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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.

This article also appears here.

“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.

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.

During Adolph “Bud” Herseth’s tenure as principal trumpet, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra commercially recorded Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on seven occasions between 1951 and 1990.

Following are the first tracks from each of those seven recordings, each featuring Herseth performing the work’s opening promenade fanfare.

Recorded in Orchestra Hall in Chicago in April 1951 for Mercury
Rafael Kubelík conductor
Wilma Cozart recording producer
David Hall recording supervisor
C. Robert Fine and George Piros recording engineers

Recorded in Orchestra Hall in Chicago in December 1957 for RCA
Fritz Reiner conductor
Richard Mohr producer
Lewis Layton recording engineer
Mark Donahue mastering engineer

Recorded in Medinah Temple in Chicago in July 1967 for RCA
Seiji Ozawa conductor
Peter Dellheim producer
Bernard Keville and Ernest Oelrich recording engineers

Recorded in Medinah Temple in Chicago in April 1976 for Deutsche Grammophon
Carlo Maria Giulini conductor
Günther Breest producer and recording supervisor
Klaus Scheibe engineer

Recorded in Medinah Temple in Chicago in May 1980 by London
Sir Georg Solti conductor
James Mallinson recording producer
James Lock and John Dunkerley balance engineers

Recorded in Orchestra Hall in Chicago in November 1989 for Chandos 
Neeme Järvi conductor
Brian Couzens recording producer
Mitchell Heller location engineer
Paul Smith assistant engineer
Richard Lee editor

Recorded in Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan in April 1990 for Sony
Sir Georg Solti conductor
Humphrey Burton writer and director
Tomoyuki Tashiro and Renato Rezzonico executive producers
Shuji Fujii director
Juro Yokoyama recording director
Tetsuo Baba, Akira Fukada, and Andreas Neubronner recording engineers
Phil Piotrowsky lighting cameraman
Frank Baliello HDVS engineer
Armando Madaffari HDVS technician
Jean Rezzonico producer
John Dunkerley balance engineer
Martin Atkinson technical engineer
Terry Bennell editor

This article also appears here.

Duain Wolfe in 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to Duain Wolfe, Grammy Award–winning chorus director and conductor of the Chicago Symphony Chorus!

In 1994, ninth music director Daniel Barenboim appointed Wolfe to succeed Margaret Hillis, founder and first director of the Chorus. Since then, he has prepared the ensemble for over 150 programs for concerts in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, as well as at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Carnegie Hall, and Berlin’s Philharmonie. Wolfe’s activities have earned him an honorary doctorate and numerous awards, including the Bonfils Stanton Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and Chorus America’s Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art.

Wolfe also has prepared the Chicago Symphony Chorus for numerous commercial recordings, and a complete list is below.

BARTÓK The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in December 1994 for Deutsche Grammophon. The album was executive produced by Roger Wright and produced by Karl-August Naegler, Rainer Maillard was the balance engineer, Stephan Flock and Hans-Rudolf Müller were the recording engineers, and Stephan Flock and Rainer Maillard were the editors.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13 in B-flat Minor, Op. 113 (Babi Yar)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sergej Aleksashkin, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in February 1995 for London Records. The album was produced by Michael Woolcock, John Dunkerley and Andy Groves were the recording engineers, and Nigel Gayler was the recoding editor.

ROUGET DE L’ISLE/Berlioz La Marseillaise
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
The Orchestra and Chorus were recorded in Orchestra Hall in May 1995; Domingo was later recorded at the Hochschule für Musik Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. For Teldec, the album was executive produced by Nikolaus Deckenbrock and produced by Martin Fouqué, Ulrich Ruscher was the recording engineer, Jens Schünemann and Paul Nedel were assistant engineers, and Andreas Florcak and Stefan Witzel were digital editors.

WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Eva Karita Mattila, soprano
Magdalene Iris Vermillion, mezzo-soprano
Walther von Stolzing Ben Heppner, tenor
David Herbert Lippert, tenor
Hans Sachs José van Dam, bass-baritone
Veit Pogner René Pape, bass
Sixtus Beckmesser Alan Opie, baritone
Kunz Vogelgesang Roberto Saccà, tenor
Konrad Nachtigall Gary Martin, baritone
Fritz Kothner Albert Dohmen, bass-baritone
Balthasar Zorn John Horton Murray, tenor
Ulrich Eisslinger Richard Byrne, baritone
Augustin Moser Steven Tharp, tenor
Hermann Ortel Kevin Deas, bass-baritone
Hans Schwarz Stephen Morscheck, bass-baritone
Hans Foltz, Ein Nachtwächter Kelly Anderson, baritone
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 1995 for London Records. The recording was produced by Michael Woolcock; James Lock, John Pellowe, and Neil Hutchinson were the balance engineers; and Krzysztof Jarosz was the location engineer. The recording won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.

SCRIABIN Prometheus, Op. 60
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Anatol Ugorski, piano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in December 1996 for Deutsche Grammophon. The album was executive produced by Roger Wright and Ewald Markl and produced by Karl-August Naegler; Ulrich Vette was the balance engineer; Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were the recording engineers; and Karl-August Naegler and Ulrich Vette were the editors.

STRAVINSKY Symphony of Psalms
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Emily Ellsworth, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 1997 for London Records. The album was produced by Michael Woolcock, and James Lock and Philip Siney were the balance engineers. Duncan Mitchell was the location engineer, and Sally Drew and Nigel Gayler were the recording editors.

American Spirit
KELLEY/Davis Home on the Range
STEFFE/Davis Battle Hymn of the Republic
WARD/Davis America the Beautiful
Chip Davis, conductor
Mannheim Steamroller Symphony
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded at Saint Michael’s Catholic Church in Old Town, Chicago in March 2003 for American Gramaphone. The album was produced by Chip Davis; Chris Sabold, Mike Konopka, and Dick Lewsey were the engineers; and Mat Lejeune, Brian Pinke, Mike Scasiwicz, Darren Styles were the assistant engineers.

MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in October 2006 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

MENOTTI Amahl and the Night Visitors
Alastair Willis, conductor
Amahl Ike Hawkersmith, treble
Mother Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano
King Kaspar Dean Anthony, tenor
King Melchior Todd Thomas, baritone
King Balthazar Kevin Short, bass-baritone
Page to the Kings Bart LeFan, baritone
Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus
George Mabry, director
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Laura Turner Concert Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2006 for Naxos. The album was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, and John Hill and Mark Donahue were the engineers.

RAVEL L’enfant et les sortilèges
Alastair Willis, conductor
L’enfant Julie Boulianne, mezzo-soprano
Maman, La libellule, L’écureuil Geneviève Després, mezzo-soprano
La tasse chinoise, Un pâtre, La chatte Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano
La théière, Le petit viellard, La rainette Philippe Castagner, tenor
L’horloge comtoise, Le chat Ian Greenlaw, baritone
Le fauteuil, Un arbre Kevin Short, bass-baritone
La princesse, La chauve-souris Agathe Martel, soprano
Le feu, Le rossignol Cassandre Prévost, soprano
La bergère, Une pastourelle, La chouette Julie Cox, soprano
Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus
George Mabry, director
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chattanooga Boys Choir
Vincent Oakes, director
Recorded in Laura Turner Concert Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2006 for Naxos. The album was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, and John Hill and Mark Donahue were the engineers.

POULENC Gloria
RAVEL Daphnis and Chloe

Bernard Haitink, conductor
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 2007 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Miah Persson, soprano
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 2008 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

VERDI Messa da Requiem
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in January 2009 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by Christopher Alder, Christopher Willis was the recording engineer, and David Frost and Tom Lazarus were the mixing engineers.
The recording received 2010 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance.

BERLIOZ Lélio ou le retour à la vie
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Gérard Depardieu, narrator
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 2010 for CSO Resound. The album was produced and mixed by David Frost, Christopher Willis was the recording engineer, and Silas Brown was the mixing and mastering engineer.

VERDI Otello
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Otello Aleksandrs Antonenko, tenor
Desdemona Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano
Iago Carlo Guelfi, baritone
Emilia Barbara di Castri, mezzo-soprano
Cassio Juan Francisco Gatell, tenor
Roderigo Michael Spyres, tenor
Montano Paolo Battaglia, bass
Lodovico Eric Owens, bass-baritone
A Herald David Govertsen, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in April 2011 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Christopher Willis was the recording engineer; and Tim Martyn, Silas Brown, and Richard King were the mixing engineers.

SCHOENBERG Kol Nidre, Op. 39
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Alberto Mizrahi, narrator
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 2012 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Christopher Willis was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.

WILLIAMS Lincoln (original motion picture soundtrack)
John Williams, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in May 2012 for Sony. The recording was produced by John Williams, Ramiro Belgardt was the music editor, Shawn Murphy was the recording and mixing engineer, Robert Wolff was the recording editor, Brad Cobb was the technical engineer, and Patricia Sullivan Fourstar was the mastering engineer.

Riccardo Muti conducts Italian Masterworks
VERDI Gli arredi festivi from Nabucco
VERDI Patria oppressa! from Macbeth
BOITO Prologue to Mefistofele
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Riccardo Zanellato, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in June 2017 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Charlie Post was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13, Op. 113 (Babi Yar)
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Alexey Tikhomirov, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 2018 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mastered by David Frost; Charlie Post was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.
The recording received the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album–Classical.

Happy, happy birthday!

Duain Wolfe acknowledges the Chicago Symphony Chorus following a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe on April 5, 2018 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Luciano Pavarotti (Getty Images)

On October 12, 2020, we remember Luciano Pavarotti on what would have been his eighty-fifth birthday! The legendary Italian tenor appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on three memorable occasions, and a complete list of his appearances is below.

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

During the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s centennial season in 1990-91, Sir Georg Solti—during his final residency as eighth music director—programmed Verdi’s Otello, with a stellar cast including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Leo Nucci, and Pavarotti, making his debut in the title role. Concert performances of the opera were given at Orchestra Hall and at Carnegie Hall.

Kiri Te Kanawa and Pavarotti onstage at Orchestra Hall on April 8, 1991 (Jim Steere photo)

VERDI Otello
April 8 and 12, 1991, Orchestra Hall
April 16 and 19, 1991, Carnegie Hall
Otello Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Desdemona Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Iago Leo Nucci, baritone
Emilia Elzbieta Ardam, mezzo-soprano
Cassio Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor
Roderigo John Keyes, tenor
Montano Alan Opie, baritone
Lodovico Dimitri Kavrakos, bass
A Herald Richard Cohn, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Terry Edwards, guest chorus master
Chicago Children’s Choir
Leslie Britton, director (Chicago)
Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus
Elena Doria, director (New York)

The work was recorded live during the Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall performances for London Records. Michael Haas was the producer, Christopher Pope was the assistant producer, James Lock and John Pellowe were the engineers, and Deborah Rogers was the tape editor.

Pavarotti and Kathleen Battle at the Ravinia Festival on June 21, 1991 (Jim Steere photo, courtesy of the Ravinia Festival)

Later that same year, Pavarotti was back in town to help open the Ravinia Festival‘s fifty-sixth season, appearing alongside Kathleen Battle in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.

June 21, 1991, Ravinia Festival
DONIZETTI L’elisir d’amore
James Levine, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Nemorino Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Adina Kathleen Battle, soprano
Gianetta Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Belcore Mark Oswald, baritone
Doctor Dulcamara Paul Plishka, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Numerous tributes have been posted online, including an excellent article on New York’s WQXR.org.

Frederica von Stade (Robert Millard photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to the wonderful American mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade!

Von Stade has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions, at the Ravinia Festival and in Carnegie Hall, as follows.

May 1 and 2, 1981, Carnegie Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1)
Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
José van Dam, baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Solti also led performances of Berlioz’s work at Orchestra Hall in Chicago on April 23 and 25, 1981, prior to the Carnegie Hall performances. Unfortunately, Frederica von Stade had to cancel due to illness. She was replaced by Chicago Symphony Chorus member Mary Beth Stephen on April 23 and Claudine Carlson on April 25.

Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust was recorded by London in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981. James Mallinson was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were sound engineers. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Berlioz album cover

July 9, 1988, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Levine, conductor

July 14, 1996, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te? . . . Non temer, amato bene (with Claude Frank, piano)
MAHLER Songs from Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

August 14, 1999, Ravinia Festival
MOZART “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio” from La clemenza di Tito,
LEHÁR “Vilja” and “Lippen schweigen” (with John Aler, tenor) from The Merry Widow
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 8, 2000, Ravinia Festival
Selections from:
COPLAND Old American Songs
KERN Show Boat
OFFENBACH The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
MOZART Don Giovanni
RODGERS Oklahoma! and South Pacific
SONDHEIM A Little Night Music
with Samuel Ramey, bass
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

August 5 and 7, 2010, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Così fan tutte
Ana María Martínez, soprano
Ruxandra Donose, mezzo-soprano
Saimir Pirgu, tenor
Rodion Pogossov, baritone
Richard Stilwell, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
James Conlon, conductor

Happy, happy birthday!

Title page of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Theodore Thomas collection)

“We have now reached what is called Beethoven’s second creative period, the zenith of his career,” wrote Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “He has outlived other influences and is mature in every respect; his powers and individuality are fully developed; he has had some experience of the world, has solved difficult problems, and feels himself a master. Hence in this period he produces works which are as nearly perfect as anything human can be, breathing the spirit of the nineteenth century and endowing music with a meaning deeper and more fruitful than it ever had before.”

The Fifth Symphony “has come to represent greatness in music,” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “One can’t easily think of another single composition that, in its expressive range and structural power, better represents what music is all about.”

Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on the inaugural concerts on October 16 and 17, 1891, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1959 and 1968 recordings (RCA)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner recorded the Fifth Symphony with the Orchestra for RCA on May 4, 1959, in Orchestra Hall. Richard Mohr was the producer and Joseph F. Wells was the recording engineer. Also for RCA, Seiji Ozawa recorded the symphony with the ensemble on August 9, 1968, in Orchestra Hall. Peter Dellheim was the producer and Bernard Keville was the recording engineer.

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 Fifth Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 5 and 6, 1973. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock 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 Fifth Symphony was recorded in Medinah Temple on October 6 and 7, 1986. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

During the tour to Japan in 1990, Solti led the Orchestra in the Fifth Symphony, and the April 15 performance at Suntory Hall in Tokyo was video recorded for release on laser disc. For CBS Sony, Shūji Fujii was the video director.

Fantasia 2000 soundtrack

The Orchestra also recorded an abbreviated version of the first movement from the symphony on April 25, 1994, for the Fantasia 2000 soundtrack. For Disney, James Levine conducted, Jay David Saks was the producer, and it was recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy.

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.

Title page of Beethoven’s Second Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

In Beethoven’s Second Symphony, “we find the mature master,” according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director. In Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies, Thomas writes, “He uses no extraordinary means in regard to instruments, for what he has to say still lies within the scope of the old means, but he stands at the height of his time and expresses that which is mature. . . . Here I must call attention to one of Beethoven’s earliest and most startling musical innovations—one from which he did not depart in after years—his use of dynamic effects, sudden changes from loud to soft and vice versa. No composer has made use of forte, piano, forzando, etc. as constantly as he. . . . Beethoven wrote for a standard of virtuosity far beyond that which exited among the orchestral players of his time, and which is still very difficult for even the most advanced instrumentalists of today [but he] will live for the cultivated for centuries after the masses have lost all understanding of his works.”

“Although Beethoven’s hearing would deteriorate considerably in later years, 1802 marked the moment of crisis: the Heiligenstadt Testament includes Beethoven’s admission that his malady was permanent and incurable. He didn’t fail to see the horrible irony of ‘an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than in others,’” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. Despite this admission, the composer’s Second Symphony is “one of his most energetic, cheerful, and outgoing works [and] shows no signs of Beethoven’s obvious despair.”

Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Second Symphony on December 1 and 2, 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 Second Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 14, 15, and 18, 1974 (along with the First Symphony). Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989-90 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 Second Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 14 and 16, 1989, and January 27, 1990 (along with the First Symphony). Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphonies nos. 2 and 5 on February 20, 21, 22, and 23, 2020.

Title page of Beethoven’s Third Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

Regarding the Third Symphony, “Beethoven, now fully emancipated from the preceding era, may be said for the first time to stand forth and show his lion’s paw!” wrote Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “In my judgment, the Eroica is only a perfectly legitimate step forward, a logical sequence in his normal development. . . . His soul now began to long to express that which had never before been said in music—anticipating centuries; hence this symphony, the first dawn of modern music, written in a definite mood, giving expression to the soul through color and contrast rather than attempting to illustrate a specific program.”

1954 recording (RCA)

“The Eroica is perhaps the first great symphony to have captured the romantic imagination,” according to CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Beethoven’s vast and powerful first movement and the funeral march that follows must have sounded like nothing else in all music. Never before had symphonic music aspired to these dimensions. . . . Beethoven’s Allegro con brio was longer—and bigger, in every sense—than any other symphonic movement at the time (the first movement of Mozart’s Prague Symphony comes the closest). It’s also a question of proportion, and Beethoven’s central development section, abounding in some truly monumental statements, is enormous.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Third Symphony during the first season, on January 12, 1892, at The Odeon in Cincinnati and later that week in Chicago on January 15 and 16 at the Auditorium Theatre.

1973–74 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on December 4, 1954. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer.

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 Third Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 5, 6, and 9, 1973, and May 18, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989 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 Third Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 6 and 8, 1989. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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

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