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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 Symphonies nos. 2 and 5 on February 20, 21, 22, and 23, 2020.

1967 London Records program book advertisement

Wishing a wonderfully happy eighty-fifth birthday to the legendary American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne!

Over the course of nearly forty years—between 1965 and 2002—Horne has appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of occasions in concert and on recording, indicated below:

September 23 and 24, 1965, Orchestra Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Richard Verreau, tenor
Ezio Flagello, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Christopher Moore, director
Jean Martinon, conductor

June 2, 1967, Orchestra Hall
ROSSINI The Italian Girl in Algiers
Isabella Marilyn Horne, soprano
Mustafa Ezio Flagello, bass
Taddeo Theodor Uppman, baritone
Lindoro Ken Remo, tenor
Elvira Teresa Orantes, soprano
Zulma Carol Cornelisen, mezzo-soprano
Haly Charles Van Tasssel, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Ronald Schweitzer, assistant director
Henry Lewis, conductor

July 9, 1983, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
ROSSINI Non temer d’un basso affetto from The Siege of Corinth
ROSSINI Overture to The Silken Ladder
ROSSINI Assisa a piè d’un salice from Otello
ROSSINI Overture to Semiramide
ROSSINI Mura felici from The Lady of the Lake
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
James Levine, conductor

August 18, 1984, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
James McCracken, tenor
James Conlon, conductor

July 20, 1986, Ravinia Festival
ROSSINI Overture to William Tell
ROSSINI Oh! patria! . . . Tu che accendi . . . Di tanti palpiti from Tancredi
ROSSINI Overture to The Silken Ladder
ROSSINI Da te spero, oh ciel clemente from Zelmira
ROSSINI Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers
ROSSINI Deh, lasciate . . . Beviam, tocchiamo a gara from The Silken Ladder
SAINT-SAËNS Printemps qui commence from Samson and Delilah
THOMAS Overture to Mignon
THOMAS C’est moi, j’ai tout brise . . . Me voici dans son boudoir from Mignon
MASSENET Meditation from Thaïs
Samuel Magad, violin
GOUNOD Ou suis-je? O ma lyre immortelle from Sapho
COPLAND Hoedown from Rodeo
NILES Go ’way from my window
FOSTER/Cullen If you’ve only got a moustache
TRADITIONAL/Copland At the River
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Henry Lewis, conductor

Marilyn Horne (Marty Umans photo)

July 4, 1992, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (Classical)
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Sarah Chang, violin
COHAN/Davis You’re a Grand Old Flag
TRADITIONAL/Davis Shenandoah
TRADITIONAL/Matthews Billy Boy
FOSTER/Tunick Beautiful Dreamer
FOSTER/Cullen If you’ve only got a moustache
FOSTER/Matthews I Dream of Jeannie
FOSTER/Cullen Camptown Races
TRADITIONAL/Davis I’ve Just Come from the Fountain
MALOTTE/Davis The Lord’s Prayer
TRADITIONAL/Matthews When Johnny Comes Marching Home
BRYAN-PIANTADOSE/Davis I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier
TRADITIONAL/Davis Battle Hymn of the Republic
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Cheryl Frazes Hill, assistant director
James Levine, conductor
Radio broadcast recordings of Camptown Races and I’ve Just Come from the Fountain were released in 2008 on Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration (From the Archives, vol. 22).

July 28, 2002, Ravinia Festival
Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein
Selections from Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, Victory at Sea, The King and I, and The Sound of Music
Sylvia McNair, soprano
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Rodney Gilfry, baritone
John Raitt, baritone
John Mauceri, conductor

Horne also commercially recorded with Orchestra and Chorus, on two notable occasions:

MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
James Levine, conductor
Recorded by RCA on July 21, 22, and 23, 1975, in Medinah Temple. The recording was produced by Thomas Z. Shepard and Jay David Saks, and Paul Goodman was the recording engineer. The Orchestra and Chorus also performed the work at the Ravinia Festival on July 13, 1975; Beverly Wolff was soloist.

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Carol Neblett, soprano
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon on February 13 and 16, 1976, in Medinah Temple. The recording was produced by Rainer Brock, and Heinz Wildhagen was the balance engineer. The Orchestra and Chorus also performed the work in Orchestra Hall on February 12 and 14, 1976; Neblett and Claudine Carlson were soloists. 

November 28, 1999

On November 28, 1999, Horne and her longtime collaborator Martin Katz gave a recital at Orchestra Hall. Just before the final encores, she announced from the stage, “Today I sing my last classical recital. . . . I’ll still be around from time to time [but] one thing you cannot do is stop the march of time.”

“Perhaps not,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “But time has been on the side of this great and treasurable artist. She has sung everything she ever wanted to sing in every major opera house and concert hall. She has been at the forefront of the modern Handel and Rossini revivals. She has long held the mantle of the world’s foremost mistress of bel canto. Her place in history as one of the all-time great singers is secure.”

Happy, happy birthday!

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.

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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