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Vladimir Ashkenazy (Wayne J. Shilkret photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family wishes the magnificent pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy a very happy eighty-fifth birthday!

Ashkenazy catapulted onto the world stage in 1955 after winning second prize in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. He was awarded first prize in both the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1956 and the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962.

“Pound for pound, he may be the most pyrotechnic pianist in the whole world,” wrote Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune, following Ashkenazy’s Orchestra Hall recital debut, presented under the auspices of Allied Arts on October 19, 1958. Seven years later, after his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, Thomas Willis (also in the Tribune) commented, the “volcanic [pianist], whose two previous recitals here marked him as a man to watch, had everything it takes to get the locomotor going full speed and most of the qualities to sustain momentum. The big tone for melodies framed the structure in iron. The bravura technique took in stride the hammering octaves, scales which sweep the keyboard, and arpeggio lightning which galvanizes the Russian bear intermezzo into a furious climax. . . . This combination of work, soloist, and orchestra could lift you right out of your seat more than once.”

During the first tour to Europe in 1971, Ashkenazy joined the Orchestra on the first leg in Edinburgh on September 5, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 under Georg Solti. In May 1971 and 1972, he recorded Beethoven’s five piano concertos with the CSO, again with Solti conducting. Recording sessions took place at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and for London Records, the recording was produced by David Harvey and Kenneth Wilkinson was the recording engineer. The set of all five concertos won the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance—Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with orchestra).

For nearly fifty years, Vladimir Ashkenazy was a regular visitor to the stage in Orchestra Hall. In January 2020, he announced that he would be retiring from public performance, capping a career that spanned nearly seventy years.

A complete list of his appearances—with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as a piano recitalist, and as a guest conductor with visiting orchestras—is below.

October 28, 29, and 30, 1965, Orchestra Hall
November 1, 1965, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

March 27, 1967, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
30 and 31, 1967, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Jean Martinon, conductor

July 25, 1968, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Alfred Wallenstein, conductor

Ashkenazy, Solti, and David Harvey listening to playbacks of Beethoven’s piano concertos in May 1971 at the Krannert Center (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

December 5, 6, and 7, 1968, Orchestra Hall
December 9, 1968, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
William Steinberg, conductor

October 30, 31, and November 1, 1969, Orchestra Hall
November 3, 1969, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
MOZART Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466
Eliahu Inbal, conductor

July 16, 1970, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16
István Kertész, conductor

May 7 and 8, 1971, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Georg Solti, conductor

July 20, 1971, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
István Kertész, conductor

September 5, 1971, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
MOZART Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466
Georg Solti, conductor

May 20, 1972, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

May 21, 1972, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

March 1, 2, and 3, 1973, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Lorin Maazel, conductor

November 7, 8, and 9, 1974, Orchestra Hall
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 5 in G Major, Op. 55
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

January 18 and 20, 1980, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents, Ashkenazy has appeared as piano recitalist, chamber musician, and guest conductor, as follows (*program book not on file; repertoire culled from advertisements and newspaper clippings).

October 19, 1958

October 19, 1958, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24
CHOPIN Nocturne in B Major, Op. 9, No. 3
CHOPIN Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54
LISZT Mephisto Waltz No. 1
RACHMANINOV Variations on a Theme by Corelli, Op. 42
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

*November 18, 1962, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Sonata No. 9 in D Major, K. 311
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 82
CHOPIN Etudes, Op. 25

*May 16, 1971, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:52
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)
CHOPIN Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58

March 4, 1973, Orchestra Hall
DOHNÁNYI String Quartet No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 33
SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 68
SCHUMANN Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44
Chicago Symphony String Quartet
Victor Aitay, violin
Edgar Muenzer, violin
Milton Preves, viola
Frank Miller, cello

*February 17, 1974, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 3 in C Major, Op. 2, No. 3
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
CHOPIN Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49
CHOPIN Impromptu in F-sharp Major, Op. 36
CHOPIN Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52
CHOPIN Scherzo in E Major, Op. 54

Vladimir Ashkenazy (Wayne J. Shilkret photo)

*March 20, 1977, Orchestra Hall
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp Minor, Op. 19
SCRIABIN Two Poems, Op. 32
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 7, Op. 64 (White Mass)
SCRIABIN Sonata No. 10, Op. 70
SCRIABIN Four Pieces, Op. 56
RACHMANINOV Études-Tableaux, nos. 2 (Allegro in C major), 6 (Allegro con fuoco in E-flat major), 7 (Moderato in G minor), and 3 (Grave in C minor)
RACHMANINOV Selections from Ten Preludes, Op. 23 and Thirteen Preludes, Op. 32

*January 21, 1979, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Op. 31, No. 1
SCHUMANN Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6
CHOPIN Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49
CHOPIN Ballade in A-flat
CHOPIN Nocturne in F-sharp Minor, Op. 48, No. 2
CHOPIN Scherzo in C-sharp Minor

*February 20, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111
CHOPIN Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58
CHOPIN Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2

*March 20, 1983, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
SCHUBERT Klavierstücke No. 1 in E-flat Minor and No. 2 in E-flat Major, D. 946
SCHUBERT Fantasy in C Major, D. 760 (Wanderer)

*April 29, 1984, Orchestra Hall
SCHUBERT Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960
SCHUMANN Papillons, Op. 2
SCHUMANN Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13

December 9, 1990, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111
BRAHMS Klavierstücke, Op. 119
BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24

Vladimir Ashkenazy (Ben Ealovega photo for Decca)

November 15, 1992, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61
BAX Tintagel
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

November 10, 1997, Orchestra Hall
KODÁLY Dances of Galánta
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Christian Tetzlaff, violin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin

March 31, 2000, Orchestra Hall
JANÁČEK Suite from The Cunning Little Vixen
DVOŘÁK Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53
Kurt Nikkanen, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100
Czech Philharmonic

March 7, 2003, Orchestra Hall
SHOSTAKOVICH/Barshai Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110a
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
Lukáš Vondráček, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70
Czech Philharmonic

Happy, happy birthday!

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In June 2022, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the extraordinary American entertainer, singer, and actress Judy Garland!

Born on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Judy Garland began her career as a vaudeville performer with her two older sisters. By the age of thirteen, she had been signed—without a screen test—to the world’s largest motion-picture studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While still a teenager, Garland created her most beloved role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, in which she sang the song that would forever be identified with her, “Over the Rainbow.” Despite constant personal struggles, she continued to create iconic film roles, make hundreds of concert appearances, record best-selling albums, and host her own television series.

Sarah Zelzer and Judy Garland in September 1958 (Allied Arts Records, The Newberry Library, Chicago)

On October 15, 1930, impresario Harry Zelzer (1897–1979) mounted his first presentation—a recital by Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli—at Chicago’s Civic Opera House. By 1948, Zelzer Concert Management Bureau had gradually expanded to become Allied Arts, presenting dozens of performances in multiple venues annually throughout Chicago, including Orchestra Hall. In 1978, Zelzer and his devoted wife and partner Sarah Schectman Zelzer (1909–1998) gave the Allied Arts series to the Orchestral Association (now the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association). Ultimately, the series was renamed Symphony Center Presents in October 1997.

“In July of 1958, Harry got a call from Sidney Luft, Judy’s husband and manager; he wanted Harry to present her in concert at Orchestra Hall during the first week of September,” wrote Sarah Zelzer in her book, Impresario: The Zelzer Era, 1930 to 1990. “Harry had never seen Judy Garland movies and knew very little about her. I, on the other hand, had admired her for years, and I told Harry I thought she would be a terrific draw.” Garland had not yet appeared in Chicago, and despite her reputation for cancellations along with her husband’s rumored untrustworthiness, the Zelzers decided, “it would be worth the gamble.”

Allied Arts program for Garland’s September 4-9, 1958, concerts in Orchestra Hall

Garland and Luft arrived in Chicago on September 3 for a press conference at the Bismarck Hotel, just before the first of seven sold-out shows at Orchestra Hall over the next six days. Comedian Alan King would be the opening act, and Nelson Riddle and his orchestra would provide the accompaniment. Garland’s opening night performance on the evening of September 4 was, according to Zelzer, “a tremendous success. But for the rest of the week, we were on tenterhooks until we saw her walk on the stage.”

“There were cheers and floral tributes for Miss Garland’s singing,” wrote Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune. “The singing is spacious and warm and beautiful, whether it is in music to be caressed or belted. Miss Garland, having long experience, covers quite a span of song writing—from ‘When You’re Smiling’ and ‘I Can’t Give You Anything but Love’ through the ‘Trolley Song’ right down to the ‘Purple People Eater.’ Even songs that weren’t written especially for her become hers by right of interpretation. She is an ‘original,’ and thus has the right. At the end of the evening, she recreates her famous tramp number, ‘Couple of Swells,’ with Mr. King in deft partnership. Then, if opening night is any indication, she may sit down over Orchestra Hall’s imaginary footlights and do a softly beautiful ‘Over the Rainbow’ and a bouncing ‘Chicago’ by way of encores.”

Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1958

The following year, she was re-engaged by Allied Arts for a seven-concert, sold-out run that began on June 1, 1959, at the Civic Opera House. Alan King returned, along with John W. Bubbles and Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra. “The indestructible Judy Garland went into another new phase Monday night at the Civic Opera House, where a near capacity audience turned out,” wrote William Leonard in the Chicago Tribune. “Now, a legend . . . Judy is here as a veteran of vaudeville—a virtually vanished form of show business which she causes to breathe again with nostalgia and excitement combined.”

The Zelzers brought Garland back to Chicago for a performance at the Civic Opera House on May 6, 1961. Just two weeks prior, on April 23, 1961, Garland gave a now legendary performance in New York’s Carnegie Hall. According to Variety, “The tones are clear, the phrasing is meaningful, and the vocal passion is catching. In fact, the audience couldn’t resist anything she did.” And in the New York Post, “Last night, the magnetism was circulating from the moment she stepped on stage.” Called by many “the greatest night in show business history,” the concert was recorded, and the two-album set—Judy at Carnegie Hall—was a tremendous bestseller. It remained on the Billboard charts for seventy-three weeks—including thirteen weeks in the number-one spot — and was certified Gold. Garland won two 1961 Grammy awards for the Capitol Records release: Album of the Year—the first woman to win in that top category—and Best Solo Vocal Performance–Female. The recording was also recognized for Best Engineering Contribution–Popular Recording and Best Album Cover–Non-Classical.

Under the auspices of Allied Arts, Garland was back in Chicago on two more occasions—both for performances at the new Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place—on November 7, 1962, and May 7, 1965. “Audiences habitually regard her concerts as love feasts. This was no exception,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune on November 8, 1962. “Through it all, the high-voltage personality operated full force.”

Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1965

Judy Garland died in London on June 22, 1969, at the age of forty-seven, but her legacy endures. She has been recognized for lifetime achievement from the Recording Academy, and she was the youngest recipient and the first woman to receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, also for lifetime achievement. She received honorary Academy and Tony awards, a Golden Globe, two Grammy awards, two Academy and three Emmy award nominations, and two stars (one for acting, one for recording) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Six of her records have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the American Film Institute‘s 100 Years . . . 100 Songs listed “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz as the number-one movie song of all time, along with “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born (no. 11), “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St. Louis (nos. 26 and 76), and “Get Happy” from Summer Stock (no. 61).

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Detail of title page of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony (Theodore Thomas collection)

Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony—according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies—is “a work as full of beauties, novel of their kind, as the Eroica, but expressing no worldly program; singing instead the songs of nature—the music of the soul. . . . In consequence, he has given us, in the Fourth Symphony, a song of beauty such as no one else has ever written, presenting absolute novelty of color and creating an atmosphere in music justly termed ‘romantic,’ a romanticism parallel to that of Schiller in literature.”

“Generations of music lovers have described—and sometimes dismissed—Beethoven’s even-numbered symphonies as lyrical and relaxed compared to their spunky, coltish, odd-numbered neighbors. The Fourth, in B-flat major, has suffered from that fate perhaps more than any,” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Schumann was perhaps the first musician to warn us not to overlook the Fourth’s own special qualities: ‘Do not illustrate his genius with the Ninth Symphony alone, no matter how great its audacity and scope, never uttered in any tongue. You can do as much with his First Symphony, or with the Greek-like slender one in B-flat major!’”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony on March 17 and 18, 1893, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (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. The Fourth Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1987 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded Beethoven’s complete symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Fourth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on September 21 and 22, 1987. Michael Haas was the recording producer and James Lock was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 on May 5, 6, and 7, 2022.

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“What could come after [the Fifth Symphony]?” wrote Frederick Stock, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s second music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “The subtlety of Beethoven’s imagination found an answer in due time, and in his Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, we find his thoughts expressed in a new form. Even though other composers before him and in his time had attempted to write program music, Beethoven was the first whose efforts in this direction proved to be a lasting achievement. . . . His was a poetic conception of nature’s grandeur and beauty, a faithful interpretation of her inward significance, cast in the most perfect of musical forms, the symphony.”

Detail of title page of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, bearing marks by Frederick Stock and Fritz Reiner (Fritz Reiner collection)

“Our familiar picture of Beethoven, cross and deaf, slumped in total absorption over his sketches, doesn’t easily allow for Beethoven the nature-lover,” writes writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “But he liked nothing more than a walk in the woods, where he could wander undisturbed, stopping from time to time to scribble a new idea on the folded sheets of music paper he always carried in his pocket. ‘No one,’ he wrote to Therese Malfati two years after the premiere of the Pastoral Symphony, ‘can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.’ They’re all here in his Sixth Symphony.”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony on March 2 and 3, 1894, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1961 recording (RCA)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Orchestra’s first recording of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony on April 8 and 10, 1961, in Orchestra Hall. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

1974 recording (London)

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (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. The Sixth Symphony was recorded at the Sofiensaal in Vienna on September 10, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson, and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1988 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Sixth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 9, 10, 14, and 16, 1988. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 on April 28, 30, and May 3, 2022.

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Marian Anderson in 1940 (Carl Van Vechten photo, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)

In February 2022, we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of the great American contralto Marian Anderson. She was born in Philadelphia on February 27, 1897, and died in Portland, Oregon, on April 8, 1993, at the age of 96. 

Orchestra Hall, November 18, 1929

On November 18, 1929, Marian Anderson (under the management of Arthur Judson) made her debut in Orchestra Hall under the auspices of the Theta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. That evening, Anderson “reached near perfection in every requirement of vocal art,” wrote Herman Devries in the Chicago Evening American. “The tone was of superb timbre, the phrasing of utmost refinement, the style pure, discreet, musicianly . . . a talent still unripe, but certainly a talent of potential growth.” In attendance were Ray Field and George Arthur, representatives from the Rosenwald Fund, who encouraged her to apply for a fellowship to further her studies in Europe. The following year, she received $1,500 to study in Berlin.

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Anderson the opportunity to give a concert for an integrated audience in Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall. With the support of President Franklin D. and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, she instead performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, to a crowd of 75,000 people and over a million radio listeners. Anderson closed the recital with the spiritual “My soul is anchored in the Lord” in an arrangement by Florence Price

Anderson and Defauw onstage with the CSO at the Stevens Hotel on June 5, 1944 (James Gushiniere, Chicago Tribune)

A few weeks later, on May 20, 1939, Anderson was scheduled to make her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the North Shore Music Festival, in Evanston’s Dyche Stadium (now Ryan Field). The afternoon program was to include arias from Donizetti’s La favorita and Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue, along with spirituals, all under the baton of Frederick Stock. A case of laryngitis, however, prevented her from performing, and soprano Kirsten Flagstad, scheduled for the evening concert, was asked to fill in for the matinee. According to the Chicago Daily News, there was no time for Flagstad to rehearse the extra program with the Orchestra due to “a purely feminine” hesitation: she needed a different dress for the matinee. Festival organizers quickly took her to Marshall Field’s to shop for a second dress, and the concert, featuring several excerpts from Wagner’s operas, was “amply redeemed by the artistry of Mme. Flagstad,” according to Janet Gunn in the Chicago Herald and Examiner.

Her debut performance with the CSO was at a concert opening the 48th Convention of the American Federation of Musicians on June 5, 1944, at the Stevens Hotel (now the Hilton Chicago). Under third music director Désiré Defauw, she sang “O mio Fernando” from Donizetti’s La favorita, “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, and spirituals.

Anderson broke barriers on January 7, 1955, when she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera—in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera as Ulrica—becoming the first African American to sing with the company. The following year, she opened the Ravinia Festival’s 21st season, along with the CSO under Eugene Ormandy in two programs, performing the following:

Ravinia Festival, June 1956

June 26, 1956
BRAHMS Dein blaues Auge, Op. 59, No. 8
BRAHMS Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer, Op. 105, No. 2
BRAHMS Der Schmied, Op. 19, No. 4
BRAHMS Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43, No. 1
BRAHMS Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53 (with the Swedish Glee Club; Harry T. Carlson, director)

June 28, 1956
BIZET Agnus Dei
BIZET Ouvre ton coeur
SAINT-SAËNS Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson and Delilah
TCHAIKOVSKY None but the Lonely Heart, Op. 6, No. 6
TRADITIONAL IRISH Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms
KREISLER The Old Refrain

According to Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune, a crowd of more than 4,000 attended the all-Brahms concert that “turned out to be perfect.” Anderson sang “introspectively and with tender regard [and] exceptional craftsmanship and feeling.”

On August 28, 1963, Anderson performed “He’s got the whole world in his hands” at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1964

During the 1964-65 season, Anderson gave a farewell recital tour under the auspices of her longtime presenter, Sol Hurok. Her stop in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall on Dec. 6, 1964, was sold out (an additional 225 seats were onstage) and “well-wishers had also provided a red carpet, bouquets of red roses and white carnations by the armload,” according to the Chicago Tribune. “This is probably no time for sentiment,” Anderson commented. “But do let me say I find all of this today very touching.” Her encores included “There’s no hiding place down there” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”

On June 27, 1968, at Ravinia, Anderson made her final appearance with the CSO, as narrator in Copland’s Preamble for a Solemn Occasion. Festival music director Seiji Ozawa conducted. Reading the “stirring segment from the United Nations charter,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune, Anderson was “radiant in a cherry red velvet cape [contributing] both the presence and conviction, which made her vocal performances such moving experiences.”

Anderson gave a total of 22 recitals in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

Anderson with her frequent recital collaborator, pianist Franz Rupp (Carl Mett, Marian Anderson Collection, University of Pennsylvania)

November 18, 1929
January 26, 1931
October 28, 1945
November 3, 1946
November 23, 1947
October 24, 1948
January 21, 1950
January 29, 1950
January 21, 1951
April 8, 1951
May 3, 1952
January 31, 1953
March 29, 1953
January 30, 1954
December 5, 1954
January 8, 1956
February 23, 1957
April 5, 1959
February 28, 1960
February 19, 1961
May 11, 1963
December 6, 1964

In September 2021, Sony Classical released Marian Anderson: Beyond the Music, a special fifteen-CD set of recordings representing her complete catalog on RCA Victor, from her debut in 1924 through her final LP in 1966. The set received a 2022 Grammy Award nomination for Best Historical Album.

Special thanks to Eva Wilhelm—a music business student at Indiana State University and an intern in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s Rosenthal Archives—for her exceptional research in preparing this article.

This article also appears here.


Marian Anderson, ca. 1968

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—according to Frederick Stock, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s second music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies—is “dedicated to all Mankind. Embracing all phases of human emotion, monumental in scope and outline, colossal in its intellectual grasp and emotional eloquence, the Ninth stands today as the greatest of all symphonies.”

First page detail of a choral score, edited by Arthur Mees, the Orchestra’s first assistant conductor

Stock continues: “The Ninth is unquestionably the greatest of all symphonies not only because it is the final résumé of all of Beethoven’s achievements, colossal as they are even without the Ninth, but also because it voices the message of one who had risen beyond himself, beyond the world and the time in which he lived. The Ninth is Beethoven, the psychic and spiritual significance of his life.

“In the first movement we find the bitter struggle he waged against life’s adversities, his failing health, his deafness, his loneliness. The Scherzo depicts the quest for worldly joy; the third movement, melancholy reflection, longing—resignation. The last movement, the ‘Ode to Joy,’ is dedicated to all Mankind.”

“There’s something astonishing about a deaf composer choosing to open a symphony with music that reveals, like no other music before it, the very essence of sound emerging from silence,” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “The famous pianissimo opening—sixteen measures with no secure sense of key or rhythm—does not so much depict the journey from darkness to light, or from chaos to order, as the birth of sound itself or the creation of a musical idea. It is as if the challenges of Beethoven’s daily existence—the struggle to compose music, his difficulty in communicating, the frustration of remembering what it was like to hear—have been made real in a single page of music.”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on December 16 and 17, 1892, at the Auditorium Theatre. The soloists were Minnie Fish, Minna Brentano, Charles A. Knorr, and George E. Holmes, along with the Apollo Chorus (prepared by William L. Tomlins).

1961 recording (RCA)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Orchestra’s first recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on May 1 and 2, 1961, in Orchestra Hall. Phyllis Curtin, Florence Kopleff, John McCollum, and Donald Gramm were the soloists, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

1972 recording (London)

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (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. The Ninth Symphony was recorded at the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana on May 15 and 16, and June 26, 1972. Pilar Lorengar, Yvonne Minton, Stuart Burrows, and Martti Talvela were the soloists, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. David Harvey was the recording producer, and Gordon Parry, Kenneth Wilkinson, and Peter van Biene were the balance engineers.

1986 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Ninth Symphony was recorded in Medinah Temple on September 29 and 30, 1986. Michael Haas was the recording producer, John Pellowe the balance engineer, and Neil Hutchinson the tape editor. Jessye Norman, Reinhild Runkel, Robert Schunk, and Hans Sotin were soloists, and Margaret Hillis prepared the Chorus. The release won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

On September 18, 20, 21, and 23, 2014, Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Orchestra Hall. Camilla Nylund, Ekaterina Gubanova, Matthew Polenzani (September 18), William Burden (September 20, 21, and 23), and Eric Owens were the soloists, and the Chorus was prepared by Duain Wolfe. The performance on September 18 was recorded for YouTube and is available in the link below.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on February 24, 25, 26, and 27, 2022.

This article also appears here.

John Williams leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on November 28, 2009 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Wishing a very happy 90th birthday to the incomparable John Williams! Composer, conductor, winner of five Academy Awards (and 52 nominations) and 25 Grammy awards (and 72 nominations), he has given us several of the most popular movie soundtracks in the history of cinema.

When Williams became the first composer to be awarded the American Film Institute‘s lifetime achievement award in 2016, his longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg said, “Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor do brooms in Quidditch matches, nor do men in red capes. There is no Forcedinosaurs do not walk the Earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.”

John Williams and Dale Clevenger following the second performance of Williams’s Concerto for Horn and Orchestra on December 2, 2003 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Erich Kunzel first led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Williams’ music — selections from Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope — at the Ravinia Festival on August 13, 1978. Williams himself first guest conducted the Orchestra at Ravinia on July 31, 1994, and at Orchestra Hall on November 28, 29 and December 2, 2003. During that first downtown residency on November 29, he led the Orchestra in the world premiere of his Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, dedicated to Principal Horn Dale Clevenger and commissioned by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Also, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has performed the complete soundtracks to accompany screenings of multiple movies scored by Williams, including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Home Alone, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and several films in the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises. Most recently, Williams led the Orchestra on April 26 27, 28, and 29, 2018, conducting excerpts from BFG, Hook, Jaws, Lincoln, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, and selections from movies in the Star Wars trilogies.

Under the baton of the composer, the Orchestra recorded a suite from Memoirs of a Geisha in August 2008, with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist. In May 2012, Williams led the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus in sessions for the soundtrack for Lincolnlater nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media and an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Happy, happy birthday!

This article also appears here, and portions previously appeared here.

Principal Horn Dale Clevenger in 2010 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the loss of Dale Clevenger, who served as principal horn from 1966 until 2013. He died yesterday, January 5, 2022, in Italy, at the age of eighty-one.

Dale Clevenger was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 2, 1940. A legend in the world of french horn for his sound, technique, finesse, and fearless music making, he joined the CSO at the invitation of seventh music director Jean Martinon. Throughout his forty-seven-year tenure, he performed under subsequent music directors Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, and Riccardo Muti, along with titled conductors Pierre Boulez, Bernard Haitink, Carlo Maria Giulini, and Claudio Abbado, among countless guest conductors.

“The loss of Dale Clevenger, one of the best and most famous horn players of our time and one of the glories of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, leaves a very deep void in the music world,” Maestro Muti said in a statement. “Fortunately, we have many audiovisual recordings of him with the Chicago Symphony to show his extraordinary technique and nobility of musical phrasing. I am certain that all his colleagues, former and current, all horn students, and myself, as we were personal friends, will mourn this huge loss.”

A versatile musician in many areas, including chamber music, jazz, commercial recordings, and as soloist, Clevenger frequently credited his mentors Arnold Jacobs (CSO principal tuba, 1944–88) and Adolph “Bud” Herseth (CSO principal trumpet, 1948–2001 and principal trumpet emeritus, 2001–04).

Clevenger was a featured soloist on several CSO recordings, including works by Martin, Schumann, Britten, and Mozart. He also played on the Grammy Award–winning recording The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli with the brass ensembles of the Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cleveland orchestras. He recorded horn concertos by Joseph and Michael Haydn with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra of Budapest, as well as Mozart’s horn concertos on two separate releases, each of which was nominated for Grammy awards. Clevenger also performed with Barenboim and colleagues from the CSO and the Berlin Philharmonic on the Grammy-winning CD of quintets for piano and winds by Mozart and Beethoven. With Barenboim and Itzhak Perlman, he recorded Brahms’s Horn Trio for Sony Classical. He performed on the Tribute to Ellington release with Barenboim and other members of the Orchestra, and his recording of Strauss’s First Horn Concerto with Barenboim and the CSO also won a Grammy Award. John Williams wrote a horn concerto for him, which he premiered with the CSO under the baton of the composer, in 2003.

The recording of Richard Strauss’s Wind Concertos—featuring CSO principals Clevenger, clarinet Larry Combs, oboe Alex Klein, and bassoon David McGill—won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with Orchestra).

Also a conductor, Clevenger served as music director of the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra for fourteen years. His conducting career included guest appearances with the New Japan Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Roosevelt University Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Conservatory Orchestra, Northwestern University Summer Symphony, Western Australia Symphony Orchestra, Osaka Philharmonic, National Philharmonic of Slovakia in Bratislava, Sinfonia Crakovia and the Opole Philharmonic in Poland, and the Bartlesville (Oklahoma) Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, he conducted the Valladolid (Spain) Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim as soloist.

Teaching was an integral part of Clevenger’s life, and horn players who studied and coached with him won positions in some of the world’s most prestigious ensembles. Over the years, he taught at Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, and the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Clevenger also gave recitals and master classes throughout the world: in Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, China, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and Israel. In 1985, he received an honorary doctorate from Elmhurst College.

Dale Clevenger (Terry’s Photography)

Before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Clevenger was a member of Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony of the Air directed by Alfred Wallenstein; he also was principal horn of the Kansas City Philharmonic. He appeared as soloist with orchestras worldwide, including the Berlin Philharmonic. Clevenger participated in numerous music festivals, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; Florida Music Festival in Sarasota; Marrowstone Music Festival in Bellingham, Washington; Affinis Music Festival in Japan; and the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival. Additionally, he worked with the European Community Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abbado and participated in countless International Horn Society workshops.

In February 2013, when he announced plans to retire, Clevenger wrote to his colleagues in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: “You are truly some of the finest musicians on the planet. To have had the pleasure and privilege of making music and sharing the stage with you in thousands of concerts is a sweet memory I shall cherish. . . . I encourage you to do everything possible in your power to keep my Chicago Symphony Orchestra ‘the best of the best!’”

In Orchestra Hall on June 10, 2013, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — under the batons of Clevenger and Riccardo Muti — performed an appreciation concert for their longtime colleague. As part of the program, several musicians put together a tribute, and that video is below.

Clevenger married Nancy Sutherland in 1966; they divorced in 1987. Alice Render, also a horn player, became his wife later that year; she died in 2011. He married Giovanna Grassi in 2012, and she survives him, along with a son and a daughter, Michael and Ami, from his first marriage; two sons Mac and Jesse, from his second marriage; a sister, Alice Clevenger Cooper; and two granddaughters, Cameron and Leia. Details for services—to be held at Christ Church in Winnetka, Illinois in the late spring—are pending.

Numerous tributes have been posted online, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago on the Aisle, Chicago Classical Review, New York Times, and Gramophone, among others.

This article also appears here.

“We know with certainty that seldom was a work of this kind brought to completion under more adverse conditions than the Eighth Symphony,” wrote Frederick Stock, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s second music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s SymphoniesThe year 1812 was challenging for Beethoven, as he endured “domestic difficulties of the most embarrassing and annoying kind . . . added to this the agony of his ever-increasing deafness, and life’s burden must have been unbearable. And yet the general character of the F major symphony is added proof that adversities, no matter how severe, could not overwhelm him or daunt his spirt, since the temper and color of this work show no trace of suffering. . . . the Eighth Symphony [is] the work of a genius rising above his world, reaching beyond his own time, and that this work was only a stepping-stone for much greater things to come.”

The Eighth Symphony “was misunderstood from the start,” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “The Eighth is a throwback to an easier time. The novelty of this symphony, however, is that it manages to do new and unusual things without ever waving the flag of controversy.”

Founder and first music director Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony on March 25 and 26, 1892, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1973 recording (London)

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (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. The Eighth Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 6 and 9, 1973. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1988 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Eighth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on October 17 and 18, 1988. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture along with Symphonies nos. 5 and 8 on January 13 and 15, 2021.

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the remarkable Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini!

Maurizio Pollini (© Mathias Bothor for Deutsche Grammophon)

A frequent and favorite guest artist in Chicago for more than fifty years, Pollini has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in recital on numerous occasions, in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in Milwaukee.

Following Pollini’s debut in Orchestra Hall in January 1971, Thomas Willis commented in the Chicago Tribune that he had “been literally pulled forward in my seat by [the] pianist’s bravura . . . last night when Maurizio Pollini charged the climactic repeated octaves in Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto. The speed and power of that single passage—no more than, say, fifteen seconds long—broke the piano’s sound barrier for me. Until I heard this virtuoso do it, I would never have believed that alternating octaves could be played so fast and so loud on any concert piano. . . . This one could be the star shaker.”

A complete list of Pollini’s appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to date is below.

July 5, 1969, Ravinia Festival
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

June 27, 1970, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

January 21, 22, and 23, 1971, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 2
Claudio Abbado, conductor

February 21, 22, and 23, 1974, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Claudio Abbado, conductor

February 10 and 11, 1977, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 1
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in February 1977 for Deutsche Grammophon
1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance–Instrumental Soloist
1979
Gramophone Award for Concerto

February 17, 18, and 20, 1977, Orchestra Hall
February 21, 1977, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 2
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in February 1977 for Deutsche Grammophon
1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance–Instrumental Soloist
1979
Gramophone Award for Concerto

April 5, 6, and 7, 1979, Orchestra Hall
April 9, 1979, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Christoph von Dohnányi, conductor

March 19, 20, and 21, 1981, Orchestra Hall
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

March 3, 4, and 5, 1983, Orchestra Hall
SCHOENBERG Piano Concerto, Op. 42
Claudio Abbado, conductor

March 31, April 1, 2, and 5, 1988, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Claudio Abbado, conductor

October 23 and 24, 1997, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

April 21, 2000, Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

April 25, 26, and 27, 2013, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467
Riccardo Muti, conductor

For his February 1982 recital debut in Orchestra Hall, Pollini gave a program of works by Schubert and Chopin. “Nor could you hope to hear every note, every chord, every structural detail of [Chopin’s] B minor sonata rendered with more breathtaking accuracy or digital strength,” commented John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy was “a meeting of mind and music that illuminated the inner workings [and placed] everything in his technical and musical arsenal at the music’s disposal. . . . His view understood, as Schubert did, the eloquence that can reside in lyrical simplicity.”

Dates for Pollini’s numerous recitals in Orchestra Hall—given under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents—are below.

Maurizio Pollini (Erich Auerbach)

February 28, 1982
March 11, 1984
April 1, 1987
March 27, 1988
March 18, 1990
March 15, 1992
March 21, 1993
October 12, 1997
October 25, 1998
October 7, 2000
May 5, 2002
October 31, 2004
May 14, 2006
May 6, 2007
October 12, 2008
April 11, 2010
October 26, 2014
October 4, 2015
May 28, 2017
April 22, 2018

Happy, happy birthday!

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