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On March 12, 2020, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra celebrates the centennial of orchestral and chamber musician, soloist with countless ensembles, and lifelong teacher and coach Ray Still (1920–2014), a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section for forty years, serving as principal for thirty-nine years.

Ray Still - 1950s

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 died in Woodstock, on March 12, 2014, surrounded by family. He was 94 and was 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 Mary, his wife of almost 72 years, and his son James Still.

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.”

The Still family has recently updated www.raystill.com, which now includes a new edition of his book Playing the Oboe, along with a gallery of photos and a complete discography.

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

Wishing Donald Peck—a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1957 until 1999 and principal flute for over forty years—a very happy ninetieth birthday!

Donald Peck in 1994 (Jim Steere photo)

Peck received his early musical training in Seattle, where he played in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. As a teenager, he performed with his first teacher, Frank Horsfall, in the Seattle Symphony. He was a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied with William Kincaid. Peck performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and spent three years in the U.S. Marine Band. He was principal flute of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra for two years before Fritz Reiner invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1957 as assistant principal flute. The following year, Reiner promoted Peck to principal flute, a chair he would hold for over forty years until his retirement in 1999.

Peck first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in August 1959, in Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, and on subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall in November 1960, in Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite, both with Walter Hendl conducting. During his tenure, he appeared as soloist on more than 120 concerts directed by twenty-five conductors—including music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and on tour.

On April 18, 1985, Solti led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Morton Gould’s Flute Concerto, commissioned for Peck. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein described his playing as, “Lustrous and penetrating, tender and lyrical, charming and sensual, its hues would put a chameleon to shame. It is one of the most distinctive voices in the orchestral choir, blending well with any ensemble even as it serves a key role within the woodwind section. . . . as principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck has carried out that role with a combination of technical skill and musical understanding that has earned him widespread admiration. Within the fraternity of the flute he is considered to be without peer. No less a judge than Julius Baker, the longtime principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic [and principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1951 until 1953], pronounces Peck ‘the greatest flutist I’ve ever heard.'”

Donald Peck in 1966 (Dorothy Siegel Druzinsky photo)

Also for Peck, William Ferris wrote his Flute Sonata and Lee Hoiby dedicated his Pastorale Dances for Flute and Orchestra. He regularly performed as a guest artist with other orchestras, including appearances at the Pablo Casals Festival with concerts in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and in Carnegie Hall. In Australia, Peck recorded Mozart’s flute concertos for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and he regularly appeared at the Carmel Bach Festival in California, the Victoria International Festival in Canada, the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, and the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, along with numerous other orchestras from coast to coast.

As principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck performed on over three hundred recordings under twenty-two conductors for twelve labels. In his retirement, he has recorded works for flute and piano with Melody Lord for the Boston label.

Peck has served on the faculties of DePaul and Roosevelt universities, where he taught flute and woodwind ensemble. A frequent lecturer and guest teacher, he has given master classes at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, at the Rotterdam Conservatory in Holland, for the Osaka Flute Club in Japan, at the Sydney Flute Association in Australia, and at over thirty universities and music groups throughout the United States and Canada. For many years, Peck played a flute—fashioned in platinum-iridium—handmade for him by Powell Flutes of Boston.

In 1997, the National Flute Association honored Peck with a lifetime achievement award. Indiana University Press published Peck’s memoir, The Right Place, The Right Time! Tales of Chicago Symphony Days in 2007, and the Chicago Flute Club’s biennial international flute competition is named in his honor.

Near the end of his tenure as principal flute, Peck spoke again with von Rhein for the Chicago Tribune. “The flute has the potential for more color and brilliance [and] the woodwind section can be most exquisite, like glittering jewels. . . . I have been a very lucky person, having performed with wonderful musicians and done so much. What more could I want?”

Happy, happy birthday!

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on October 31, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Wishing a very happy ninetieth birthday to the legendary Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink!

In addition to serving as the Chicago Symphony’s principal conductor from 2006 until 2010, Haitink also launched the Orchestra’s CSO Resound record label with the recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony in 2007. A complete list of his appearances and recordings is below.

March 4, 5, and 6, 1976, Orchestra Hall
BACH Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068*
RAVEL Alborada del gracioso
STRAVINSKY Symphony in Three Movements
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (Scottish)
*Performed in memory of Jean Martinon, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s seventh music director, who died in Paris on March 1, 1976

March 11, 12, and 14, 1976, Orchestra Hall
COWELL Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 3
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Silvia Marcovici, violin
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43

January 9, 10, 11, and 12, 1997, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a
TURNAGE Some Days
Cynthia Clarey, mezzo-soprano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
Mark-Anthony Turnage‘s Some Days was recorded live and released by Decca.

January 16, 17, 18, and 21, 1997, Orchestra Hall
BACH Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068*
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Sylvia McNair, soprano
Markella Hatziano, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
*Performed on January 18 only in memory of Ardis Krainik, general manager of Lyric Opera of Chicago, who died on January 18, 1997

March 2, 3, and 4, 2006, Orchestra Hall
WEBER Overture to Der Freischütz
HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

March 9, 10, and 11, 2006, Orchestra Hall
WEBERN Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 1
DEBUSSY La mer
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

October 19, 20, and 21, 2006, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, chorus director
Recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; editing engineering by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

May 10, 11, 12, and 15, 2007, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Coriolan Overture, Op. 62
LUTOSŁAWSKI Chain 2: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra
Robert Chen, violin
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony was recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, Christopher Willis was the engineer, and John Newton was the assistant engineer; editing and mixing by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

Haitink along with the Orchestra and Chorus acknowledge applause following a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe on November 8, 2007 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

October 18, 19, 20, and 23, 2007, Orchestra Hall
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor
Mahler’s Sixth Symphony was recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; editing and mixing by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

October 25, 26, and 27, 2007, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183
TURNAGE Chicago Remains
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Emanuel Ax, piano
Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Chicago Remains was a world premiere, composed in memory of Sir John Drummond. The work was co-commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation.

November 8, 9, and 10, 2007, Orchestra Hall
POULENC Gloria
Jessica Rivera, soprano
RAVEL Daphnis and Chloe
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; audio post-production by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

May 1, 2, and 3, 2008, Orchestra Hall
May 15, 2008, Carnegie Hall
RAVEL Menuet antique
LIEBERSON Neruda Songs
Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Mahler’s First Symphony was recorded live in Orchestra Hall. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; audio post-production by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

May 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13, 2008, Orchestra Hall
May 16, 2008, Carnegie Hall
HADYN Symphony No. 101 in D Major (The Clock)
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 4 in C Major, Op. 43
Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony was recorded live in Orchestra Hall. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; audio post-production by Classic Sound Limited, UK. The recording won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

July 16, 2008, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

September 5, 2008, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

September 6, 2008, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
September 9, 2008, Royal Albert Hall, London, England
September 13, 2008, Kultur- & Kongresszentrum, Lucerne, Switzerland
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Murray Perahia, piano
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43

September 8, 2008, Royal Albert Hall, London, England
TURNAGE Chicago Remains
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

September 12, 2008, Kultur- & Kongresszentrum, Lucerne, Switzerland
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

November 20, 21, 22, and 25, 2008, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Miah Persson, soprano
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; audio post-production by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

November 28, 29, and 30, 2008, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Symphony No. 44 in E Minor (Mourning)
LUTOSŁAWSKI Symphony No. 4
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Murray Perahia, piano

December 4, 5, and 6, 2008, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
Robert Chen, violin
Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben was recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; audio post-production by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

December 9, 2008, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Symphony No. 101 in D Minor (The Clock)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

January 31, 2009, Minato Mirai Hall, Yokohama, Japan
February 4, 2009, Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan
February 6, 2009, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
Robert Chen, violin

February 1, 2009, Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan
February 7, 2009, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong
February 11, 2009, Shanghai Grand Theatre, Shanghai, China
February 13, 2009, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

February 3, 2009, Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan
February 10, 2009, Shanghai Grand Theatre, Shanghai, China
February 14, 2009, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China
HAYDN Symphony No. 101 in D Major (The Clock)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

April 16, 17, 18, and 21, 2009, Orchestra Hall
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

April 23, 24, and 25, 2009, Orchestra Hall
WEBERN Im Sommerwind
MAHLER Rückert Lieder
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 (Great)
Webern’s Im Sommerwind was recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; audio post-production by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

April 28, 2009, Orchestra Hall
WEBERN Im Sommerwind
MAHLER Rückert Lieder
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Webern’s Im Sommerwind was recorded live. For CSO Resound, James Mallinson was the producer, and Christopher Willis was the engineer; audio post-production by Classic Sound Limited, UK.

May 2, 2009, Carnegie Hall
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

May 3, 2009, Carnegie Hall
WEBERN Im Sommerwind
MAHLER Rückert Lieder
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 (Great)

May 7, 8, 9, and 10, 2009, Orchestra Hall
PURCELL/Stucky Funeral Music for Queen Mary
BRITTEN Les illuminations, Op. 18
Ian Bostridge, tenor
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 15 in A Major, Op. 141

September 11, 2009, Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany
September 13, 2009, Kultur- & Kongresszentrum, Lucerne, Switzerland
September 18, 2009, Grosser Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, Austria
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 15 in A Major, Op. 141

September 14, 2009, Kultur- & Kongresszentrum, Lucerne, Switzerland
September 16, 2009, Grosser Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, Austria
September 21, 2009, Salle Pleyel, Paris, France
September 24, 2009, Royal Festival Hall, London, England
HAYDN Symphony No. 101 in D Major (The Clock)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

September 20, 2009, Salle Pleyel, Paris, France
September 23, 2009, Royal Festival Hall, London, England
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

November 5, 6, 7, and 10, 2009, Orchestra Hall
RAVEL Alborada del gracioso
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
MENDELSSOHN Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opp. 21 and 61
Erin Morley, soprano
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano
Sir Thomas Allen, narrator
Girls of Anima
Emily Ellsworth, chorus director

November 12, 13, and 14, 2009, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN Sinfonia concertante in B-flat Major, Hob. I:105
Eugene Izotov, oboe
David McGill, bassoon
Robert Chen, violin
John Sharp, cello
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9 in D Minor

June 2 and 3, 2010, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Overture to Fidelio, Op. 72
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

June 5 and 8, 2010, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

June 10 and 11, 2010, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 2, Op. 72a
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)

June 15 and 16, 2010, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

June 18, 19, and 20, 2010, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 112
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano
Clifton Forbis, tenor
Eric Owens, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

May 26, 27, 28, and 31, 2011, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Overture to Manfred, Op. 115
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453
Emanuel Ax, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

June 2, 3, 4, and 5, 2011, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major

Haitink and the Orchestra onstage in Beijing on February 14, 2009 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Haitink and the Orchestra onstage at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on February 14, 2009 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

October 20, 21, and 22, 2011, Orchestra Hall
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485
MAHLER Symphony No. 4 in G Major
Klara Ek, soprano

October 27, 28, and 29, 2011, Orchestra Hall
HAYDN The Creation
Klara Ek, soprano
Ian Bostridge, tenor
Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

October 25, 26, and 27, 2012, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Erin Wall, soprano
Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano
Anthony Dean Griffey, tenor
Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

October 31, November 1, 2, and 3, 2013, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Emanuel Ax, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)

April 9, 10, 11, and 14, 2015, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 7

April 28, 29, and 30, 2016, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482
Till Fellner, piano
STRAUSS An Alpine Symphony, Op. 64

October 25, 27, and 30, 2018, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Paul Lewis, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major

Happy, happy birthday!

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!

Byron JanisSending happy ninetieth birthday wishes to the legendary pianist Byron Janis!

Between 1952 and 1974, Janis appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on numerous occasions at Orchestra Hall, in Milwaukee, and at the Ravinia Festival, under the batons of music directors Fritz Reiner and Jean Martinon; associate conductors Walter Hendl and Irwin Hoffman; Ravinia Festival music directors Seiji Ozawa and James Levine; and guest conductors Leonard Bernstein, André Cluytens, Igor Markevitch, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Hans Rosbaud, Joseph Rosenstock, William Steinberg, Leopold Stokowski, Willem Van Otterloo, and David Zinman.

Janis made his debut with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on July 10, 1952, in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting.

Two years later—a few weeks shy of his twenty-sixth birthday—he first performed in Orchestra Hall on March 4 and 5, 1954, in Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with Fritz Reiner on the podium. “If you have it, you have it, and Mr. Janis does,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune following his debut. “He has good fingers, a direct approach, and a good tone. He has temperament and fire and he wants, perhaps more than anything else in the world, to play the piano. You can always tell that by the sound. It comes out in the explosions of the double octaves, in the instinctive sensing of the crest of a phrase, in the way a Russian song suddenly knows pain, which is not quite the same thing as being sad. Because of these things, because he is such a pianist, his Tchaikovsky was big, beautiful, and dynamic, yet with all its tensions it sensed the relaxed sweep of the grand style. Few things could be more stupid than to patronize such playing, which Reiner and the orchestra gave superb collaboration, part Russian song, part Russian bear. When I look forward to what that playing can be, I am speaking of it in Janis’s own terms. Give him time to strengthen those fingers, to deepen and polish that tone. But listen as he does it, for he is worth hearing now.”

He most recently appeared with the CSO in Orchestra Hall on April 20 and 21, 1967, in Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto and Strauss’s Burleske with Irwin Hoffman conducting, and at the Ravinia Festival on August 15, 1974, in Saint-Saëns’s Fifth Piano Concerto under the baton of David Zinman.

Janis also made several recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as follows:

RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded March 2, 1957, in Orchestra Hall by RCA

Byron Janis’s complete RCA catalog—including his recordings with the CSO—recently was re-released in a box set.

STRAUSS Burleske for Piano and Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded March 4, 1957, in Orchestra Hall by RCA

SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded February 21, 1959, in Orchestra Hall by RCA

LISZT Totentanz for Piano and Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded February 23, 1959, in Orchestra Hall by RCA

PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
Irwin Hoffman, conductor
Recorded by WFMT on April 20 and 21, 1967, in Orchestra Hall
Released in 1995 on From the Archives, vol. 10: Great Soloists

Happy, happy birthday!

Irwin Hoffman

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the death of Irwin Hoffman, a titled conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1964 until 1970. Hoffman died yesterday at the age of 93.

On August 13, 1964, Merrill Shepard, then-president of The Orchestral Association, announced that Hoffman had been engaged as the CSO’s new assistant conductor, beginning with the 1964-65 season. Hoffman was to serve the Orchestra and assist music director Jean Martinon in a variety of capacities, including conducting rehearsals and concerts (including youth concerts), leading the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as new score review.

Hoffman’s debut program with the Orchestra was as follows:

December 17 & 18, 1964
VILLA-LOBOS Uirapurú
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Victor Aitay, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Program book announcement from January 1968

Program book announcement from January 1968

Martinon promoted Hoffman to associate conductor the following year. He would serve in that capacity for three seasons, and in January 1968, Association president Louis Sudler announced that Hoffman would be acting music director for the 1968-69 season. (On December 17, 1968, the Association announced that Georg Solti would become the Orchestra’s eighth music director, beginning with the 1969-70 season.)

For the 1969-70 season, Hoffman’s title was conductor and he led several weeks of subscription and popular concerts. In subsequent seasons, he returned as a guest conductor and most recently led the Orchestra in January 1977 with the following program:

January 12, 13, 14 & 15, 1977
January 17, 1977 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
KAY Of New Horizons
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Esther Glazer, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Irwin Hoffman with score

Hoffman made his conducting debut at the age of seventeen with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Robin Hood Dell. He also studied at the Juilliard School and later with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Hoffman has held titled positions with several orchestras, including the Grant Park Music Festival; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; Martha Graham Dance Company; Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, later the Florida Orchestra; Bogotá Philharmonic in Colombia; Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra; and the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra in Chile.

Kurt Loft of the Florida Orchestra has posted a beautiful tribute here.

RCA Red Seal Records (a division of Sony Classical) is releasing a set of complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings—some available for the first time on CD—led by Seiji Ozawa, recorded during his tenure as the first music director of the Ravinia Festival from 1964 until 1968.

“With the success of [Fritz] Reiner’s CSO recordings, RCA was eager to continue expanding its catalog with the Orchestra, and the label wasted no time engaging both [Jean] Martinon (who began his tenure as the orchestra’s seventh music director in 1963) and Ozawa,” writes Frank Villella in the liner notes for the set. “Martinon first recorded with the Orchestra for RCA in November 1964, and Ozawa’s first recording—Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto with [seventeen-year-old Peter] Serkin—was made at Orchestra Hall in June 1965.”

Additional highlights from the set include Serkin performing Bartók’s First Piano Concerto and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto, one of the seven recordings of the Orchestra performing Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth symphonies, and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, among others.

When Ozawa announced that he would step down as the Festival’s music director, he said that “Ravinia was the first organization to invite me to be its music director. Without the belief you had in me, I do not think I would have any career at this moment. The Chicago Symphony is one of the greatest orchestras I have ever conducted, and I have had no greater glory in music than I have experienced here.”

The set is available for pre-order via the Symphony Store here. It will be available domestically on April 21, 2017.

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In March 1898, Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra embarked on a monthlong tour through Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. In New York, the tour included six concerts at the Metropolitan Opera House, one at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Orchestra’s debut in Carnegie Hall on March 7.

March 7, 1898

March 7, 1898

The program for Carnegie was entirely comprised of music by French composers, featuring the U.S. premiere of Franck’s Variations symphoniques and Saint-Saëns’s Fifth Piano Concerto, both with Raoul Pugno as soloist. Composer Alexandre Guilmant also appeared, as organ soloist in his Adoration, Allegro, and Final à la Schumann, as well as Lefebvre’s Méditation. Berlioz’s Overture to King Lear, Franck’s Le chasseur maudit, Saint-Saëns’s Le rouet d’Omphale, and Massenet’s Suite from Les Erinnyes rounded out the program.

The reviewer in Harper’s Bazaar praised the performances of both Pugno and Guilmant, “and the enjoyment of the afternoon was increased by the good work done by the Chicago Orchestra.” The New York Times added, “The Orchestra was heard to great advantage in Saint-Saëns’s symphonic poem, which was played with consummate finish, and Mr. Thomas’s accompaniments to the soloists were a source of joy.” And the New York Tribune heralded the concert as “an exhibition of virtuosity.”

The Orchestra has returned to Carnegie Hall on numerous occasions, under music directors Frederick Stock, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, and Riccardo Muti; principal guest conductors Carlo Maria Giulini, Claudio Abbado, and Pierre Boulez; principal conductor Bernard Haitink; chorus director and conductor Margaret Hillis; and associate conductor Henry Mazer.

This article also appears here.

Muenzer, Edgar1

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family notes with sorrow the passing of Edgar Muenzer, a member of the violin section from 1956 until 2003. He died on July 22, 2016, at the age of 88, following a long illness.

Music was long the lifeblood of the Muenzer family. Edgar’s father, Hans, was concertmaster of the Chicago Theater Orchestra, the WGN Symphonietta, and head of the string department at the University of Iowa; his mother, Esther Payne, was a concert pianist and teacher. His brother Albert was professor of violin at the University of Houston and served as concertmaster of the Houston Grand Opera until his retirement; and his sister, Louise Bruyn, pursued modern dance and taught in Boston.

An alumnus of Lane Technical High School in Chicago and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Muenzer was a musician in the U.S. Air Force for nearly a decade. Following his military service, he was appointed by Fritz Reiner to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s second violin section in March 1956, moving to the first violin section in October of that year. In addition to previous solo work with orchestras and in recital, Muenzer was an active chamber musician as a member of the Chadamin Trio and the Chicago Symphony String Quartet. He was professor of violin at Northwestern University from 1970 until 1988 and concertmaster of the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra from 1988 until 1994.

Serving under four music directors—Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—Muenzer retired from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2003 after forty-seven years. In his retirement, he was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association, serving for many years on the board of directors.

Muenzer, Edgar2

In 1994, Muenzer and his wife Nancy founded the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra. For nearly twenty years, he was music director, growing the ensemble into one of Illinois’s finest professional orchestras and featuring soloists that included CSO concertmasters Samuel Magad and Robert Chen, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, CSO principal cello John Sharp, CSO principal trumpet Adolph Herseth, and baritone William Warfield, among many others. Under Muenzer’s leadership, the ensemble received numerous awards, including Orchestra of the Year from the Illinois Council of Orchestras in 2000 and the Governor’s Hometown Award in 1998. In 2002, Muenzer won the Illinois Council of Orchestras’ Conductor of the Year Award, and in 2004, he and Nancy received a Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award. Following his retirement in March 2013, he passed the baton to his son Victor and became music director emeritus.

Edgar Muenzer is survived by his beloved wife, Nancy; three sons Victor, Peter, and James; and grandchildren Gregory and Gabriel. Services have been held.

Upon his retirement, Muenzer recalled one of his early experiences in the Orchestra: “One of my most memorable performances was shortly after I joined the Orchestra. We did a staged version of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, with Fritz Reiner conducting. It was as if I hit the ceiling, it was such a wonderful experience—not only to be able to play that music, but to hear it, right in the orchestra. That was the first of many high points, experiences that I will never forget.”

An obituary was posted by the Chicago Tribune on July 25, 2016.

Phyllis Curtin

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the extraordinary American soprano Phyllis Curtin, a frequent guest artist who performed under three music directors—Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti—between 1957 and 1972. Curtin died on June 5, 2016, at her home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She was 94.

Curtin made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in 1957, and she most recently appeared at Orchestra Hall in 1972. A complete list of her appearances with the Orchestra is below (subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

July 7, 1957 (Ravinia Festival)
FOSS The Song of Songs
Lukas Foss, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano

Reiner B9

April 27 and 28, 1961
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Florence Kopleff, contralto
John McCollum, tenor
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was recorded by RCA on May 1 and 2, 1961, in Orchestra Hall. The recording recently was re-released as part of a sixty-three-disc set featuring Reiner’s complete discography with the Orchestra.

April 26 and 27, 1962
HANDEL Israel in Egypt
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Carol Smith, mezzo-soprano
Richard Lewis, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 9, 1964 (Ravinia Festival)
MOZART Voi che sapete from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
MOZART Alleluia from Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Czárdás and Mein Herr Marquis from Die Fledermaus
KORNGOLD Glück das mir verblieb from Die tote Stadt
LEHÁR Dein is mein ganzes Herz from Das Land des Lächelns
SIECZYNSKI Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume
Andre Kostelanetz, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano

April 22, 23, and 24, 1965
HAYDN The Seasons
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Charles Bressler, tenor
Ara Berberian, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

January 6, 7, and 8, 1966
PERGOLESI Stabat Mater
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Betty Allen, mezzo-soprano
STRAVINSKY Les noces
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Betty Allen, mezzo-soprano
André Montal, tenor
Peter Harrower, bass-baritone
Mary Sauer, Laurence Davis, Louis M. Kohnop, and Eloise Niwa, pianos
Donald Koss, Gordon Peters, James J. Ross, Sam Denov, Albert Payson, and Norbert Szymanski, percussion
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 1, 2, and 3, 1966
MARTINON The Rose of Sharon (U.S. premiere)
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Joseph Brewer, tenor
Harold Robinson, baritone
Mary Sauer and Harriet Wingreen, pianos
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 14 and 15, 1970
JANÁČEK Glagolitic Mass
Charles Mackerras, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Joan Caplan, mezzo-soprano
John Alexander, tenor
Ara Berberian, bass
Mary Sauer, organ
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

January 20, 21, and 22, 1972
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 14, Op. 135
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Raffaele Arié, bass

June 27, 1972 (Ravinia Festival)
BRITTEN War Requiem, Op. 66
István Kertész, György Fischer, and Margaret Hillis, conductors
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Robert Tear, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Northwestern University Chorus and Northwestern University Concert Choir
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

November 30 and December 1, 1972
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano (substituting for contralto Josephine Veasey)
Stuart Burrows, tenor
Robert Savoie, baritone
Roger Soyer, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

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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