisabeth and Frederick Stock in May 1896 (Linda Wolfe collection)

I discovered that a biography about Stock had not been written, so I began a project to gather as much information as I could. The Glessner journals were an incredible source of information, as Stock wrote hundreds of letters to them. While Stock was music director, he and his wife Elisabeth were guests at the Glessner home on an almost weekly basis, joining them for holidays and special events. Frederick and Elisabeth also often spent time at the Glessner farm, The Rocks, in New Hampshire.

It has been a wonderful experience doing research and I am honored to present another side of Stock, his family story.

Frederick Wilhelm August Stock was born on November 11, 1872, in Jülich, Germany, a small fortress town about thirty miles west of Cologne. He was the second son of Frederick Wilhelm Carl Stock, a Kapellmeister in the Prussian Army and Maria Lein. Frederick’s mother died on June 9, 1874, apparently never recovering from complications during his birth. His father remarried in 1887 to Johanna Maria Louise Bister and they had three more children—Maria, Louise, and Wilhelm.

In 1887, at the age of fourteen, Frederick won a scholarship to the Cologne Conservatory. His teachers included conductor Franz Wüllner and composer Englebert Humperdink, and one of his fellow students was Wilhelm Mengleberg, the famous Dutch conductor. While a student, he also became a member of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.

In 1895, Theodore Thomas—the CSO’s founding music director—was in Germany, and twenty-two-year-old Frederick auditioned for him in Cologne, playing Bruch’s First Violin Concerto. Thomas told Stock if he made his way to America, he would have a position in the Chicago Orchestra. On September 22, 1895, Stock sailed from Hamburg to New York on the ship Prussia, and on that same voyage was Elisabeth Musculus, who would become his wife in May 1896. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Stock was given the position of assistant principal viola.

Vera and Elisabeth Stock (Linda Wolfe collection)

In Chicago on May 8, 1902, Frederick and Elisabeth welcomed a daughter, Vera Fredericka Stock. She would be their only child.

According to ocean liner passenger lists, Frederick returned to Europe at least twenty-five times. He met with the musical leaders of the European scene, reviewed new scores, and visited family. Most often Elisabeth accompanied him on his travels, and Vera also joined them several times.

In late September 1912, Frederick traveled on the Lusitania from Liverpool to New York. In a letter to the Glessners, he wrote “This is the finest boat I ever travelled on, very comfortable indeed. A trip on a boat like this spoils one for anything else, because it is the most delightful thing imaginable.”  And in a letter dated September 15, 1920, “One of the novelties I brought from London is called The Planets composed by Gustav (von) Holst . . . Don’t be afraid of all those novelties. I shall stick them into the programs at places where you won’t find them, but they will be there just the same.”

On April 8, 1924, in what was described as the “social event of the year,” Vera married Alfred Morris Wolfe, and Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue was filled to capacity. Soprano Claire Dux, a frequent CSO soloist, sang Stock’s “A Love Letter” with Eric DeLamarter at the organ. The reception was held nearby at the Drake Hotel.

On January 18, 1928, Frederick and Elisabeth’s first grandson, Frederick Stock Wolfe (my father), was born. On June 28, 1929, their second grandchild was born, Alfred “Murph” Morris Wolfe, Jr.

In 1927, the Stocks started building a vacation home in Door County, Wisconsin, overlooking Sister Bay. It was designed by Chicago architect, William Bernhard, who the Stocks undoubtedly met at the Glessner home. This beloved home was a welcome retreat from life in Chicago where the Stock family would spend summers and holidays.

The CSO’s 1942-43 season began with Stock’s usual robustness and enthusiasm, but on October 20, he died suddenly of a heart attack at home at 1325 North Astor Street. During the intermission of the New York Philharmonic’s broadcast on November, 1, Deems Taylor spoke the following: “Let us not again let men like this go, without telling them that we love them. They would appreciate our love. We use many words on Hitler and like creatures, but never the least word to men who have made us better human beings, who have given us a bulwark against cruelty, bigotry, and stupidity. We have all, all good and bewildered people, died a little with Mr. Stock.”

Plaque in Jülich, Germany, dedicated in June 1994

Vera’s husband Alfred Wolfe was originally from Colorado Springs, and after Frederick’s death, they moved Elisabeth and the grandchildren to Colorado. Elisabeth died on August 15, 1951, and Vera and Murph brought her ashes to Chicago. She was interred in the crypt with her beloved husband in the mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery.

In June 1994, Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were on tour in Europe, and several musicians traveled to Jülich to attend a plaque unveiling at the Citadel, commemorating Stock’s birth. The mayor of Julich and I unveiled the plaque, which read:

In memory of the conductor and composer
Friedrich Wilhelm August Stock
November 11, 1872 (Jülich) – October 20, 1942 (Chicago)
The son of a Prussian military band master stationed in the citadel, he studied at the Cologne Conservatory (1891) and then joined the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne as a violinist.
In 1895 he was hired as a violist at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 1905 he became music director and, over the next 37 years, led the CSO to international fame.
The City of Jülich

Linda Wolfe is the great-granddaughter of Frederick Stock.

This article also appears here.

Mrs. Glessner's seating chart for Christmas Day, 1915

Mrs. Glessner’s seating chart for Christmas Day, 1915 (image courtesy of the Glessner House Museum)

Our good friends at the Glessner House Museum have posted a wonderful recollection on their blog—The Story of a House—recounting the events of a Christmas dinner, one hundred years ago! The post can be found here.

Loyal supporters of the Orchestra from the very beginning, John and Frances Glessner also had long been close friends of both Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock, along with numerous musicians and administrators. Guests at their home on the afternoon of December 25, 1915, included Stock and his wife Elizabeth and daughter Vera, the Orchestra’s business manager Frederick J. Wessels and his wife Minnie, assistant manager (and future business manager) Henry E. Voegeli and his wife, principal harp Enrico Tramonti and his wife Juliette, and the Glessners’ daughter Frances (who had made a doll orchestra for her mother three years earlier).

December 24 and 25, 1915

December 24 and 25, 1915

Following the 1:00 p.m. dinner, the guests ventured to Orchestra Hall—some to attend the concert, some to perform in it. The program that evening included the Pastorale from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the Orchestra’s first performances of Mouquet’s The Flute of Pan (orchestrated by principal flute Alfred Quensel who also performed the solo part), Bruneau’s The Sleeping Beauty, and Dvořák’s D minor symphony, op. 70 (then known as no. 2 and now, of course, no. 7).

A brief recap of Wednesday’s events, celebrating the Glessner family event and their generosity to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:

Weisbach family in the vault

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.

The Drum Major of Schneider's Band

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.

Dinner at Glessner House

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!”

Bill's presentation at Glessner House

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.

Frank Mathie screen shotMy 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.

In time for Wednesday evening’s event (The Glessners and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) at the Glessner House and Museum, the doll exhibit was mounted this morning in the courtyard bedroom on the second floor of the house.

The exhibit will be viewable beginning this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. through February 24, 2013. Tour information can be found here.

Come and visit!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra as depicted by Frances Glessner Lee in 1913

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra as depicted by Frances Glessner Lee in 1913

Glessner Doll Orchestra - detail 2

Glessner Doll Orchestra - detail 1

Music Director Frederick Stock in front of his miniature colleagues

Music Director Frederick Stock in front of his miniature colleagues

Concertmaster Harry Weisbach and the first violin section

Concertmaster Harry Weisbach and the first violin section

First oboe part to Arthur J. Mundy's "The Drum Major of Schneider's Band," handwritten by Frederick Stock

First oboe part to Arthur J. Mundy’s “The Drum Major of Schneider’s Band,” handwritten by Frederick Stock

Yet another significant Chicago institution is in the midst of celebrating their 125th anniversary: the John and Frances Glessner House and Museum, located at 1800 South Prairie Avenue in Chicago. The Glessners were perhaps the most significant early supporters of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and also close personal friends of our first two music directors, Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock.

Bruno Steindel - Glessner doll collection

Bruno Steindel, principal cello of the Orchestra from 1891 until 1918, as depicted by Frances Glessner Lee in 1913.

On January 1, 1913, Frances Glessner Lee presented her mother with a unique and memorable birthday gift: a meticulously crafted model of the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. With Frederick Stock’s permission, Lee attended numerous rehearsals in order to sketch the individual musicians. She spent months creating the model and used Viennese bisque dolls, customized with appropriate hair and instrument. Stock also contributed, writing out the music parts for each stand. And on January 17, 1913, the Glessners welcomed the entire orchestra to their home for dinner and an opportunity to view the model.

To celebrate the house’s 125th year as well as the centennial of the doll collection, on January 16, Glessner House Executive Director and Curator William Tyre will give a lecture on the Glessners and their lifelong support of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There will also be an opportunity to view the doll collection, which will be on loan from the Rosenthal Archives through February 24.

The details:

The Glessners and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday January 16, 2013, at 7:00 p.m.
$10 per person / $8 for members (the dinner is already sold out)
R.S.V.P. to (312) 326-1480
Glessner House Museum Coach House

Join us!

Chicago Symphony Orchestra in miniature

The miniature orchestra in January 1913, shortly after it was presented to Frances Glessner by her daughter Frances Glessner Lee (Chicago Daily News photo)

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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

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