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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony were given on April 6 and 7, 1950, in Orchestra Hall under the baton of guest conductor George Szell. Since then, the work has been led by music directors Rafael Kubelík, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim; principal conductor Bernard Haitink; principal guest conductors Carlo Maria Giulini and Pierre Boulez; and Ravinia Festival music directors James Levine and James Conlon; along with guest conductors Sir John Barbirolli, Lawrence Foster, Michiyoshi Inoue, Hans Rosbaud, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

The Orchestra has recorded the work on three notable occasions, as follows.

Carlo Maria Giulini, the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor, led Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in December 1971 and March 1975 before returning in April 1976 to perform and record the work. Following the first concert of that residency, Karen Monson in the Chicago Daily News wrote that “each time the aristocratic maestro meets the transcendent symphony, the relationship becomes more and more special, Giulini and the Orchestra have delved into the deepest secrets of this music, and Thursday evening they delivered a performance so rich and complete . . .”

In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis called the performance “one of Giulini’s great nights in Orchestra Hall.” Recording sessions were scheduled for the following week, and “by the time the tape is rolling, this could be the most heartfelt and compelling recorded version of Mahler’s grief-stricken penultimate symphony. . . . The Chicago Symphony players will take any risks for Giulini. If he wishes them to play softer than soft, applying bow to string, or breath to mouthpiece or reed, they proceed to just this side of bobble or discomfiting silence. . . . No other guest has such control over orchestral color and emotional variation.”

Deutsche Grammophon was on hand on April 5 and 6, 1976, to record the symphony in Medinah Temple. Günther Breest was the executive producer and Klaus Scheibe the recording engineer. The release won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti first led the Orchestra in Mahler’s symphony at Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall in April 1981 before taking it on the road to Lucerne, Paris, Amsterdam, and London later that year. Back in Chicago, Solti led a concert performance (benefiting the musicians’ pension fund) on April 28, 1982, and recorded the symphony on May 2 and 4 in Orchestra Hall.

Reviewing in Gramophone magazine, Richard Osborne 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 gobut 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, spiraling, 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.”

James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock was the engineer for London Records. The recording won 1983 Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Recording, Best Engineered Recording—Classical, and Best Classical Album.

Soon after being named as the Orchestra’s third principal guest conductor, Pierre Boulez was in Chicago to lead four performances of Mahler’s Ninth in November December 1995.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote that Boulez led “one of classical music’s most profound meditations on relentless death and tumultuous life” as a “study in musical clarity, elegant balances, and proportion. . . . Many conductors play up the contrasts, creating dramatic mood shifts. Boulez and the CSO were after something more subtle.” John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune added that Boulez “[filtered] the work through his own modernist sensibility. Granted, there are ambiguities and uncertainties in this symphony that resist so rational an approach. But there are also levels of purely musical meaning few other conductors have uncovered. The otherworldly stillnesses, the demonic humor, the desolate nostalgia, the strange lapses into folkish banality registered that much more strongly because the hand organizing them was so calm and precise. . . . Let us hope the studio sessions capture in full the splendor of the live performances.”

For Deutsche Grammophon, the work was recorded at Medinah Temple on December 2 and 4, 1995. Roger Wright was the executive producer, Karl-August Naegler recording producer and editor, Ulrich Vette was the balance engineer, and Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were recording engineers. The release won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony no. 9 on May 17, 18, 19, and 22, 2018.

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Under the leadership of chorus directors Margaret Hillis and Duain Wolfe, the Chicago Symphony Chorus has won ten Grammy awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in the category of Best Choral Performance.*

Recordings have been led by music directors Sir Georg Solti and Riccardo Muti, principal guest conductor Pierre Boulez, and Ravinia Festival music director James Levine on RCA, London, Deutsche Grammophon, and CSO Resound.

1977 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on June 1 and 2, 1977, for RCA
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
Paul Goodman, recording engineer

1978 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977, for London
Ray Minshull, producer
Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes, balance engineers

1979 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 15 and 16, 1978, for London
James Mallinson, recording producer
Kenneth Wilkinson and Colin Moorfoot, balance engineers

1982 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981, for London
James Mallinson, recording producer
James Lock and Simon Eadon, balance engineers

1983 – Best Choral Performance
HAYDN The Creation
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sylvia Greenberg, soprano
Norma Burrowes, soprano
Rudiger Wohlers, tenor
James Morris, bass-baritone
Siegmund Nimsgern, bass
David Schrader, harpsichord
Frank Miller, cello
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 9, 10, and 11, 1981, for London
Paul Myers, recording producer
James Lock and John Dunkerley, balance engineers

1984 – Best Choral Performance
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 5 and 6, 1983, for RCA
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
Paul Goodman, recording engineer
John Newton and Thomas MacCluskey, engineers

1986 – Best Choral Performance
ORFF Carmina burana
James Levine, conductor
June Anderson, soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 9 and 10, 1984, for Deutsche Grammophon
Steven Paul, producer
Cord Garben, recording supervisor
Klaus Scheibe, recording engineer
Jürgen Bulgrin, editing

1991 – Best Performance of a Choral Work
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Felicity Lott, soprano
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
William Shimmell, baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Richard Webster, organ
John Sharp, cello
Willard Elliot, bassoon
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990, for London
Michael Haas, recording producer
Stanley Goodall and Simon Eadon, balance engineers

1993 – Best Performance of a Choral Work
BARTÓK Cantata profana
Pierre Boulez, conductor
John Aler, tenor
John Tomlinson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on December 16, 1991, for Deutsche Grammophon
Alison Ames, executive producer
Karl-August Naegler, recording producer
Rainer Maillard, balance engineer
Oliver Rosalla, editing

2010 – Best Choral Performance
VERDI Messa da Requiem
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on January 15, 16, and 17, 2009, for CSO Resound
Christopher Alder, producer
Christopher Willis, recording engineer
David Frost and Tom Lazarus, mixing
Silas Brown and David Frost, stereo mastering

*The name of the category has changed slightly over the years; see here for details.

Title page for the first printed edition of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra

Guest conductor George Szell led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra on December 2 and 3, 1948, almost exactly four years following the work’s premiere on December 1, 1944, with Serge Koussevitzky leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

In the Chicago Daily News, Clarence Joseph Bulliet called the work, “violent and awesome in its contrasts, sometimes as stormy as the most sensational of modern music. Then it calmed down to rival in delicacy the classicism of Haydn and Beethoven between which it was programmed at Orchestra Hall Thursday night.” (Haydn’s Oxford Symphony opened the concert, followed by the Bartók and Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto, that featured the debut of Seymour Lipkin.) Felix Borowski, writing for the Chicago Sun, added, that Bartók’s Concerto was, “of more than ordinary worth . . . Modern, indeed it is, but there are ideas—often very beautiful ideas—in the course of it. The orchestration is rich and colorful, frequently with new and beguiling textures.”

Early in his tenure as sixth music director, Fritz Reiner first led the Orchestra in his friend and countryman’s work on October 13 and 15, 1955. “This wonderful score, a network of nerves spun and controlled by the most brilliant of nervous energies, was played as only great orchestras can play,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune. “It is a superb work and a Reiner triumph.”

The following week, Reiner and the Orchestra committed their performance to disc on October 22; for RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton the recording engineer. In February 2016, Gramophone listed this release as one of the “finest recordings of Bartók’s music,” noting the “sheer fervour of Reiner’s direction . . . taut and agile . . . [his] precision and control is immediately apparent.”

The Orchestra has since recorded the work on five additional occasions, as follows:

During his year as principal conductor of the Ravinia Festival, Seiji Ozawa recorded the work in Orchestra Hall on June 30 and July 1, 1969, for AngelPeter Andry was the executive producer, Richard C. Jones the producer, and Carson Taylor was the recording engineer. Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti conducted the Concerto for London on January 19 and 20, 1981, in Orchestra Hall. James Mallinson was the producer and James Lock the balance engineer.

James Levine, Ravinia’s second music director, led sessions in Orchestra Hall on June 28, 1989, for Deutsche Grammophon. Steven Paul was executive producer, Christopher Alder the recording producer, and Gregor Zielinsky was balance engineer. During the 1990 tour to the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Austria, Solti conducted the Orchestra in an all-Bartók program, video recorded at the Budapest Convention Centre on November 28, 1990, for London. Humphrey Burton directed the production, and Katya Krausova was producer, Eric Abraham the executive producer, and Michael Haas the audio producer.

Most recently, Pierre Boulez recorded the work in Orchestra Hall on November 30, 1992, for Deutsche Grammophon. Roger Wright was the executive producer, Karl-August Naegler the recording producer, Rainer Maillard the balance engineer, and Jobst Eberhardt and Reinhild Schmidt were recording engineers. The release won 1994 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance.

Guest conductor Rafael Payare makes his subscription concert debut leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra on January 18 and 20, 2018.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has recorded each of Brahms’s four symphonies multiple times and also has recorded the complete cycle on three different occasions. A complete listing is below.

During his tenure as Ravinia Festival music director, James Levine recorded the symphonies with the Orchestra for RCA at Medinah Temple. The recordings were produced by Thomas Z. Shepard and Paul Goodman was the recording engineer. Jay David Saks also co-produced the First Symphony, which was recorded in July 1975. The remaining three were recorded in July 1976.

Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti also led the Orchestra in sessions at Medinah Temple. For London, the four symphonies (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures) were produced by James Mallinson; Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The Third and Fourth symphonies were recorded in May 1978, and the First and Second were recorded in January 1979. The set won 1979 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Daniel Barenboim, the Orchestra’s ninth music director, recorded the four symphonies (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures and the Variations on a Theme by Haydn) live at Orchestra Hall for Erato. Vic Muenzer was producer, Lawrence Rock was the sound engineer, assisted by Christopher Willis; and Konrad Strauss was the mastering engineer. All four symphonies were recorded live in 1993: the First and Third in May, the Fourth in September, and the Second in October.

Recordings of the individual symphonies by other conductors are listed below.

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Recorded by Mercury in Orchestra Hall in April 1952
David Hall, recording director
C. Robert Fine and George Piros engineers

Günter Wand, conductor
Recorded live for RCA in Orchestra Hall in January 1989
Norman Pellegrini and David Frost, producers
Mitchell Heller, recording engineer
John Purcell, post-production engineer

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90

Frederick Stock, conductor
Recorded by Columbia in New York’s Liederkranz Hall in November 1940

Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded by RCA in Orchestra Hall in December 1957
Richard Mohr, producer

Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Recorded by Angel in Medinah Temple in October 1969
Peter Andry, producer
Carson Taylor, balance engineer

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Brahms’s four symphonies at Orchestra Hall in May. Details here and here.

Frederica von Stade

Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to the wonderful mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade (recently in Chicago for performances of Ricky Ian Gordon‘s A Coffin in Egypt with Chicago Opera Theater)!

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

May 1 & 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

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
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
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
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 & 7, 2010
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

Berlioz album cover

The 1981 interpretation of 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.

This week Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s First Symphony, almost exactly one hundred years since Frederick Stock first conducted it in Chicago.

Program page for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first performances of Mahler's First Symphony

Program page for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Mahler’s First Symphony

That first performance of the symphony (sandwiched between Handel’s Concerto grosso, op. 6, no. 2 and Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Josef Hofmann) on November 6, 1914, left Ronald Webster of the Chicago Daily Tribune a bit puzzled: “The Mahler symphony is less important but more interesting to talk about because it is strictly earthy. There is a suggestion in the program notes that Mahler was not wholly serious in this symphony. It was obvious yesterday that he was not serious at all. Even the finale is not serious, though it is tiresome, being too long. But it is the quality of the humor which is likely to cause people to turn up their noses. The humor is a little coarse, definitely ironical, of a barnyard kind and healthy. Mahler is himself partly to blame for such ideas about him. Definite conceptions such as his (though he may not have been serious about them either) are death to all mystic attitude toward this work. . . . He suggests that the first movement is nature’s awakening at early morning. One suspects that Mahler included in nature the cows and chickens as well as the cuckoo and the dewy grass.” The complete review is here.

Despite that critic’s early apprehensions, the symphony soon became a staple in the Orchestra’s repertoire and has been led—at Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, and on tour—by a vast array of conductors, including: Roberto Abbado, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Adam Fischer, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Irwin Hoffman, Paul Kletzki, Kirill Kondrashin, Rafael Kubelík, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Igor Markevitch, Henry Mazer, Eugene Ormandy, Seiji Ozawa, George Schick, Leonard Slatkin, Sir Georg Solti, William Steinberg, Klaus Tennstedt, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, Bruno Walter, and Jaap van Zweden.

And the Orchestra has recorded the work six times, as follows:

Giulini 1971Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Recorded by Angel at Medinah Temple in March 1971
Christopher Bishop, producer
Carson Taylor, engineer
Giulini’s recording won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance—Orchestra from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Abbado 1981Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon at Orchestra Hall in February 1981
Rainer Brock, producer
Karl-August Naegler, engineer

Solti 1983Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded by London at Orchestra Hall in October 1983
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer

Tennstedt 1990Klaus Tennstedt, conductor
Recorded by EMI at Orchestra Hall in May and June 1990
John Fraser, producer
Michael Sheady, engineer

Boulez 1998Pierre Boulez, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon at Orchestra Hall in May 1998
Karl-August Naegler, producer
Rainer Maillard and Reinhard Lagemann, engineers

Haitink 2008Bernard Haitink, conductor
Recorded by CSO Resound at Orchestra Hall in May 2008
James Mallinson, producer
Christopher Willis, engineer

For more information on Muti’s performances of Mahler’s First this week, please visit the CSO’s website.

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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.

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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.”

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Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Bruckner’s ten symphonies between January 1979 and October 1995 for London Records.

Symphony No. 0 in D Minor
Michael Woolcock, producer
Michael Mailes and Simon Eadon, engineers
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
October 1995

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Linz version, 1865-66)
Michael Woolcock, producer
John Dunkerley and Andrew Groves, engineers
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
February 1995

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
John Pellowe, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
October 1991

Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (1877 version, ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
November 1992

Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (ed. Nowak)
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
January 1981

Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
January 1980

Symphony No. 6 in A Major
Ray Minshull, producer
Colin Moorfoot, James Lock, and Kenneth Wilkinson, engineers
Recorded at Medinah Temple
January and June 1979
The recording of the Sixth Symphony won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Michael Haas, producer
Simon Eadon, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
October 1986

Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (1890 version, ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot and James Lock, engineers
Recorded at Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonia (now the Saint Petersburg Philharmonia)
November 1990

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
September and October 1985

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Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Brahms’s four symphonies between May 1978 and January 1979 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures), and that set won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

For the liner notes, Solti contributed the following:

“I would like to make a few comments about aspects of our recording of the Brahms symphonies, which formed part of a Brahms cycle that included the German Requiem, the Hadyn Variations, and the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures.

“The recordings, which were all made in the Medinah Temple, Chicago, took place over a period of approximately fifteen months, between October 1977, when we started with the Haydn Variations and January 1979, when we completed the cycle with the First and Second symphonies. My principal aim was to try to capture the feeling of real performances on record, and with this in mind, we always recorded whole movements without breaks. I am convinced that this is the only way, especially in the symphonies, to keep the musical architecture of the works alive. It is a tribute to the splendid quality of my Chicago orchestra and chorus that we seldom made more than two takes of anything, and there is in fact one movement of the Requiem which required just a single take.

“I would just like to highlight a few of my thoughts on each of the symphonies:

“The First Symphony is a work of dramatic tension, passion, and grandeur, which inspired von Bülow to refer to it as Beethoven’s Tenth—not, I feel, so much in relation to Beethoven as in this very sense of grandeur. In the first movement, the drama is so effectively created by Brahms by the relentless flow of rhythmic ostinati from the timpani beats at the outset to the throbbing on horns and timpani which underlies the final bars. The second movement has, in contrast, such a gentle, nostalgic, and lyrical quality and gives, together with the third and fourth movements, a variety of beautiful solos for the section leaders.

“In the Second and Third symphonies, while the coloring is much lighter, I have tried again to achieve structural clarity and to reproduce the chamber music quality which is so in evidence in these works, especially in the second and third movements of both. So as to enhance this, we used slightly fewer than full string strength and also undoubled woodwinds.

“The Fourth Symphony is structurally quite differently formed from the first three. The first movement is relatively shorter and the middle two movements much larger both in conception and content. With the last movement comes the complete break with both his own and symphonic tradition, by the creation of such a marvelous passacaglia.

“The question of first movement exposition repeats in the first three symphonies is a debated one. For each of these, Brahms composed prima and seconda volta bars which contain of course marvelous music. In live performances, I feel it should be left to the conductor’s discretion. Nearly always the repeats are omitted, as they make the works rather longer, but I felt that for recording it was important to preserve these few bars, and I have therefore kept in all the repeats. I was interested to discover that I was not alone in never having played the repeat in the First Symphony in all the performances I had ever conducted up until this recording. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had also never done so in the almost ninety years of its existence. So we were all hearing these bars for the first time!

“We had enormous joy in making these records and we felt, at the same time, a very great artistic responsibility. I hope that we have managed to convey some of both.”

All recordings on the set were produced by James Mallinson; Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, and Michael Mailes were the engineers.

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
January 1979

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Tragic Overture, Op. 81
May 1978

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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