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Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the wonderful Welsh bass, Gwynne Howell!

Gwynne Howell (Guy Gravett photo)

Howell has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions and on several award-winning recordings between 1974 and 1990. A complete list is below (concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted).

April 12 and 13, 1974
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Jerry Jennings, tenor
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

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

January 29, 30, and 31, 1976
STRAVINSKY Oedipus Rex
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Peter Pears, tenor
Josephine Veasey, mezzo-soprano
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mallory Walker, tenor
Dominic Cossa, baritone
Werner Klemperer, narrator
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

May 5, 6, and 7, 1977
May 13, 1977 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded in Chicago’s Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer and Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The recording won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

May 10 and 12, 1979
May 19, 1979 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Peter Hofmann, tenor
David Kübler, tenor
Theo Adam, baritone
Hans Sotin, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Robert Johnson, tenor
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director
The opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

April 7, 9, and 12, 1983
April 18, 1983 (Carnegie Hall)
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Siegmund Nimsgern, bass-baritone
Hermann Becht, baritone
Gabriele Schnaut, mezzo-soprano
Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor
Robert Tear, tenor
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Malcolm Smith, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mary Jane Johnson, soprano
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Dennis Bailey, tenor
Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Emily Golden, mezzo-soprano

September 27, 28, and 29, 1984
HANDEL Messiah
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Anne Gjevang, contralto
Keith Lewis, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
David Schrader, harpsichord
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded in Orchestra Hall on October 1, 2, and 9, 1984. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were balance engineers.

January 25, 26, and 28, 1990
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Felicity Lott, soprano
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
William Shimell, baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990, in Orchestra Hall. For London Records, Michael Haas was the recording producer, and Stanley Goodall and Simon Eadon were the balance engineers. The recording won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Performance of a Choral Work from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Check out the video below, produced by Wild Plum Arts, in which Howell talks about working with Solti and many others.

Happy, happy birthday!

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Earlier today we heard of the news of the death of the remarkable English bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk, as reported in The Telegraph.

Shirley-Quirk appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of important occasions, as listed below (all appearances are subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

John Shirley Quirk

August 30, 31 & September 1, 1971 (recording sessions at the Sofiensaal in Vienna)
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Arleen Augér, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
René Kollo, tenor
Martti Talvela, bass
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Norbert Balatsch, chorus master
Singverein Chorus
Helmut Froschauer, chorus master
Vienna Boys’ Choir

December 16, 17 & 18, 1971
BACH Mass in B Minor
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Margaret Price, soprano
Josephine Veasey, mezzo-soprano
Luigi Alva, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 27, 1972 (Ravinia Festival)
BRITTEN War Requiem
István Kertész, conductor (orchestra)
György Fischer, conductor (chamber orchestra)
Margaret Hillis, conductor (children’s chorus)
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Robert Tear, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Northwestern University Chorus and Concert Choir
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

July 3, 1975 (Ravinia Festival)
MAHLER Selections from Des Knaben Wunderhorn
James Levine, conductor
Maria Ewing, soprano

Mahler's Symphony no. 8 in E-flat Major, recorded in Vienna in 1971

Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 in E-flat Major, recorded in Vienna in 1971

May 15, 16 & 17, 1980
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS A Sea Symphony
Raymond Leppard, conductor
Isobel Buchanan, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

March 5, 6 & 7, 1981
STRAVINSKY Oedipus Rex
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Maximilian Schell, narrator
Philip Langridge, tenor
Lucia Valentini-Terrani, mezzo-soprano
Aage Haugland, bass
Rockwell Blake, tenor
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 3, 4 & 5, 1982
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Eugene Ormandy, conductor
Benita Valente, soprano
Katherine Ciesinski, mezzo-soprano
Jon Frederic West, tenor
Kurt Link, bass (Shirley-Quirk canceled due to illness and was replaced by Link on June 5 only)
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 1, 2 & 4, 1984
MUSSORGSKY Boris Godunov
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Ruggero Raimondi, bass
Zehava Gal, mezzo-soprano
Cyndia Sieden, soprano
Jennifer Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Langridge, tenor
Hartmut Welker, baritone
Samuel Ramey, bass
Kaludi Kaludov, tenor
Lucia Valentini-Terrani, mezzo-soprano
Sergei Koptchak, bass
Kurt Hansen, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
Bradley Nystrom, bass-baritone
Donald Kaasch, tenor
Paul Grizzell, bass
Dale Prest, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

____________________________________________________

During his tenure as music director, Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra traveled to Carnegie Hall nearly every season. A complete list of those concerts are below:

January 8, 1970
HAYDN Symphony No. 102 in B-flat Major
BARTÓK Dance Suite
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

January 9, 1970
MAHLER Kindertotenlieder
Helen Watts, contralto
MAHLER Symphony No. 5

December 7, 1970
LEVY Concerto for Piano No. 1
Earl Wild, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

December 8, 1970
MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor

April 27, 1971
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Woglinde Karen Altman, soprano
Wellgunde Huguette Tourangeau, mezzo-soprano
Flosshilde Helen Watts, contralto
Alberich Rolf Kuhne, bass
Wotan David Ward, bass
Fricka Mignon Dunn, mezzo-soprano
Freia Karen Altman, soprano
Fasolt Martti Talvela, bass
Fafner Hans Sotin, bass
Donner Thomas Paul, bass
Froh Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Loge Gerhard Stolze, tenor
Mime John Lanigan, tenor
Erda Helen Watts, contralto

November 17, 1971
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (Rhenish)
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra
WAGNER Prelude to Act 1 of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

November 20, 1971
SCHOENBERG Moses and Aron
Moses Hans Hotter, speaker
Aron Richard Lewis, tenor
A Young Girl Karen Altman, soprano
A Young Man Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Another Man Benjamin Matthews, baritone
Priest Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
An Invalid Woman Emilie Miller, mezzo-contralto
Ephraimite Stephen Swanson, baritone
A Naked Youth Kenneth Riegel, tenor
Four Naked Virgins Barbara Pearson and Nancy Clevenger, sopranos; Sharon Powell, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Muir-Lewis, alto
Three Elders Alfred Reichel and Jack Abraham, baritones; Eugene Johnson, bass
Six Solo Voices in the Orchestra Barbara Pearson, soprano; Sharon Powell, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Muir-Lewis, alto; William Wahman, tenor; Stephen Swanson and Arthur Berg, baritones
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Barbara Born, director

April 19, 1972
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 (Unfinished)
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Shirley Verrett, mezzo-soprano
Stuart Burrows, tenor

April 22, 1972
CARTER Variations for Orchestra
STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14A

December 6, 1972
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Marguerite Josephine Veasey, contralto
Faust Stuart Burrows, tenor
Mephistopheles Robert Savoie, baritone
Brander Roger Soyer, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

December 9, 1972
MENDELSSOHN Overture to Fingal’s Cave, Op. 26
BARTÓK Concert for Violin, No. 2
Isaac Stern, violin
STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40

May 2, 1973
WAGNER Act 3 of Götterdämmerung
Gutrune Karen Altman, soprano
Brunnhilde Helga Dernesch, soprano
Woglinde Barbara Pearson, soprano
Wellgunde Gwendolyn Jones, mezzo-soprano
Flosshilde Sandra Walker, mezzo-soprano
Siegfried Jess Thomas, tenor
Gunther Donald Gramm, bass
Hagen Martti Talvela, bass
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Richard Boldrey, assistant director

May 4, 1973
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

November 14, 1973
WEBER Overture to Oberon
HENZE Heliogabalus Imperator
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

November 17, 1973
BACH Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor

May 1, 1974
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120
BARTÓK Bluebeard’s Castle
Judith Tatiana Troyanos, mezzo-soprano
Bluebeard Zoltán Kelemen, baritone

May 4, 1974
MOZART Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 (Haffner)
ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma)
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

December 17, 1974
BACH Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047
Samuel Magad, violin
Ralph Zeitlin, recorder
Ray Still, oboe
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
SCHOENBERG Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

December 18, 1974
STRAUSS Salome
Salome Birgit Nilsson, soprano
Herodias Ruth Hesse, mezzo-soprano
Herod Antipas Ragnar Ulfung, tenor
Jokanaan Norman Bailey, baritone
Slave Sarah Beatty, soprano
The Page of Herodias Sandra Walker, mezzo-soprano
Narraboth George Shirley, tenor
Cappadocian Gershon Silins, bass
Two Nazarenes Cory Winter, tenor; Franz Mazura, bass-baritone
Four Jews Philip Creech, Jerry Jennings, John Lanigan, and William Wahman, tenors; Eugene Johnson, bass
Two Soldiers Curtis Dickson and Thomas Paul, basses

December 20, 1974
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano
ELGAR Symphony No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 63

December 21, 1974
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

April 29, 1975
STRAVINSKY Symphony in C
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major

April 30, 1975
VERDI Requiem
Leontyne Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 2, 1975
HAYDN Symphony No. 101 in D Major (The Clock)
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
Tamás Vásáry, piano
STRAUSS Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30

May 10, 1976
BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28

May 12, 1976
MENDELSSOHN Selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Alicia de Larrocha, piano
DEBUSSY La mer

May 14, 1976
WAGNER Der fliegende Höllander
The Dutchman Norman Bailey, bass-baritone
Senta Janis Martin, soprano
Daland Martti Talvelabass
Erik René Kollo, tenor
The Steersman Werner Krenntenor
Mary Isola Jonesmezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 8, 1976
MOZART Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K. 546
VERDI Four Sacred Pieces
Jo Ann Pickens, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
David Ward, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 10, 1976
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)

November 12, 1976
RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin
DEBUSSY Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
RAVEL La valse
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

May 9, 1977
HAYDN Symphony No. 103 in E-flat Major
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

May 11, 1977
MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
MAHLER Symphony No. 5

May 13, 1977
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis, Op. 123
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Solti was scheduled to conduct four concerts at Carnegie Hall in October and November 1977; however after suffering a fall in Chicago, he was forced to cancel the first two appearances. The October 31 performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony was conducted by Chorus Director Margaret Hillis, and the November 1 program (identical to the November 2 concert) was led by Associate Conductor Henry Mazer.

November 2, 1977
ROSSINI Overture to The Barber of Seville
STRAVINSKY Jeu de cartes
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Lucia Popp, soprano
STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20

November 4, 1977
TIPPETT Symphony No. 4
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

May 8, 1978
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Alfred Brendel, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

May 9, 1978
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

May 10, 1978
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Alfred Brendel, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

May 12, 1978
BRAHMS Tragic Overture, Op. 81
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 14 & 15, 1979
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major

May 16 & 18, 1979
MUSSORGSKY/Rimsky-Korsakov Prelude to Khovanshchina
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 1, Op. 10
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 (Great)

May 19, 1979
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
Leonore Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Marzelline Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Florestan Peter Hofmann, tenor
Jaquino David Kübler, tenor
Don Pizarro Theo Adam, baritone
Rocco Hans Sotin, bass
Don Fernando Gwynne Howell, bass
Two Prisoners Robert Johnson, tenor and Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

April 28 & 30, 1980
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastorale)
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

April 29, 1980
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (Scottish)
WAGNER “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser
Leontyne Price, soprano
WAGNER Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
Leontyne Price, soprano
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

May 2 & 3, 1980
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Isobel Buchanan, soprano
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

April 27 & 29, 1981
MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major

April 28, 1981
BRUCKNER Symphony No.4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra

May 1 & 2, 1981
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Marguerite Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Faust Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1); Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
Mephistopheles José van Dam, baritone
Brander Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

April 18, 1983
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Wotan Siegmund Nimsgern, bass-baritone
Alberich Hermann Becht, baritone
Fricka Gabriele Schnaut, mezzo-soprano
Loge Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor
Mime Robert Tear, tenor
Erda Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Fafner Malcolm Smith, bass
Fasolt Gwynne Howell, bass
Freia Mary Jane Johnson, soprano
Donner John Cheek, bass-baritone
Froh Dennis Bailey, tenor
Woglinde Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Wellgunde Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Flosshilde Emily Golden, mezzo-soprano

April 19, 1983
MOZART Overture to The Magic Flute, K. 620
BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)

April 29, 1985
VERDI Falstaff
Sir John Falstaff Guillermo Sarabia, baritone
Ford Wolfgang Brendel, baritone
Fenton Yordi Ramiro, tenor
Dr. Caius Heinz Zednik, tenor
Bardolph Francis Egerton, tenor
Pistol Aage Haugland, bass
Mistress Alice Ford Katia Ricciarelli, soprano
Nannetta Kathleen Battle, soprano
Mistress Quickly Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Mistress Meg Page Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

April 30, 1985
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 9, Op. 70
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Unfinished)

May 1, 1985
BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op 56a
LUTOSŁAWSKI Symphony No. 3
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

May 3, 1985
MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor

May 4, 1985
BERG Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
BERG Concerto for Violin
Salvatore Accardo, violin
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

May 18, 1987
MAHLER Symphony No. 9

May 19, 1987
STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

May 20, 1987
HAYDN Symphony No. 103 in E-flat Major (Drumroll)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major

February 10, 1989
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485
SCHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 65

February 11, 1989
BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
BARTÓK Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

April 15 & 18, 1991
TIPPETT Byzantium
Faye Robinson, soprano
MAHLER Symphony No. 5


April 16 & 19, 1991

VERDI Otello
Otello Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Desdemona Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Iago Leo Nucci, baritone
Emilia Elzbieta Ardam, mezzo-soprano
Cassio Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor
Roderigo John Keyes, tenor
Montano Alan Opie, baritone
Lodovico Dimitri Kavrakos, bass
A Herald Richard Cohn, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Terry Edwards, guest chorus master
Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus
Elena Doria, director

____________________________________________________

On January 29, 30, and 31, 1976, Sir Georg Solti conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus’s first performances of Roger Sessions‘s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d. The work had been chosen as part of the CSO’s recognition of the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations.

According to Arrand Parsons’s program note, in Walt Whitman‘s poem, three symbols appear: “the ‘great star,’ representing the assassinated Lincoln; the lilac, which usually is interpreted as human love; the thrush, representing the soul which has as its song the carol of death, a carol Whitman accepts as his own when he says ‘the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.’ Sessions has arranged the score into three continuous parts. The first part sets the mournful mood and presents the symbolic elements: the ‘powerful western fallen star,’ the lilacs, and the song of the thrush. In the second part, the poet describes Lincoln’s funeral train slowly moving from Washington to Springfield, and his burial. The poet describes the land and its people, and a central and high point is the alto solo in which the ‘carol of the bird’ reflects on death. At the end, the symbols are united.”

The composer also contributed to the program note: “My cantata When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d was composed principally between 1967 and 1969; the orchestral score was finished in the autumn of 1970. The work was commissioned by the Committee for Arts and lectures of the University of California at Berkeley, in celebration of the University’s centennial in 1968; but it also represents, for me, the fruition of an idea that had been in my mind for very many years. Even during my adolescent years—the period of the First World War—the poem, written under the spell of one of the most tragic moments of our history, with its moving evocation of the rich American landscape in spring, with its lilacs, its forests, and its thrushes, and of the Civil War, had touched me very deeply; and in 1921 I even made a number of musical sketches for a possible musical setting of it. I was not satisfied with these sketches, however, and concluded that I was not ready at that time to undertake such a work. I never forgot it, however, and when the proposal was made that I write a work involving chorus and possible solo voice, it became clear to me that the time had come for me to write this work. I have to confess that only after having made many preliminary sketches and having become thoroughly involved in the music did I fully realize what its dimensions must be.

“The dedication to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King and of Robert Kennedy was, of course, the result of the fact that their political assassinations occurred while I was working on the second part of the cantata.

“I have used as my text Whitman’s poem in its entirety with only occasional brief cuts, which the musical setting as I conceived it seemed to demand. These cuts are mainly in the third section, though to a lesser extent in the second also. They all occur at moments where verbal elaboration or repetition, though very powerful and very characteristic in the text as such, seemed to me redundant in the context of a musical setting.”

For these performances, soprano Sarah Beatty, mezzo-soprano Josephine Veasey, and baritone Dominic Cossa were the soloists; and the Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. The second half of the program included the first CSO and CSC performances of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. Reviews of the performances are here and here.

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Marin Alsop conducts the CSO in the world premiere of Threnos by Bruno Mantovani, Prokofiev’s haunting Third Piano Concerto - performed by pianist Daniil Trifonov - and Copland’s Third Symphony. Photos by @toddrphoto. As part of a series of events honoring the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice, this concert features works that encourage reflection and inspire hope. Chamber music performances of works from the World War I era by musicians of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago as well as a free lecture featuring Mark Clague, foremost scholar on the Star Spangled Banner preceded the concert.
In a program that reflects on the patriotism and adversity of World War I, tenor Mario Rojas and baritone Christopher Kenney—both from the Ryan Opera Center—and pianist Shannon McGinnis showcase works by Ives, Butterworth, Gurney and more at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. Dr. William Brooks is the guest speaker. Photos by @toddrphoto. This performance is part of a series of public programs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, and is presented with leadership support from @tawanienterprises and @pritzkermilitary. And if you missed it, you can see this program on 10/23 at the @maynestage. #Armistice100
Tonight, the CSO performed Mahler’s monumental Third Symphony conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada. Over 600 students attended our College Night event, and Maestro Orozco-Estrada participated in a Q&A with the CSO Latino Alliance at their pre-concert networking event. Photos by @toddrphoto.

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