You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Gramophone’ tag.

Riccardo Muti (Todd Rosenberg photo)

A recent Gramophone magazine article lists its fifty greatest conductors of all time, and several Chicago Symphony Orchestra titled conductors are prominently featured!

Current music director Riccardo Muti and former music directors Daniel BarenboimRafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, and Sir Georg Solti are squarely included, along with principal guest conductors Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, and Carlo Maria Giulini; principal conductor Bernard Haitink; and Ravinia Festival music directors James Levine and Seiji Ozawa.

According to the article, “A great conductor illuminates music you thought you knew in a way that you couldn’t possibly have imagined.” Indeed.

125_blog_banner

____________________________________________________

Logo

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra embarked on its first overseas tour to Europe in 1971, with music director Georg Solti and principal guest conductor Carlo Maria Giulini sharing conducting duties. The Orchestra was on the road for nearly six weeks, leaving Chicago on August 26 and returning on October 6, for a tour that included twenty-five concerts in fifteen venues in nine countries (Austria, Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, and Sweden), performing sixteen different works. No other international tour since has included more concerts or a wider variety of programming.

Tickertape parade down State and LaSalle streets on October 14, 1971

Tickertape parade down State and LaSalle streets on October 14, 1971 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Consistently welcomed and cheered by capacity audiences, the Orchestra received overwhelmingly favorable critical response. Upon their return to Chicago, the musicians received a hero’s welcome: a tickertape parade down State and LaSalle streets on October 14, 1971.

Recording Mahler's Eighth Symphony at the Sofiensaal in Vienna

Recording Mahler’s Eighth Symphony at the Sofiensaal in Vienna (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Before the Orchestra performed a single concert, there were four recording sessions for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony at the Sofiensaal in Vienna beginning on August 30. The cast included sopranos Heather Harper, Lucia Popp, and Arleen Augér; mezzo-soprano Yvonne Minton; contralto Helen Watts; tenor René Kollo; baritone John Shirley-Quirk; bass Martti Talvela; and three choruses: the Chorus of the Vienna State Opera, the Singverein Chorus, and the Vienna Boys Choir.

In Gramophone, Edward Greenfield wrote, “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 . . . [with] 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.”

The London Records recording won three 1972 Grammy awards for Album of the Year–Classical, Best Choral Performance–Classical (other than opera), and Best Engineered Recording–Classical.

Carlo Maria Giulini and Georg Solti

Carlo Maria Giulini and Georg Solti (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

This article also appears here. Some of this content previously appeared here and here.

Congratulations to Bernard Haitink—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal conductor from 2006 until 2010 and a frequent guest conductor—the recipient of this year’s Gramophone magazine award for lifetime achievement!

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony in Orchestra Hall on October 31, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony in Orchestra Hall on October 31, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

On the magazine’s website, several of Haitink’s colleagues offered tributes, including Emanuel Ax: “Bernard Haitink has been an inspiration to all of us in the world of music. He has combined never-ending search for truth in the works he conducts with the ability to make each performance sound inevitably right. It has been an incredible privilege for me to share a few steps on his musical journeys, and to witness his devotion and insatiable curiosity for all composers.” And Sir András Schiff added: “Bernard is unique because, of all the conductors I know, he has the least ego. It’s like a breath of fresh air! The way he loves music, and respects and reveres great composers, and how he sees his role, is exactly as it should be: as a medium between the composer and the players and the listeners.”

James Jolly, Gramophone‘s editor-in-chief wrote: “Had Bernard Haitink not conducted another note after stepping down as principal conductor of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1988, his position as one of the world’s great conductors would have been secure enough. . . . But he went on [and is enjoying a] glorious Indian Summer that shows no sign of drawing to a close. . . . As the Grand Old Man of the conducting world, his love for the music remains palpable and we’re delighted to honor him with this special award.”

Congratulations, Maestro Haitink!

Haitink returns to Chicago in April 2016, leading the Orchestra in Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 22 with Till Fellner and Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony.

Claudio Abbado, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal guest conductor from 1982 until 1985, recorded extensively with the Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus beginning in 1976 through 1991 on CBS, Deutsche Grammophon, and Sony, as well as several releases on the CSO’s From the Archives series. A complete list of those recordings is below.

Bartok Piano Concertos

BARTÓK Concerto for Piano No. 1
Maurizio Pollini, piano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1977
Deutsche Grammophon
1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance–Instrumental Soloist
1979 Gramophone Award for Concerto

BARTÓK Concerto for Piano No. 2
Maurizio Pollini, piano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1977
Deutsche Grammophon
1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance–Instrumental Soloist
1979 Gramophone Award for Concerto

Berlioz Symphonie fantastique x

BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1983
Deutsche Grammophon

BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Isaac Stern, violin
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1986
CBS

BRUCH Concerto for Violin No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Shlomo Mintz, violin
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1980
Deutsche Grammophon

CHOPIN Concerto for Piano No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
Ivo Pogorelich, piano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1983
Deutsche Grammophon

GABRIELI Jubilate Deo and Miserere mei Deus from Sacrae symphoniae
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 1986
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 13: Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration)

Mozart and Haydn concertos

HAYDN Concerto for Trumpet in E-flat Major
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1984
Deutsche Grammophon

HAYDN Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat Major for Violin, Cello, Oboe, and Bassoon, Op. 84
Samuel Magad, violin
Frank Miller, cello
Ray Still, oboe
Willard Elliot, bassoon
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1980
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 2: Soloists of the Orchestra)

MAHLER Rückert Lieder
Hanna Schwarz, mezzo-soprano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1981
Deutsche Grammophon

MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1981
Deutsche Grammophon

Mahler Symphony No. 2

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Carol Neblett, soprano
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple, February 1976
Deutsche Grammophon

MAHLER Symphony No. 5
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1980
Deutsche Grammophon

MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1979 and February 1980
Deutsche Grammophon

MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, January and February 1984
Deutsche Grammophon

MENDELSSOHN Concerto for Violin in E Minor, Op. 64
Shlomo Mintz, violin
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1980
Deutsche Grammophon

MOZART Concerto for Bassoon in B-flat Major, K. 191
Willard Elliot, bassoon
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1984
Deutsche Grammophon

MOZART Concerto for Horn No. 3 in E-flat Major, K. 447
Dale Clevenger, horn
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1981
Deutsche Grammophon

MOZART Concerto for Oboe in C Major, K. 314
Ray Still, oboe
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 1983
Deutsche Grammophon

MOZART Kyrie in D Minor, K. 341
Chicago Symphony Chorus
James Winfield, associate director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 1983
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 22: Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration)

MUSSORGSKY Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov
Philip Langridge, tenor
Ruggero Raimondi, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1984
CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra–The First 100 Years)

MUSSORGSKY Joshua
Lucia Valentini-Terrani, mezzo-soprano
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 1981
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 22: Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration)

MUSSORGSKY Chorus of Priestesses from Salammbô
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 1981
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 22: Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration)

PROKOFIEV Concerto for Violin No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
Shlomo Mintz, violin
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February and March 1983
Deutsche Grammophon

PROKOFIEV Concerto for Violin No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
Shlomo Mintz, violin
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February and March 1983
Deutsche Grammophon

Prokofiev Scythian and Kije

PROKOFIEV Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1977
Deutsche Grammophon

PROKOFIEV Scythian Suite
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1977
Deutsche Grammophon

RACHMANINOV Concerto for Piano No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Cecile Licad, piano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1983
CBS

RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Cecile Licad, piano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1983
CBS

Tchaikovsky 1812

TCHAIKOVSKY 1812 Overture, Op. 49
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1990
Sony

TCHAIKOVSKY Marche slav, Op. 31
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1986
CBS

TCHAIKOVSKY Suite No. 1 from The Nutcracker, Op. 71a
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 1991
Sony

TCHAIKOVSKY Romeo and Juliet
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, April 1988
CBS

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 13 (Winter Dreams)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 1991
Sony

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17 (Little Russian)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, May 1984
CBS

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29 (Polish)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, Feburary 1990
Sony

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, April 1988
CBS

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1985
CBS

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1986
CBS

TCHAIKOVSKY The Tempest, Op. 18
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, May 1984
CBS

TCHAIKOVSKY Le Voyevode, Op. 78
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1985
CBS

WAGNER A Faust Overture
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1983
CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra–The First 100 Years)

WEBERN Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February 1984
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 5: Guests in the House)

Statements on Claudio Abbado’s passing from Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can be found on CSO Sounds and Stories.

____________________________________________________

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Georg Solti led Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in March 1970 in Chicago and again in May 1979, with concerts in Chicago and New York City.

March 12, 14, and 16, 1970, at Orchestra Hall
Leonore Anja Silja, soprano
Marzelline Lucia Popp, soprano
Florestan Jess Thomas, tenor
Jaquino Frank Porretta, tenor
Don Pizarro Herbert Fliether, baritone
Rocco Kurt Boehme, bass
Don Fernando Thomas Paul, bass
Two Prisoners William Wahman, tenor and Gary Kendall, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Fidelio rehearsal in Orchestra Hall

May 10 and 12, 1979, at Orchestra Hall
May 19, 1979, at Carnegie Hall
Leonore Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Marzelline Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Florestan Peter Hofmann, tenor
Jaquino David Kübler, tenor
Don Pizarro Theo Adam, baritone
Rocco Hans Sotin, bass
Don Fernando Gwynne Howell, bass
Two Prisoners Robert Johnson, tenor and Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Following the performance in Carnegie Hall, the opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

In Gramophone, W.S.M. wrote: “No comparative sets are listed above because in one sense, this new Fidelio is at present hors concours: it is the first digitally recorded opera to be released, and in an ensemble opera the new technique pays handsome dividends. . . .

“This Decca/Solti suggests a large studio with a quite reverberant acoustic, actually the Medinah Temple in Chicago. For the outdoor scenes it works well, the garden with sparring lovers, the spacious fresh-air into which the prisoners emerge, later the square where they are freed (at least we hope so) and dramatic complications are resolved. The dungeon scene doesn’t actually sound misplaced, in the literal sense, but neither does it suggest a different, cramped, deep, awesome location. This is not a theatrical representation, or we would hear the guards enter and leave, steps ascended and descended, doors opened, perhaps the rattle of chains, something to suggest that Fidelio is not just an oratorio. . . .

Solti and Margaret Hillis listen to Fidelio playbacks

“Solti views Fidelio steadily and whole; intent on the menace and the ultimate victory of humanity. His tempi are steady, for the most part, only in the duet for Pizarro and Rocco seemingly too slow for the singers. He seldom needs to add ritardandi or accelerandi as other Fidelio conductors do, and he is able to care for nuance and details of part-writing, for example in the canon quartet. Here too each new vocal entry is truly soils tore, a wonderful effect of rapt self-communion, until Jaquino’s, not rapt at all but infuriated, therefore loud, but soon blending into the others. The Prisoners’ Chorus shows the Solti approach at its finest and most moving. If the Florestan were tip to the rest, I would count this the most desirable of recorded Fidelios.”

____________________________________________________

In a recent, beautifully crafted article in The Guardian, Ed Vulliamy wrote, “Solti’s shattering Mahler Ninth at the Royal Festival Hall with the Chicago orchestra in 1981 left anyone who heard it dazed with wonderment.”

Sir Georg Solti first led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall in April 1981 and then later that year during a European tour, culminating on September 19, 1981, with that performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He and the Orchestra next performed it on a musicians’ pension fund concert on April 28, 1982, and recorded it the following week in Orchestra Hall.

Richard Osborne’s review in Gramophone magazine, disagreeing somewhat with Vulliamy, noted: “When Solti conducted Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in London in the autumn of 1981 the critic of The Financial Times observed: ‘Solti obviously knew how this music should go but not why.’ Such a reading would be an evident act of self-parody, for it is to this very theme—the modern world’s nightmarish preoccupation with sensation, spiralling, self-referring and impossible to assuage—that Mahler so fearlessly addresses himself in the symphony’s third movement, the Rondo Burleske. It’s clear, though, from the present recording, made in Orchestra Hall, Chicago in May 1982, that Solti’s sense of the music is a good deal more rooted than it appeared to be amid the unsettling razzmatazz of an end-of-tour London performance.

“The new performance has a measure of repose about it as well as much splendour. The second movement is robust and resilient as Mahler directs. There is defiance and obstinacy in the third movement, an awful power which illuminates the music rather than the orchestra’s known expertise.” (Osborne’s review goes on to favor Herbert von Karajan‘s 1980 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic (on Deutsche Grammophon), perhaps because he was already working on his excellent biography of the conductor.)

James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock was the engineer for London Records. The recording won the 1983 Grammy Awards for Best Orchestral Recording, Best Engineered Recording—Classical, and Best Classical Album from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus dominated that year at the Grammy Awards, also winning for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) for Haydn’s The Creation. Solti also won for Best Opera Recording for Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

____________________________________________________

Georg Solti conducted the British premiere of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron at Covent Garden in June 1965. In Memoirs, he wrote: “Although I had conducted works by Bartók and Stravinsky, I had never before conducted twelve-tone music of such complexity. Moses is a much harder work than, for example, Lulu. There is a bel canto, legato quality to Lulu that is in contrast to the predominantly spoken and contrapuntal Moses. I remember feeling depressed as I grappled with the score during my 1964 Christmas holiday: I simply didn’t know how to learn the piece, how to get it in my bloodstream. Eventually, I succeeded, but the further I forged ahead, the more I became aware of the enormity of the practical task ahead of me. Schoenberg’s written indications of main theme and second theme, for instance, help performers to grasp what is going on, but bringing those indications to life is anything but easy. . . . It was so well received that it was repeated the following year.”

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Solti led Schoenberg’s opera on two occasions, in November 1971 and April 1984.

Moses und Aron in concert at Orchestra Hall on November 13, 1971

November 11, 12, and 13, 1971, at Orchestra Hall
November 20, 1971, at Carnegie Hall
(performed in English in a translation by David Rudkin)
Moses Hans Hotter, speaker
Aaron Richard Lewis, tenor
A Young Girl Karen Altman, soprano
A Young Man Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Another Man Benjamin Matthews, baritone
Priest Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
An Invalid Woman Emilie Miller, mezzo-contralto
Ephraimite Stephen Swanson, baritone
A Naked Youth Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Four Naked Virgins Barbara Pearson and Nancy Clevenger, sopranos; Sharon Powell, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Muir-Lewis, alto
Three Elders Alfred Reichel and Jack Abraham, baritones; Eugene Johnson, bass
Six Solo Voices in the Orchestra Barbara Pearson, soprano; Sharon Powell, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Muir-Lewis, alto; William Wahman, tenor; Stephen Swanson and Arthur Berg, baritones
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus; Barbara Born, director

April 19 and 21, 1984, at Orchestra Hall
(performed in German)
Moses Franz Mazura, speaker
Aaron Philip Langridge, tenor
A Young Girl Barbara Bonney, soprano
A Young Man Daniel Harper, tenor
Another Man Kurt Link, baritone
Priest Aage Haugland, bass
An Invalid Woman Mira Zakai, contralto
Ephraimite Herbert Wittges, baritone
A Naked Youth Thomas Dymit, tenor
Four Naked Virgins Jean Braham and Barbara Pearson, sopranos; Cynthia Anderson and Karen Zajac, contraltos
Three Elders Kurt Link and Richard Cohn, baritones; Paul Grizzell, bass
Six Solo Voices in the Orchestra Sally Schweikert, soprano; Elizabeth Gottlieb, mezzo-soprano; Karen Brunssen, contralto; Roald Henderson, tenor; Bradley Nystrom, baritone; William Kirkwood, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director
Members of the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus; Doreen Rao, director
Elizabeth Buccheri, repetiteur

The opera was recorded at Orchestra Hall on April 23, 24, 30, and May 1, 1984. James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock and John Pellowe were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Following the release of the recording, Arnold Whittall in Gramophone wrote:

“Sir Georg Solti has come to record Moses und Aron the best part of two decades after he conducted the opera in Peter Hall’s Covent Garden production. . . . His faith in Schoenberg’s most ambitious dramatic project remains undimmed and he believes that, with increasing familiarity, the music becomes ‘clearer, less complicated, and more expressive and romantic.’ This may well be true, but I think that becoming familiar with the opera also reinforces its remarkable ambiguity and originality. Moses und Aron is a necessarily and challengingly diverse composition. At one extreme, the choral counterpoint with its traditional imitative techniques: at the other, the concentratedly expressionist orchestral writing. Then there is the almost blatant, post-Mahlerian vulgarity of parts of the ‘Dance round the Golden Calf,’ in complete contrast to the visionary, discomfiting density of scenes like the first, in which superimpositions of speech and song, voices and instruments, leave the listener straining to find the centre, to discover the idea behind the images in this confrontation between human and divine. Add to all this the fact that there is a text for a third act that Schoenberg never set, and we have something which, however expressive and romantic, is still very much a problem piece.

“The odds are that any studio recording of Moses will be stronger in textural clarity and accuracy of detail than in theatrical atmosphere. Yet the latter is certainly not lacking in Solti’s performance, especially in the second act. Since Act l is less conventionally theatrical anyway, it is not surprising that it is here that you are likely to be most aware of artists working conscientiously in a recording studio (Orchestra Hall, Chicago). But there are moments of excitement in Act I, too, which seem to bear out Solti’s confident claim that ‘the more we rehearsed and played the easier the work became. . . .’

“It is certainly good that the recording does not attempt artificially to oversimplify or stratify the work’s blended textures, and it well serves the music’s vertiginous exploration of the borderland between complexity and chaos, inscrutable divinity and argumentative humanity. In this precarious balance lies the impact and quality of the whole performance, with its generally good supporting cast; it also explains the abiding fascination of Schoenberg’s last attempt to bring a great philosophical issue to dramatic life.”

____________________________________________________

Solti leading a Verdi Requiem recording session at Medinah Temple in June 1977

Sir Georg Solti twice led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Verdi’s Requiem, with concerts in Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall.

April 24 and 26, 1975, at Orchestra Hall (special non-subscription concerts)
April 30, 1975, at Carnegie Hall
Leontyne Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 31, 1977, at Orchestra Hall (Musicians’ Pension Fund concert)
Leontyne Price, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

The work was recorded in Medinah Temple on June 1 and 2, 1977.

John Warrack‘s review in Gramophone magazine noted: “Much credit for bringing four strong and distinctive artists into a unified performance, of distinctive character, clearly resides with Solti. Either he now takes a less hectic, more consolatory view of the work, or he has let the quality of his soloists make this the shaping element of the performance. He is fortunate in an outstanding choir and orchestra, and in a recording that encompasses all the vehemence of the ‘Dies irae’ and also the cool sound of the three flutes accompanying Dame Janet’s beautiful singing of the ‘Agnus Dei’, without any sense of a change of perspective.

“There are sections where he has allowed the choir to let vehemence do duty for real emphasis—a case in point is the ‘Te decet hymnus’—and the renewal of the main ‘Dies irae’ theme has a slight note of an automatic return to a sensational moment, rather than a re-intensification of the moment of Judgement.

“But this is a fine performance, and one which can stand beside any which has been recorded. To choose between this and the Giulini performance listed above is not really reasonable: Giulini has qualities which are unique, and close to the heart of the work; Solti has his own qualities, and is favoured with at least two incomparable performances among his soloists. We are fortunate to have both interpretations recorded.”

(Warrack refers to Carlo Maria Giulini‘s 1964 recording of Verdi’s Requiem on Angel with the Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra. The soloists were Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, and Nicolai Ghiaurov. Solti also recorded the Requiem in November 1967 for London Records with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Chorus. Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Luciano Pavarotti, and Martti Talvela were the soloists.)

Thomas Z. Shepard produced the recording, and Paul Goodman was the engineer for RCA (this was one of the few records Solti made independent of London/Decca). The recording won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

____________________________________________________

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.

____________________________________________________

 

In May 1972, Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The work was recorded for London Records; David Harvey was the producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson was the engineer.

In the November 1972 issue of Gramophone magazine, Jerrold Northrop Moore wrote: “The team of Decca engineers working in Chicago have done this portion of their work wonderfully well. Each of the three orchestral choirs, and especially the fourth section—the percussion—has been given its own special sound. So there is a greater separation (in a way that has nothing to do with stereo) than one would hear from any one place in the concert hall. Listening to this recording is almost like occupying all the best seats at once. That serves Berlioz’s peculiar kind of sonic counterpoint very well indeed. Yet the tuttis combine, I venture to say, every bit as well as their extravagant composer envisioned that they might.

“The Chicago musicians play superbly and enthusiastically for Sir Georg. Together they find more convincing music in the first three movements than I can recall having heard come out of any single performance. This is due mostly to the prodigies of imagination and sensitivity which Solti lavishes upon Berlioz’s hare-brained musical structures—diligently searching out and developing the tiniest shreds whereby development can be made out. And despite this care, I think no one will find that the sensational aspects have been scantily served. Where this sophistication cannot save the situation is in the last two sections, especially the March. There the music is being wound up and set going toward results which are frankly calculated to overtake any purely musical interest, and even Solti is not able to turn rumbustious tedium into perfect eloquence. Nevertheless in his hands, those of the Chicago musicians and those of the Decca engineers, vulgarity itself comes close to the artistically viable.”

At the time, Rose Records at 214 South Wabash (later Tower Records and now a school for barbers-to-be) had a neon sign made to promote the recording. The sign was on display in the store for several years, later donated to the Orchestra, and ultimately found its way to the Rosenthal Archives. Sadly, it no longer illuminates; the last time it was plugged in years ago, only half of one of the letters fizzed slightly. But it is still looks great on top of the shelves in the reading room.

The recording won 1974 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Performance–Orchestra; Best Engineered Recording, Classical; and Album of the Year, Classical from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique album front cover . . .


. . . and back cover.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

chicagosymphony twitter feed

ChicagoSymphony Instagram

Today is the big day! The entire season is now on sale. Visit cso.org to see a full lineup and get your tickets.

disclaimer

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

visitors

  • 242,660 hits
%d bloggers like this: