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We have just heard news of the death of the wonderful Irish soprano Heather Harper, as reported in The Guardian. She was 88.

Harper appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions, as listed below (all appearances are subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

April 3, 4, and 5, 1969
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Georg Solti, conductor
Helen Watts, contralto
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 11 and 12, 1969
HAYDN The Creation
Georg Solti, conductor
Stuart Burrows, tenor
Giorgio Tozzi, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

August 30, 31 & September 1, 1971 (recording sessions at the Sofiensaal in Vienna)
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Arleen Augér, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
René Kollo, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Martti Talvela, bass
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Norbert Balatsch, chorus master
Singverein Chorus
Helmut Froschauer, chorus master
Vienna Boys’ Choir
David Harvey produced the recording, and Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1972 Grammy Award for Album of the Year—Classical, Best Choral Performance—Classical (other than opera), and Best Engineered Recording—Classical from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Mahler's Symphony no. 8 in E-flat Major, recorded in Vienna in 1971

Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 in E-flat Major, recorded in Vienna in 1971

March 30, 31, and April 1, 1972
HANDEL Jephtha
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Helen Watts, contralto
Richard Lewis, tenor
Robert Johnson, tenor
Barry McDaniel, baritone
Boris Carmeli, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

October 12, 13, and 14, 1972
VIVALDI Gloria
ROSSINI Stabat mater
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
Raffaele Arié, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

March 7, 8, and 9, 1974
TIPPETT Symphony No. 3
Sir Michael Tippett, conductor

April 12 and 13, 1974
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Helen Watts, contralto
Jerry Jennings, tenor
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Philip Booth, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

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Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the fantastic Australian mezzo-soprano, Yvonne Minton!

Minton has appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions—in concert and on recording—between 1970 and 1981, indicated below:

April 2 and 3, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records on April 1 and 7, 1970, in Orchestra Hall. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Gordon Parry and James Lock were the balance engineers.

April 1 and 7, 1970 (recording sessions only, no public performances)
MAHLER Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“Das irdische Leben,” “Verlorne Müh’,” “Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen,” and “Rheinlegendchen”)
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records in Orchestra Hall. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Gordon Parry and James Lock were the balance engineers.

May 4, 5, and 6, 1972, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
René Kollo, tenor
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records on May 8 and 9, 1972, at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Kenneth Wilkinson and Gordon Parry were the balance engineers.

May 12 and 13, 1972, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Pilar Lorengar, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
René Kollo, tenor
Martti Talvela, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London Records on May 15, 16, and 26, 1972, at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The recording was produced by David Harvey; Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers. This recording was ultimately released as part of a set of Beethoven’s complete symphonies (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

April 24 and 26, 1975, Orchestra Hall
April 30, 1975, Carnegie Hall
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 5, 6, and 7, 1977, Orchestra Hall
May 13, 1977, Carnegie Hall
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
The work was recorded in Chicago’s Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer and Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The recording won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BRUCKNER Te Deum
Jessye Norman, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
David Rendall, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
The work was recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 28, 1981. For Deutsche Grammophon, Steven Paul was the executive producer, Werner Mayer the recording producer, and Klaus Scheibe was the balance engineer and editor. 

Happy, happy birthday!

Lucia-Popp

On November 12, 2014, we celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of the extraordinary Slovak soprano Lucia Popp, a favorite soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra between 1970 and 1984.

According to Sir Georg Solti, one of her frequent collaborators in Chicago and at Covent Garden, “To my mind, there will never be a Sophie (in Der Rosenkavalier) or a Susanna (in The Marriage of Figaro) to equal hers.” Popp’s career was tragically cut short and she succumbed to brain cancer in 1993, only days after her fifty-fourth birthday.

Popp appeared and recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions. Her complete performance history and discography is listed below:

March 12, 14 & 16, 1970, at Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
Georg Solti, conductor
Anja Silja, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Jess Thomas, tenor
Frank Porretta, tenor
Herbert Fliether, baritone
Kurt Boehme, bass
Thomas Paul, bass
William Wahman, tenor
Gary Kendall, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

August 30, 31 & September 1, 1971, at Sofiensaal in Vienna (recording sessions only, no public performances)
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Arleen Augér, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
René Kollo, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Martti Talvela, bass
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Norbert Balatsch, chorus master
Singverein Chorus
Helmut Froschauer, chorus master
Vienna Boys’ Choir
David Harvey produced the recording, and Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1972 Grammy Award for Album of the Year—Classical, Best Choral Performance—Classical (other than opera), and Best Engineered Recording—Classical from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

May 5, 6 & 7, 1977, at Orchestra Hall
May 13, 1977, at Carnegie Hall
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Following the Carnegie Hall performance, the work was recorded for London Records with multiple sessions in Chicago’s Medinah Temple. Ray Minshull was the producer and Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The recording won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Lucia Popp in Strauss's Four Last Songs at Orchestra Hall in October 1977. Sir Georg Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Lucia Popp in Strauss’s Four Last Songs at Orchestra Hall in October 1977. Sir Georg Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

October 17 & 19, 1977, at Orchestra Hall
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
These performances originally were recorded by Unitel for television broadcast and recently were commercially released on the four-DVD set Sir Georg Solti: The Maestro.

October 27 & 28, 1977, at Orchestra Hall
October 31, 1977, at Carnegie Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor (October 27 & 28)
Margaret Hillis, conductor (October 31)
Christiane Eda-Pierre, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Barbara Hendricks, soprano
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
William Walker, baritone
Donald Gramm, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

November 1 & 2, 1977, at Carnegie Hall
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Henry Mazer, conductor (November 1)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor (November 2)
Lucia Popp, soprano

December 13, 14, 15 & 16, 1978, at Orchestra Hall
MOZART Mass in C Minor, K. 427
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Maria Venuti, soprano
Daniel Nelson, tenor
Samuel Jones, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

March 13, 14, & 15, 1980, at Orchestra Hall
MOZART Mass in C Major, K. 317 (Coronation)
Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Alexander Oliver, tenor
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Originally recorded by WFMT for radio broadcast, this was released on the CSO’s From the Archives, vol. 13 (Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration).

October 21, 22, 23 & 24, 1981, at Orchestra Hall
MOZART Nehmt meinen Dank, K. 383
MOZART Ah, lo previdi, K. 272
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano

December 7, 1981, at Orchestra Hall (special concert dedicating the newly installed Möller pipe organ)
HAYDN Benedictus from Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo, Hob. XXII, No. 7
HANDEL “But oh! what art can teach” and “Orpheus could lead the savage race” from Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Frederick Swann, organ

March 15, 16 & 17, 1984, at Orchestra Hall
March 19, 1984, at Uihlein Hall, Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee
MAHLER Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Walton Grönroos, baritone

A marvelous tribute to Lucia Popp by Louise T. Guinther appears in the November 2014 issue of Opera News.

____________________________________________________

On August 26, 1971, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra departed for Vienna, embarking on the first leg of the first European tour. On August 29, Solti met the musicians at the Wiener Konzerthaus for their first tour rehearsal together, and the next day—before the Orchestra had performed their first tour concert—they began recording Mahler’s monumental Eighth Symphony.

There were four recording sessions at the Sofiensaal in Vienna: one each on August 30 and September 1, and two on August 31. (The first concert of the tour was given on September 3 in Edinburgh.)

A page from the Orchestra’s schedule book from August 30, 1971

The all-star cast was as follows:

Heather Harper, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Arleen Augér, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
René Kollo, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, baritone
Martti Talvela, bass
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Norbert Balatsch, chorus master
Singverein Chorus
Helmut Froschauer, chorus master
Vienna Boys’ Choir

Edward Greenfield‘s review in Gramophone magazine raved: “Now at last Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand can be heard on record at something approaching its full, expansive stature. Here is a version from Solti which far more clearly than any previous one conveys the feeling of a great occasion. Just as a great performance, live in the concert-hall, takes off and soars from the very start, so the impact of the great opening on ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ tingles here with electricity. There was something of that charismatic quality in the recording of Bernstein with the LSO, but with superb atmospheric recording and a sense of space more than in rival versions, not to mention playing from the Chicago orchestra that shows up all rivals in precision of ensemble, Solti’s performance sets standards beyond anything we have known before. . . .

Members of the Vienna Boys’ Choir during a recording session

“Solti, characteristically, refuses to accept half measures. This is as near a live performance as the dynamic Solti can make it. At times the sheer physical impact makes one gasp for breath, and I found myself at the thunderous end of the first movement shouting out in joyous sympathy, so overwhelming is the build-up of tension. Maybe this is not a record which one will be able to cope with emotionally in frequent repetition, but to my mind it justifies Mahler’s great scheme in emotional as well as intellectual terms to a degree unknown on record before . . . No doubt one day the achievement of this first really great recording of Mahler’s Eighth will be surpassed, but in the meantime I can only urge all Mahlerians—and others too—to share the great experience which Solti and his collaborators offer.”

Solti with concertmaster Sidney Weiss

David Harvey produced the recording, and Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1972 Grammy Award for Album of the Year—Classical, Best Choral Performance—Classical (other than opera), and Best Engineered Recording—Classical from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

____________________________________________________

Shortly after the triumphant concerts in Carnegie Hall in January 1970, in late March and early April London Records set up shop in Chicago’s Medinah Temple for a series of recording sessions. For London, David Harvey was the producer and Gordon Parry was the sound engineer.


Beginning on March 26, 1970, Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began recording Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, their first recording together. Those first sessions also included Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, along with the Songs of a Wayfarer and selections from Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Yvonne Minton as soloist.

The mood during the third week of recording was captured by Thomas Willis in an article for the Chicago Tribune: “Measure by measure [Solti] delivered a rapid fire barrage of corrections and changes. The staff from London Decca moved at a lope, adjusting equipment, whispering instructions, holding hurried conferences, in the hall. Then Mr. Harvey’s modulated British: ‘One minute please. Take 3.’ The music flowed around the empty seats and filled the cavernous space.” (The complete article is here, courtesy of Proquest via the Chicago Public Library.)

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Theodore Thomas

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