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To honor Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gave a gala concert of the highest order on October 9, 1987.

Governor James R. Thompson opened the concert with welcoming remarks, and after the intermission, Mayor Harold Washington presented Sir Georg with the City of Chicago’s Medal of Merit. The concert program was as follows:

CORIGLIANO Campane di Ravello (world premiere)
Kenneth Jean, conductor

J. STRAUSS Overture to Die Fledermaus
Plácido Domingo, conductor

MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Sir Georg Solti, conductor and piano
Murray Perahia, piano

STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa perform a scene from Verdi’s Otello (Jim Steere photo)

VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
David Huneryager, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

The commemorative program contained letters and testimonials from numerous public officials, conductors, musicians, and industry professionals, including: Ronald Reagan, James R. Thompson, Harold Washington, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Carlo Maria Giulini, Rafael Kubelík, John Corigliano, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rudolf Serkin, Henry Fogel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christa Ludwig, Birgit Nilsson, Witold Lutosławski, Sir Charles Mackerras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Klaus Tennstedt, David Del Tredici, Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Slatkin, Werner Klemperer, José van Dam, Elliott Carter, Karel Husa, Isaac Stern, Morton Gould, Hans Werner Henze, Itzhak Perlman, Anja Silja, Erich Leinsdorf, Josef Suk, Plácido Domingo, Michael Tippett, Kiri Te Kanawa, Murray Perahia, Leontyne Price, András Schiff, Kenneth Jean, Andrzej Panufnik, Dame Janet Baker, Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Minton, Herbert Blomstedt, Mira Zakai, Margaret Hillis, Gunther Herbig, Ray Minshull, Ann Murray, Philip Langridge, Raymond Leppard, Vladimir Ashkenazy, George Rochberg, Gwynne Howell, Ardis Krainik, Michael Morgan, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Henry Mancini, and Barbara Hendricks.

Solti and Perahia as soloists in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (Jim Steere photo)

The concert was covered widely in the press, in the Chicago Tribune (here, here, and here) and Sun-Times (here and here), as well as Time, Newsweek, the Post-Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many others.

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The composer shows the score to Mayor Harold Washington

On March 13, 1986, Sir Georg Solti conducted the world premiere of George Rochberg‘s Symphony no. 5, which had been commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the City of Chicago. The work was dedicated to Solti and the Orchestra in memory of John S. Edwards, general manager of The Orchestral Association from 1967 until 1984.


The composer was in Chicago for the premiere and contributed to the program notes: “My 5th Symphony is an intense, passionate work of an emotional scale which I hope wholly befits the city, the occasion, the conductor, and the orchestra for which it was written. It was John Edwards, long-time executive director and manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who originally approached me with the idea of writing such a work and I am truly sorry he is not here any longer to share these first performances with me and his colleagues.

“The character of this work is mainly chromatic with virtually no overt references to the tonal palette which most people have come to associate with my music. Its form, which derives from its general content, is unique for me, not so much because it is cast in seven sections comprising one large-scale, uninterrupted movement, but because I have tried to mix formal procedures with imagistic ones in a process of organic growth stemming from a core. . . .

The composer and Solti backstage following the world premiere

“One has to imagine a kind of constantly evolving and spiralling funnel, starting from the opening statement—the core of the work—which, as it spirals upward and outward in increasingly widening turns with each new section, gathers up ideas and materials already stated until at the Finale everything which has been previously expressed is brought together and unified.”

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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