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Abbado

Claudio Abbado first conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in January 1971, leading three weeks of subscription concerts. For the next twenty years, he was a frequent visitor—both before and after his tenure as second principal guest conductor from 1982 until 1985—also leading the Orchestra in concerts at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Abbado’s numerous residencies included collaborations with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, recording sessions, and performances with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

On May 24, 25, and 27, 1984, Abbado led the Orchestra’s first performances of Berg’s landmark opera, Wozzeck. The principal cast included Benjamin Luxon in the title role, Hildegard Behrens as Marie, Alexander Malta as the Doctor, Jacque Trussel as the Drum Major, and Gerhard Unger as the Captain. Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus were prepared by associate director James Winfield, members of the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus were prepared by Doreen Rao, and the concert staging was directed by Robert Goldschlager.

Abbado with the Orchestra onstage at Orchestra Hall on May 24, 1984 (Jeff Wassmann photo)

Abbado with the Orchestra onstage at Orchestra Hall on May 24, 1984 (Jeff Wassmann photo)

“Sung by an extraordinary cast and played with surpassing beauty and intensity by the Orchestra, this first CSO performance of the Berg masterpiece served as a resoundingly successful climax to the season,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “In a wondrous score that shifts between Straussian contrapuntal complexity and a translucence of texture worthy of Debussy, Abbado was masterful. His limning of detail was extraordinary, and he never stressed the agonized lyricism at the expense of passion or intensity. Given orchestral playing of power, shimmer, and clarity, Berg’s tight formal structures supported a vocal performance of shattering dramatic impact.”

Abbado and the cast onstage at Orchestra Hall on May 24, 1984 (Jeff Wassmann photo)

Abbado and the cast onstage at Orchestra Hall on May 24, 1984 (Jeff Wassmann photo)

“Claudio Abbado, who conducted without a score (an achievement appreciated by all who have studied this music) took advantage of the simple setting to permit the work to develop with symphonic continuity, one scene flowing directly into another, and the cumulative effect was tremendous,” raved Robert C. Marsh in the Chicago Sun-Times. “There are occasions when despite our rich diet of superlative music, you say to yourself, ‘This is a historic moment. People will be talking about this for years to come.’ And they will. Abbado and the CSO, in all their years of association, have never done anything finer or more important.”

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Kurt Masur, a frequent guest conductor for thirty years, from 1981 until 2011. Masur died on December 19, 2015, in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was 88.

Kurt Masur

Numerous tributes and obituaries have been posted online, including the websites of the New York PhilharmonicThe New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune.

Masur made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in 1981, and he most recently guest conducted at Orchestra Hall in 2011. A complete list of his appearances with the Orchestra is below (subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

August 13, 1981 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Jean-Bernard Pommier, piano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

August 15, 1981 (Ravinia Festival)
MOZART Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525
MOZART Andante for Flute in C Major, K. 315
Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
MOZART Rondo for Flute in D Major, K. Anh. 184
Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
MOZART Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major, K. 314
Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

July 8, 1982 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
André-Michel Schub, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

July 10, 1982 (Ravinia Festival)
GLINKA Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)

July 26, 1984 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Selections from Egmont, Op. 84
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Werner Klemperer, narrator
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

July 28, 1984 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Overture to Fidelio, Op. 72
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major
Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

July 29, 1984 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Choral Fantasy in C Minor, Op. 80
Menahem Pressler, piano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Benita Valente, soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Jacque Trussel, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 6, 7 & 8, 1984
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
Annerose Schmidt, piano
MATTHUS Piano Concerto
Annerose Schmidt, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

August 1, 1985 (Ravinia Festival)
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

August 3, 1985 (Ravinia Festival)
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

June 9, 10 & 11, 1988
BRITTEN Simple Symphony, Op. 4
HAYDN Symphony No. 85 in B-flat Major (La Reine)
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5, Op. 47

February 7, 8, 10 & 12, 1991
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (Classical)
HINDEMITH Concert Music for String Orchestra and Brass, Op. 50
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (Scottish)

November 20, 21 & 22, 2003
GLINKA Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla
SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 77
Vadim Repin, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

March 31 & April 2, 2011
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Louis Lortie, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major

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Theodore Thomas

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