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Wishing a very happy eighty-fifth birthday to the remarkable Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa!

As a last-minute replacement for Georges Prêtre in July 1963, Ozawa was called upon to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in two concerts at the Ravinia Festival. The twenty-seven-year-old conductor made his debut on July 16 in Beethoven’s Leonore Overture no. 3, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Byron Janis, and Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony. Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune reported that Ozawa was “instantly in command when in possession of a baton and a musical idea. His conducting technique reminds you of his teacher, Herbert von Karajan, in that it lays the score in the lap of the Orchestra with transparency of gesture and human communication, then commands acceptance.”

Only a month later it was announced that Ozawa would become the Ravinia Festival’s first music director and resident conductor beginning with the 1964 season, replacing Walter Hendl, who had served as artistic director since 1959. For his first concert as music director on June 16, 1964, Ozawa led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Barber’s Piano Concerto with John Browning, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.

Reverse jacket of Angel Records recording of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, made at Medinah Temple on June 30 and July 1, 1969

Reverse jacket of Angel Records recording of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, made at Medinah Temple on June 30 and July 1, 1969

He served as music director of the Ravinia Festival through the 1968 season and as principal conductor for the 1969 season, returning regularly as a guest conductor. Ozawa most recently appeared there on July 14, 1985, leading Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in D major and Takemitsu’s riverrun with Peter Serkin, along with Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony.

Between 1965 and 1970—at both Orchestra Hall and in Medinah Temple— Ozawa and the Orchestra recorded a number of works for Angel and RCA, including Bartók’s First and Third piano concertos and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with Peter Serkin, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade with concertmaster Victor Aitay, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

A complete list of his performances and recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is below:

July 16, 1963, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a
GRIEG Concerto for Piano in A Minor, Op. 16
Byron Janis, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)

June 16, 1964

July 18, 1963, Ravinia Festival
ROSSINI Overture to The Barber of Seville
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Christian Ferras, violin
DEBUSSY Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
TAKEMITSU Requiem for String Orchestra (U.S. premiere)
PROKOFIEV Selections from Romeo and Juliet

June 16, 1964, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
BARBER Piano Concerto, Op. 38
John Browning, piano
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

June 18, 1964, Ravinia Festival
POULENC Gloria
Barbara Garrison, soprano
Harvard Glee Club
Radcliffe Choral Society
Elliot Forbes, director
FAURÉ Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48
Barbara Garrison, soprano
Howard Nelson, baritone
Harvard Glee Club
Radcliffe Choral Society
Elliot Forbes, director

June 30, 1964, Ravinia Festival
HINDEMITH Symphony, Mathis der Maler
SIBELIUS Piano Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Ruggiero Ricci, violin
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

Ozawa and Igor Stravinsky in Orchestra Hall on July 20, 1964, while the composer was in town to lead recording sessions of his Orpheus with the CSO (Arthur Siegel photo)

July 7, 1964, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Neal O’Doan, piano
GLUCK Divinités du Styx from Alceste
Dolores Ann White, mezzo-soprano
THOMAS Elle est la pres de lui from Mignon
Dolores Ann White, mezzo-soprano
ROSSINI Non più mesta from La cenerentola
Dolores Ann White, mezzo-soprano
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Michael Rogers, piano

July 21, 1964, Ravinia Festival
BIZET Symphony No. 1 in C Major
RAVEL Alborada del gracioso
MOZART Concerto for Oboe in C Major, K. 314
Ray Still, oboe
TCHAIKOVSKY Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32

July 25, 1964, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMAN American Festival Overture
IVES Central Park in the Dark
STRAVINSKY Violin Concerto in D
Paul Makanowitzky, violin
FRANCK Symphony in D Minor

July 28, 1964, Ravinia Festival
WEBER Overture to Euryanthe, Op. 81
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Paul Makanowitzky, violin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

Leon Fleisher and Ozawa backstage on August 1, 1964 (Arthur Siegel photo)

August 1, 1964, Ravinia Festival,
BERNSTEIN Overture to Candide
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Leon Fleisher, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

June 15, 1965, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
MOZART Serenade No. 10 for Winds in B-flat Major, K. 361
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

June 17, 1965, Ravinia Festival
WEBER Jubel Overture, Op. 59
RESPIGHI Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 1
DONIZETTI Una furtiva lagrima from L’elisir d’amore
Richard Tucker, tenor
VERDI Forse la soglia attinse from Un ballo in maschera
Richard Tucker, tenor
BIZET L’arlesienne Suite No. 2
BIZET La fleur que tu m’avais jetèe from Carmen
Richard Tucker, tenor
MASCAGNI Mamma, quel vino from Cavalleria rusticana
Richard Tucker, tenor

June 19, 1965, Ravinia Festival
HARRIS When Johnny Comes Marching Home
MACDOWELL Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 23
André Watts, piano
NIELSEN Symphony No. 5, Op. 50

June 20, 1965, Ravinia Festival
COPLAND Fanfare for the Common Man
BLACHER Concertante Musik, Op. 10
DEBUSSY First Rhapsody
Clark Brody, clarinet
KABELEVSKY The Comedians, Op. 26
HINDEMITH Concerto for Winds, Harp, and Orchestra
RAMSIER Divertimento on a Theme of Couperin
Gary Karr, bass

June 22, 1965, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Symphony No. 32 in G Major, K. 318
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
Berl Senofsky, violin
BERLIOZ Funereal and Triumphal Symphony, Op. 15
BERLIOZ Selections from The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24

June 27, 1965, Ravinia Festival
ROUSSEL Symphony No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 42
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 3
Peter Serkin, piano
STRAVINSKY Four Etudes
ELLIOT Bassoon Concerto (world premiere)
Willard Elliot, bassoon
Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto was recorded on June 28, 1965, in Orchestra Hall. For RCA, Max Wilcox was the producer, and Bernard Keville and Ernest Oelrich were the recording engineers.

June 29, 1965, Ravinia Festival
HANDEL Concerto grosso in B Minor, Op. 6, No. 12
BEETHOVEN Concerto for Piano No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Eugene Istomin, piano
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Isaac Stern, violin

July 1, 1965, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Divertimento in D Major, K. 136
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Isaac Stern, violin
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Leonard Rose, cello

July 3, 1965, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Eugene Istomin, piano
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Isaac Stern, violin
Leonard Rose, cello
BEETHOVEN Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 (Triple)
Isaac Stern, violin
Leonard Rose, cello
Eugene Istomin, piano

July 4, 1965, Ravinia Festival
HOVHANESS Fantasy on Japanese Wood Prints, Op. 211 (world premiere)
Yoichi Hiraoka, xylophone
IVES The Fourth of July
GERSHWIN An American in Paris
GOTTLIEB Pieces of Seven Overture
BERNSTEIN Suite from Fancy Free

July 11, 1965, Ravinia Festival
GINASTERA Estancia Suite, Op. 8a
DEBUSSY/Caplet Children’s Corner
RIVIER Concerto brève
Kyoko Ozawa, piano
RIEGGER Dance Rhythms, Op. 58
RIEGGER Study in Sonority, Op. 7

July 15, 1965, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola in E-flat Major, K. 364
Victor Aitay, violin
Milton Preves, viola
STRAUSS Four Songs (Morgen, Waldseligkeit, Muttertändelei, and Zueignung)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano
HINDEMITH Konzertmusik for String Orchestra and Brass, Op. 50
TCHAIKOVSKY Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano

July 18, 1965, Ravinia Festival
IBERT Divertissement
ORFF Carmina burana
Julia Diane Ragains, soprano
Pierre Duval, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Alfred H. Reichel, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Christopher Moore, director

July 20, 1965, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Gabriel Chodos, piano
DVOŘÁK First movement (Allegro) from Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Daniel Domb, cello
RAVEL Piano Concerto in G Major
John C. Owings, piano
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Adrian Ruiz, piano

For the U.S. premiere of Jean Martinon’s Cello Concerto on July 31, 1965, former principal cello János Starker returned as soloist at the Ravinia Festival. Shown here during a rehearsal are the composer, soloist, and conductor.

July 31, 1965, Ravinia Festival
COPLAND An Outdoor Overture
MARTINON Cello Concerto, Op. 52 (U.S. premiere)
János Starker, cello
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4, F Minor, Op. 36

March 26, 1966, Orchestra Hall
March 28, 1966, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 (Unfinished)
WEBER Konzertstück for Piano in F Minor, Op. 79
Yuri Boukoff, piano
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Yuri Boukoff, piano
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28

March 31, April 1, and 2, 1966, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425 (Linz) 
IVES Symphony No. 4
DVOŘÁK Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53
Isaac Stern, violin

June 28, 1966, Ravinia Festival
BUSONI Lustspiel Overture, Op. 38
TAKEMITSU Requiem for String Orchestra
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

June 30, 1966, Ravinia Festival
MUSSORGSKY/Rimsky-Korsakov A Night on Bare Mountain
MUSSORGSKY Selections from Boris Godunov
George London, bass-baritone
BORODIN Symphony No. 2 in B Minor

July 7, 1966, Ravinia Festival
HAYDN Symphony No. 86 in D Major
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467
Peter Serkin, piano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

July 10, 1966, Ravinia Festival
TOCH Pinocchio, A Merry Overture
IBERT Symphonic Suite, Impressions of Paris
IVES/Schuman Variations on America
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 1
Peter Serkin, piano
Bartók’s First Piano Concerto was recorded on July 11, 1966, in Orchestra Hall. For RCA, Max Wilcox was the producer, and Bernard Keville and Ernest Oelrich were the recording engineers.

July 24, 1966, Ravinia Festival
FREEDMAN Images
BERG Violin Concerto
Paul Makanowitzky, violin
MOREL L’etoile noire
THOMSON Louisiana Story, Suite for Orchestra

July 26, 1966, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Capriccio italien, Op. 45
RACHMANINOV Concerto for Piano No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1
Byron Janis, piano
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Byron Janis, piano

July 28, 1966, Ravinia Festival
HANDEL/Harty Suite from Music for the Royal Fireworks
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Byron Janis, piano
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Byron Janis, piano

July 31, 1966, Ravinia Festival
LUTOSŁAWSKI Funeral Music
SHULMAN Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra
Milton Preves, viola
BERIO Serenata I for Flute and Fourteen Instruments
Donald Peck, flute
XENAKIS Eonta
Yuji Takahashi, piano
VARÈSE Hyperprism

August 11, 1966, Ravinia Festival
HOMMANN Overture for Orchestra
BERNSTEIN Symphony No. 1 (Jeremiah)
Mary Simmons, mezzo-soprano
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Van Cliburn, piano

August 13, 1966, Ravinia Festival
BACH/Schoenberg Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major, BWV 552 (Saint Anne)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-fat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Van Cliburn, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

June 27, 1967, Ravinia Festival
GLUCK Overture to Iphigénie en Aulide
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Byron Janis, piano
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
GINASTERA Estancia Suite, Op. 8a

June 29, 1967, Ravinia Festival
GERSHWIN An American in Paris
GERSHWIN/Bennett Porgy and Bess, A Symphonic Picture
GERSHWIN Cuban Overture
GERSHWIN Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra
Byron Janis, piano

July 1, 1967, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Overture to I vespri siciliani
MENOTTI The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi
Julie Idione, soprano
Simon Estes, bass
All-City Chicago High School Chorus
Emile Serposs, director
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Lili Kraus, piano
RESPIGHI Pines of Rome

July 9, 1967, Ravinia Festival
BACH Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major, BWV 1051
BLOCH Concerto grosso No. 1
Mary Sauer, piano
SYMONDS Concerto grosso for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra
Kenny Soderblom Jazz Quintet
Kenny Soderblom, alto saxophone
John Avant, trombone
Bobby Roberts, guitar
Harold Jones, drums
Ernest Outlaw, bass
YASHIRO Cello Concerto
Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, cello

July 13, 1967, Ravinia Festival
BRITTEN The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Peter Serkin, piano
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition
Britten’s Young Person’s Guide and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition were recorded in Medinah Temple on July 18, 1967. For RCA, Peter Dellheim was the producer, and Bernard Keville and Ernest Oelrich were the recording engineers.

July 16, 1967, Ravinia Festival
MERCURE Triptyque for Orchestra
JOACHIM Contrasts for Orchestra (world premiere)
SCHULLER Recitative and Rondo (world premiere)
Victor Aitay, violin
MOZART Horn Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 495
Dale Clevenger, horn
SCHOENBERG Piano Concerto, Op. 42
Peter Serkin, piano
Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto was recorded in Medinah Temple on July 17, 1967. For RCA Max Wilcox was the producer and Richard Gardner was the recording engineer.

July 30, 1967, Ravinia Festival
RUSSO Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 32 (Titans)
VIEUXTEMPS Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 31
Young Uck Kim, violin
FOSS Baroque Variations in Three Movements (world premiere)
SCHUMAN Symphony No. 3

August 8, 1967, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Overture to La forza del destino
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor
Gabriel Chodos, piano
SAINT-SAЁNS Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor
Patricia Hanson, piano

August 10, 1967, Ravinia Festival
BERNSTEIN Overture to Candide
BERNSTEIN Serenade after Plato’s Symposium
James Oliver Buswell IV, violin
BERNSTEIN Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety)
Leonard Pennario, piano

Ozawa and the CSO recording Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Orchestra Hal on July 1, 1968 (Terry’s photo)

August 12, 1967, Ravinia Festival
BERNSTEIN Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
BERNSTEIN Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish)
Betty Allen, mezzo-soprano
Vera Zorina, speaker
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Ronald B. Schweitzer, assistant director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Christopher Moore, director

August 15, 1967, Civic Center Plaza (now Richard J. Daley Center)
Dedication of The Chicago Picasso
GERSHWIN An American in Paris
BERNSTEIN Overture to Candide
BERNSTEIN Selections from Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

April 29, 1968, Orchestra Hall
BERNSTEIN Overture to Candide
BRAHMS Excerpt from Fourth movement (Adagio) from Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
MASCAGNI Voi lo sapete from Cavalleria rusticana
Grace Bumbry, soprano
PONCHIELLI Suicidio! from La gioconda
Grace Bumbry, soprano

June 27, 1968, Ravinia Festival
WAGNER Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
BERLIOZ Roman Carnival Overture
COPLAND Preamble for a Solemn Occasion
Marian Anderson, speaker
STRAVINSKY Suite from The Firebird

June 29, 1968, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 C Minor, Op. 37
Byron Janis, piano
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 1, 1968. For RCA, Peter Dellheim was the producer, and Bernard Keville and Ernest Oelrich were the recording engineers.

June 30, 1968, Ravinia Festival
WEBER Overture to Oberon
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 26
Susan Starr, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Suite from Swan Lake
BOCK Selections from Fiddler on the Roof
GARLAND In the Mood

July 2, 1968, Ravinia Festival
CHABRIER España
TURINA Rapsodia sinfonica
Joaquín Achúcarro, piano
FALLA Nights In The Gardens of Spain
Joaquín Achúcarro, piano
FALLA Three Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34

July 6, 1968, Ravinia Festival
KRENEK Perspectives (world premiere)
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
Leon Fleisher, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64
Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 8, 1968. For RCA, Peter Dellheim was the producer and Bernard Keville was the recording engineer.

July 7, 1968, Ravinia Festival
J. C. BACH Symphony No. 4 in D Major
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33
Lawrence Foster, cello
STRAVINSKY Fireworks
RUSSO Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra (world premiere)
Stravinsky’s Fireworks was recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 8, 1968. For RCA, Peter Dellheim was the producer, and Bernard Keville and Ernest Oelrich were the recording engineers.

August 3, 1968, Ravinia Festival
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (Unfinished)
PUCCINI Sì, mi chiamano Mimì from La bohème
Anna Moffo, soprano
VERDI Scene from La traviata
Anna Moffo, soprano
DONIZETTI Mad Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor
Anna Moffo, soprano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Schubert’s Eighth Symphony were recorded in Orchestra Hall on August 9, 1968. For RCA, Peter Dellheim was the producer and Bernard Keville was the recording engineer.

August 4, 1968, Ravinia Festival
STOUT Symphony No. 2 (world premiere)
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto in E-flat Major, Op. 107
Frank Miller, cello
GINASTERA Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 28
Jerome Lowenthal, piano

August 6, 1968, Ravinia Festival
TOYAMA Rhapsody for Orchestra
TAKEMITSU November Steps
Kinshi Tsuruta, kinshi, biwa and voice
Katsuya Yokoyama, shakuhachi
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Young Uck Kim, violin

Seiji and Vera Ozawa at a Ravinia Festival picnic on August 4, 1968 (Nickerson Photo Company photo)

August 8, 1968, Ravinia Festival
MUSSORGSKY/Rimsky-Korsakov A Night on Bare Mountain
BRITTEN Scottish Ballad, Op. 26
Arthur Austin Whittemore, piano
Jack Lowe, piano
POULENC Concerto for Two Pianos in D Minor
Arthur Austin Whittemore, piano
Jack Lowe, piano
MENDELSSOHN Incidental Music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61
Mary Michel, speaker
Teresa Orantes, soprano
Diana Haskell, mezzo-soprano
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bare Mountain was recorded in Orchestra Hall on August 9, 1968. For RCA, Peter Dellheim was the producer and Bernard Keville was the recording engineer.

August 10, 1968 (11:00 a.m.), Ravinia Festival
BERNSTEIN Prologue from West Side Story
DEBUSSY Clair de lune from Suite bergamasque
TOYAMA Rhapsody for Orchestra
MUSSORGSKY/Rimsky-Korsakov A Night on Bare Mountain
VERDI Overture to I vespri siciliani

August 10, 1968 (8:30 p.m.), Ravinia Festival
RESPIGHI The Birds
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
John Browning, piano
STRAVINSKY Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
John Browning, piano
HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber

June 26, 1969, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto in D Major (arranged from the Violin Concerto, Op. 61)
Peter Serkin, piano
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra
Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Kodály’s Dances of Galánta (not performed in concert) were recorded in Medinah Temple on June 30 and July 1, 1969. For Angel, Peter Andry was the executive producer, Richard C. Jones was the producer, and Carson Taylor was the recording engineer.

June 28, 1969, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Lois Marshall, soprano
Nicholas di Virgilio, tenor
Ezio Flagello, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 29, 1969, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 11
Dale Clevenger, horn
TAKEMITSU Asterism for Piano and Orchestra
Yuji Takahashi, piano
RIMSKY-KORSAKOFF Sheherazade, Op. 35
Victor Aitay, violin
Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade and the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s Prince Igor (not performed in concert) were recorded in Medinah Temple on June 30 and July 1, 1969. For Angel, Peter Andry was the executive producer, Richard C. Jones was the producer, and Carson Taylor was the recording engineer.

July 3, 1969, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Overture to Così fan tutte, K. 588
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat Major, K. 456
Peter Serkin, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)

July 5, 1969, Ravinia Festival
HAYDN Symphony No. 75 in D Major
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
Maurizio Pollini, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 13 (Winter Dreams)

July 6, 1969, Ravinia Festival
BACH Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047
Victor Aitay, violin
Donald Peck, flute
De Vere Moore, oboe
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
Mary Sauer, harpsichord
TIRCUIT Concerto for Solo Percussionist and Orchestra
Stomu Yamash’ta, percussion
SHOSTAKOVICH Concerto for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra in C Minor, Op. 35
Sheldon Shkolnik, piano
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
BERNSTEIN Chichester Psalms
Howard Pfeifer, boy soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 25, 1970, Ravinia Festival
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Eileen Farrell, soprano
JANÁČEK Sinfonietta
WAGNER A Faust Overture
WAGNER Brünnhilde’s Immolation from Götterdämmerung
Eileen Farrell, soprano
Janáček’s Sinfonietta was recorded in Medinah Temple on June 26, 1970. For Angel, Peter Andry was the executive producer and Carson Taylor was the recording engineer.

June 27, 1970, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Symphony No. 32 in G Major, K. 318
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Maurizio Pollini, piano
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

June 28, 1970, Ravinia Festival
GABRIELI Sonata pian’ e forte
LUTOSŁAWSKI Concerto for Orchestra
SCHICKELE The Fantastic Garden
WALDEN Circus
DENNIS Pennsylvania Station
Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra was recorded in Medinah Temple on June 29, 1970. For Angel, Peter Andry was the executive producer and Carson Taylor was the recording engineer.

Donald Peck and Edward Druzinsky rehearse with Ozawa and the Orchestra on July 8, 1971 (Donald Peck collection)

July 8, 1971, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Concerto for Flute and Harp in C Major, K. 299
Donald Peck, flute
Edward Druzinsky, harp
HUMMEL Concerto for Trumpet in E-flat Major
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
GABRIELI Canzon duodecimi toni
TAKEMITSU Cassiopeia for Solo Percussionist and Orchestra (world premiere)
Stomu Yamash’ta, percussion

July 10, 1971, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
BARTÓK The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19

February 1, 2, and 3, 1973, Orchestra Hall
February 5, 1973, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
HAYDN Symphony No. 60 in C Major (Il distratto)
LIGETI Melodien
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

February 8, 9, and 10, 1973, Orchestra Hall
BOONE First Landscape
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Gina Bachauer, piano
STRAVINSKY The Firebird

July 14, 1985, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Rondo in D Major, K. 382
Peter Serkin, piano
TAKEMITSU Riverrun
Peter Serkin, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)

On tour with visiting orchestras, Ozawa also appeared in Orchestra Hall under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents, as follows:

April 8 1975, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467
James Levine, piano
RAVEL Daphnis and Chloe
Ann Arbor Festival Chorus
Donald Bryant, director
Boston Symphony Orchestra

March 6, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring
Boston Symphony Orchestra

April 24, 1991, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No 8 in F Major, Op. 93
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Boston Symphony Orchestra

February 9, 1996, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Boston Symphony Orchestra

January 10, 2001, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major
Saito Kinen Orchestra

Francis Akos

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family notes with sorrow the passing of Francis Akos, a member of the violin section from 1955 until 2003. He died earlier today in Minneapolis following a brief illness at the age of 93.

Akos was hired by Fritz Reiner in 1955 as assistant principal second violin and moved to principal second in 1956. In 1959, he became assistant concertmaster and remained in that chair until 1997, when he was named assistant concertmaster emeritus, a title he retained until his retirement in 2003.

A native of Budapest, Hungary, Akos, studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music with Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Leó Weiner, Imre Waldbauer, and Ede Zathureczky. He received his artist’s diploma in performance as well as a teacher’s diploma. As best of his class, Akos won both the Jenő Hubay prize and the Reményi Prize (a violin made especially for the winner of the competition) in the same year. Just before World War II, he formed a trio with cellist János Starker and pianist György Sebök (forty years later in December 1980, the three performed a reunion concert in Chicago).

After surviving the Holocaust (a brief interview from 1990 in which he describes his immediate postwar months is available here), Akos served as concertmaster of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and later of the Hungarian Royal Opera and Philharmonic orchestras, the youngest person ever to hold these posts. After leaving Hungary, he was concertmaster of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden and then of the Städtishce Oper (now the Deutsche Oper Berlin).

In 1954, Akos immigrated to the United States, where he performed at the Aspen Music Festival and with the Minneapolis Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra) under Antal Doráti before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1955. He appeared as soloist with the Orchestra on numerous occasions, under music directors Reiner, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim, as well as with Carlo Maria Giulini, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and János Ferencsik, among others.

Francis Akos in 2003 (Gregory Morton photo)

Francis Akos in 2003 (Gregory Morton photo)

Akos founded and led the Chicago Strings, a chamber ensemble comprised of CSO musicians; was leader of the Old Town Chamber Music Series; served as music director of the Fox River Valley Symphony in Aurora; and was conductor of the Chicago Heights Symphony Orchestra. As founding music director of the Highland Park Strings, he led that ensemble for twenty-eight years.

Akos is survived by two daughters, Kate Akos (Harry Jacobs) of San Francisco, California, and Judy Akos Berkowitz (Dennis Berkowitz) of Edina, Minnesota, and beloved grandchildren Justin and Melissa. Services will be private and plans for a public memorial will be announced at a later date. The family asks that any gifts of remembrance be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Highland Park Strings, or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

At the time of his retirement in 2003, Akos reflected on his years with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: “For more than half my life, I have lived in Chicago as a member of the world’s greatest orchestra. The music, the composers, the conductors, and the soloists have inspired me. I am especially grateful to have been blessed with the inspiration I have received from my CSO colleagues during my professional life.”

An obituary was posted by the Chicago Tribune on January 29, 2016.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra notes with sorrow the passing of violinist Jacques Israelievitch, who served the Orchestra as assistant concertmaster from 1972 until 1978. He died on September 5, 2015, at the age of 67.

Jacques Israelievitch 1972

A graduate of Indiana University where he was a student of Josef Gingold, twenty-three-year-old Israelievitch was hired by Sir Georg Solti in June 1972, to succeed Samuel Magad, who recently had assumed the position of co-concertmaster.

Born in Cannes, France, Israelievitch received first prize at the Conservatory of Le Mans at the age of eleven. Admitted to the Paris Conservatory when he was thirteen, he graduated three years later with first prizes in violin, chamber music, and solfège, and the following year he received a license of concert from the École Normale de Musique in Paris.

After winning one of the top awards in the Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy (where he was the youngest contestant) he was advised by his sponsor Henryk Szeryng to attend Indiana University as a student of Gingold. During his time in Indiana, Israelievitch also studied chamber music with William Primrose and János Starker.

Following his years in Chicago, Israelievitch served as concertmaster of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra for ten years and then as concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for twenty years. He taught at the Chautauqua Institution and was on the faculties of the University of Toronto and York University. Music director of the Koffler Chamber Orchestra from 2005, Israelievitch also appeared as guest conductor with several orchestras in the United States and Canada. He was violinist for the New Arts Trio; and he performed chamber music with Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, and Yo-Yo Ma. His discography comprises more than 100 albums, including the first complete recording of Rodolphe Kreutzer’s Forty-two Studies or Caprices for the Violin.

Edgar and Nancy Muenzer, Israelievitch, and Samuel and Miriam Magad at the June 3, 2011, CSO Alumni Association reunion (Dan Rest photo)

Edgar and Nancy Muenzer, Israelievitch, and Samuel and Miriam Magad at the June 3, 2011, CSO Alumni Association reunion (Dan Rest photo)

In 2004 the French government named Israelievitch an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. He also was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award for his distinguished contribution to the performing arts in Canada, and recently in August he was presented the Insignia of the Order of Canada in a private ceremony at his home.

Services have been held. Israelievitch is survived by his wife, Gabrielle; three sons, David (of Seattle), Michael (of San Francisco) and Joshua (of Northern California); and two grandchildren. His son Michael had just been named acting principal timpanist of the San Francisco Symphony.

Ray Still - 1950s

Orchestral and chamber musician, soloist with countless ensembles, and lifelong teacher and coach Ray Still—a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section for forty years, serving as principal for thirty-nine years—died peacefully on March 12, 2014, surrounded by family in Woodstock, Vermont. He was 94.

Born on March 12, 1920, in Elwood, Indiana, Still began playing clarinet as a teenager. During the Great Depression, his family moved to California, where he was able to regularly hear performances of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a volunteer usher. After hearing the masterful technique and elegant phrasing of Henri de Busscher—principal oboe in Los Angeles from 1920 until 1948—Still switched to the oboe.

Still graduated from Los Angeles High School and at the age of nineteen joined the Kansas City Philharmonic as second oboe in 1939, where he was a member until 1941 (and also where he met and married Mary Powell Brock in 1940). For the next two years, he studied electrical engineering, served in the reserve US Army Signal Corps, and worked nights at the Douglas Aircraft factory. During the height of World War II, Still joined the US Army in September 1943 and served until June of 1946.

Immediately following his honorable discharge from the Army, Still enrolled at the Juilliard School where he studied with Robert Bloom. The following year in 1947, he began a two-year tenure as principal oboe with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of William Steinberg. Beginning in 1949, Still was principal oboe of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for four years.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

In the fall of 1953, Still auditioned for Fritz Reiner, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recently named music director. Reiner invited him to be the Orchestra’s second-chair oboe and the following year promoted him to the principal position. Still would serve the Orchestra in that capacity—under music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—until his retirement in 1993.

Still appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as soloist on countless occasions, including the Orchestra’s first performances of works for solo oboe by Albinoni, Bach, Barber, Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Telemann. His extensive discography includes Bach’s Wedding Cantata on RCA with Kathleen Battle as soloist and James Levine conducting, and Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C minor on Deutsche Grammophon with Claudio Abbado conducting.

Still performed with numerous other ensembles including the Juilliard, Vermeer, and Fine Arts string quartets; he recorded with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Lynn Harrell; and regularly appeared at many music festivals, including those at Aspen, Stratford, and Marlboro, among others.

A tireless educator, Still taught at the Peabody Institute from 1949 until 1953, Roosevelt University from 1954 until 1957, and at Northwestern University for forty-three years until 2003. Throughout his tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he coached members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. At the invitation of Seiji Ozawa, he spent the summers of 1968 and 1970 as a visiting member of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo, where he held coaching sessions for the wind section, conducted chamber music classes, and lectured at Toho University.

Ray Still - 1970s

Following his retirement from Northwestern, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland—where he continued to give master classes and lessons—with his beloved wife Mary and son James to live near his daughter Susan. In 2013, he moved to Saxtons River and later Woodstock, Vermont, where he lived near Susan, his granddaughter Madeline, and her two daughters.

Still is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Mimi and Kent Dixon of Springfield, Ohio; his son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Sally Still of Big Timber, Montana; his daughter and son-in-law, Susan Still and Peter Bergstrom of Saxtons River, Vermont; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death in 2012 by his wife of almost 72 years, Mary Brock Still, and his son James Still.

Services will be private and details for a memorial in Chicago are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Institute for Learning, Access, and Training at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

When interviewed for an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1988, Still was asked why he thought the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was the world’s greatest. His reply: “It’s like a great baseball team. We have a blend of youth and experience, and they work very well together. A lot of orchestras have this. The thing that makes the Chicago Symphony Orchestra very unusual is the tremendous—I hate to use the word—discipline. There is a certain pride, and I think it goes back to the days of Theodore Thomas, the founder. There is something about the tradition of this Orchestra and the level the main body of musicians has come to expect of itself. There’s just a longer line of tradition.”

More information can be found at www.raystill.com.

János Starker

Legendary cellist and teacher János Starker, principal cello (1953–1958) and frequent soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, died on April 28, 2013, in Bloomington, Indiana. He was 88.

János Starker was born in Budapest, Hungary to Russian émigré parents. He began cello studies at age six, taught his first lesson at age eight, and gave his first public performance at age ten. He studied at the Franz Liszt Royal Academy, where faculty included Béla Bartók, Zoltan Kodály, Ernst von Dohnányi, and Leo Weiner. It was also at the Liszt Academy where he met his lifelong friend and future CSO concertmaster, Victor Aitay.

After imprisonment in a internment camp (on Csepel Island, in the Danube next to Budapest) during World War II, Starker became principal cello of the Budapest Opera and Philharmonic orchestras. With Aitay, he left Hungary in 1946 for Vienna, performing as soloist and in Aitay’s string quartet. Starker immigrated to the United States in 1948 and joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as principal cello at the invitation of Antal Doráti. The next year, he occupied the same position in New York City’s Metropolitan Opera under the direction of fellow Hungarian Fritz Reiner. With Reiner, Starker came to Chicago and became principal cello of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953. He became an American citizen in 1954.

The maestro joined the newest members of the Orchestra for an informal photo in 1953. The new musicians are (left to right): Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; and János Starker, cello.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in 1953: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; and Starker.

In 1958, Starker left Chicago and resumed his career as an international soloist and for the next five decades, he appeared in recitals and as soloist with the world’s leading orchestras. In addition to performing all the major works from the cello repertoire, he performed concertos written for him by David Baker, Doráti, Bernhard Heiden, Jean Martinon, Miklós Rózsa, Robert Starer, and Chou Wen-chung. Starker was the subject of countless news articles, magazine profiles, and television documentaries, and his performances have been broadcast on radio and television around the world.

Starker’s discography includes more than 270 recordings of over 180 pieces, many of which have become landmark records of cello literature. He made an unprecedented five recordings of J.S. Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello; the final album received the 1997 Grammy Award for best instrumental soloist performance (without orchestra). Starker’s first recording of Kodály’s Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello received France’s Grand prix du disque in 1948.

Starker was equally renowned as a teacher. He joined the faculty of Indiana University in 1958 and was named a distinguished professor in 1962. He taught at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada for seventeen years and at the Hochschule für Musik in Essen, Germany for five years, and many of his students (including the CSO’s own Brant Taylor) have won prestigious awards and occupy prominent positions in chamber ensembles and major orchestras. Starker published and recorded a series of studies entitled An Organized Method of String Playing which remains an important piece of cello instruction. He published or edited numerous musical scores and articles, and developed the Starker Bridge designed to enhance the acoustics of stringed instruments. His autobiography, The World of Music According to Starker, was published by Indiana University Press in 2004.

Starker received five honorary degrees and numerous awards including the Kodály Commemorative Medallion from the Government of Hungary in 1983 and the Chevalier de l’Order des Arts et des Lettres from the French Republic in 1997. He played the Lord Aylesford Stradivarius cello between 1950 and 1964, and he also played a 1705 Matteo Goffriller cello throughout his career.

For the United States premiere of Martinon’s Cello Concerto on July 31, 1965, former principal cello János Starker returned as soloist at the Ravinia Festival. Shown here during a rehearsal are the composer, soloist, and conductor, Ravinia music director Seiji Ozawa.

Starker was soloist in the United States premiere of Martinon’s Cello Concerto at the Ravinia Festival on July 31, 1965. Seiji Ozawa, the Festival’s music director, conducted.

A complete list of János Starker’s solo appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are below (subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

November 19 and 20, 1953
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Fritz Reiner, conductor

November 24, 1953
SCHUBERT/Cassadó Cello Concerto in A Minor
Fritz Reiner, conductor

February 4 and 5, 1954
BEETHOVEN Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
Bruno Walter, conductor
George Schick, piano
John Weicher, violin

January 6 and 7, 1955
BRAHMS Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102
Bruno Walter, conductor
John Weicher, violin

April 14 and 15, 1955
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 58
Fritz Reiner, conductor

October 6, 7, and 11, 1955
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Fritz Reiner, conductor
John Weicher, violin
Milton Preves, viola

January 5 and 6, 1956
SCHUMANN Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129
Fritz Reiner, conductor

February 28, March 1, and 12, 1957
BRAHMS Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102
Fritz Reiner, conductor
John Weicher, violin

March 14 and 15, 1957
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33
Fritz Reiner, conductor

June 28, 1957 (Ravinia Festival)
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Igor Markevitch, conductor

December 5 and 6, 1957
HINDEMITH Cello Concerto
Fritz Reiner, conductor

March 20, 21, and 25, 1958
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Fritz Reiner, conductor
John Weicher, violin
Milton Preves, viola

October 19 and 20, 1961
PROKOFIEV Symphony-Concerto for Cello, Op. 125
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor

July 23, 1963 (Ravinia Festival)
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, conductor

July 30, 1963 (Ravinia Festival)
WALTON Cello Concerto
Sir William Walton, conductor

December 3 and 4, 1964
HAYDN Cello Concerto in C Major
TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Jean Martinon, conductor

July 31, 1965 (Ravinia Festival)
MARTINON Cello Concerto, Op. 52
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 29, 1967 (Ravinia Festival)
LALO Cello Concerto in D Minor
Jean Martinon, conductor

May 9 and 10, 1968
HINDEMITH Cello Concerto
Jean Martinon, conductor

July 18, 1970 (Ravinia Festival)
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
István Kertész, conductor

November 4 and 5, 1971
RÓZSA Cello Concerto, Op. 32
Georg Solti, conductor

July 15, 1972 (Ravinia Festival)
HAYDN Cello Concerto in C Major
István Kertész, conductor

July 21, 1973 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
BRAHMS Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102
Sergiu Comissiona, conductor
Rudolf Buchbinder, piano
Franco Gulli, violin

July 27, 1974 (Ravinia Festival)
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33
TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Kazimierz Kord, conductor

August 2, 1975 (Ravinia Festival)
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107
Lawrence Foster, conductor

October 7, 8, and 9, 1976
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 33
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

November 22, 24, and 25, 1978
BOCCHERINI Cello Concerto B-flat Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

November 25, 27, and 28, 1987
HINDEMITH Cello Concerto
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor

We have lost a legend.

Victor Aitay, who served the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for fifty seasons as assistant concertmaster (1954–1965), associate concertmaster (1965–1967), concertmaster (1967–1986), and concertmaster emeritus (1986–2003), passed away earlier today. He was 91.

Victor Aitay was born in Budapest in 1921 and entered the Franz Liszt Royal Academy—where faculty included Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Ernst von Dohnányi, and Leo Weiner—at the age of seven. After receiving an artist’s diploma there, he became concertmaster of the Hungarian Royal Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra and organized the Aitay String Quartet. He toured extensively throughout Europe with that ensemble and also performed in recital and as soloist with major orchestras.

During World War II, Aitay was among the tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust because of the heroic efforts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. He recounted the story to the Chicago Tribune’s John von Rhein in May 2001.

Aitay and Eva Vera Kellner were married just after the war on November 17, 1945. In 1946, they left Hungary along with their friend János Starker and other colleagues, and went to Vienna. They soon traveled to the United States, where Aitay auditioned for and was hired by Fritz Reiner, then music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. After two seasons (1946–1948) in Pittsburgh, he joined the orchestra of New York’s Metropolitan Opera beginning in 1948 and was rostered until 1955, serving as associate concertmaster from 1952 until 1955.

In 1954, again at the invitation of Fritz Reiner, he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as assistant concertmaster. In 1965, Aitay was appointed associate concertmaster by Jean Martinon; two years later, Martinon promoted Aitay to the position of concertmaster. He served the Orchestra in that capacity until 1986, when he relinquished the chair to serve as concertmaster emeritus until his retirement in 2003.

Aitay also served as professor of violin at DePaul University, music director and conductor of the Lake Forest Symphony, and leader of the Chicago Symphony String Quartet. He was awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from Lake Forest College, and an article about the CSO that he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times was published in the book 20th Century Chicago.

Aitay’s beloved wife Eva preceded him in death in November 2008, and he is survived by his daughter Ava Aitay-Murray and granddaughter Ashley Murray. Services will be this Friday, July 27, 12:00 noon, at Piser Funeral Services, 9200 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie. Interment immediately following at Memorial Park Cemetery, 9900 Gross Point Road, also in Skokie. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the DePaul University School of Music, or the Merit School of Music.

Just before his retirement in October 2003, Victor wrote: “As I begin my fiftieth season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I find myself looking back on what I consider the most gratifying years of my life. It has given me great pride to be the concertmaster of this incredible orchestra, to play with the finest musicians, and to tour around the world several times. Making music with the world’s greatest conductors, soloists, and composers over the past half century has been a real privilege. As I move forward into new passages of my life, I will always carry with me rich and wonderful memories. These fifty years have been a beautiful symphony for me. Thank you.”

Addition: Here is a clip from a taping Victor made for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, that includes a performance of the first movement Adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata no. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 (with thanks to Andrew Patner).

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Theodore Thomas

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