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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the death of Karel Husa, the eminent Czech-born composer and conductor. He was 95.

Composer, soloist, and conductor backstage, following the premiere.

Husa, Herseth, and Solti backstage following the world premiere of the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra on February 11, 1988 (Jim Steere photo)

Husa was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1969 for his String Quartet no. 3, and he was awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1993 for his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra.

The Orchestra first performed Husa’s Music for Prague 1968 under Sergiu Comissiona in April 1973 and again in December 1986 under Erich Leinsdorf.

To celebrate Adolph Herseth‘s fortieth season as principal trumpet, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra commissioned Husa to write the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. Under the baton of eighth music director Sir Georg Solti, Herseth was soloist in the world premiere at Orchestra Hall on February 11, 1988. The Orchestra also performed the work multiple times during the first tour to Australia later that same year (details of the tour are here and here).

Adolph "Bud" Herseth and Sir Georg rehearse Husa's Trumpet Concerto in Perth

Herseth and Solti rehearsing Husa’s concerto in Perth in March 1988 (Jim Steere photo)

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Australia 1988 logo

Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first trip to Australia in March 1988, sharing podium duties with Michael Tilson Thomas. The thirteen-concert tour included stops in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney.

Following the performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on the second concert of the tour, Peter Wombwell in the Perth Sunday Times described the performance “at the fingertips of one of the world’s greatest conductors, Sir Georg Solti, with, arguably, the finest of all orchestras, the Chicago Symphony. . . . In every section the commitment was ineffable and thus, while it is difficult to single out any particular players, one cannot but refer to the beauty of violin tone of the co-concertmaster Samuel Magad, the viola of Charles Pikler, and the oboe of Ray Still. . . .The growing quiet and calm of the finale was handled by Sir Georg with unfailing control so that this glorious memorial to a composer who enriched the turn-of-the-century music touched the hearts of all who were privileged to hear such an exceptional performance.”

Solti and the Orchestra onstage in Perth (Jim Steere photo)

Solti and the Orchestra onstage at the Perth Concert Hall (Jim Steere photo)

Several of the concerts included performances of Karel Husa’s Trumpet Concerto, which had received its world premiere in Chicago on February 11, just prior to the tour. Principal trumpet Adolph Herseth was soloist. The concerto was made possible by an endowment fund established by the family of Edward F. Schmidt in his memory, and it was dedicated to Herseth, Solti, and the Orchestra.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

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To honor Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gave a gala concert of the highest order on October 9, 1987.

Governor James R. Thompson opened the concert with welcoming remarks, and after the intermission, Mayor Harold Washington presented Sir Georg with the City of Chicago’s Medal of Merit. The concert program was as follows:

CORIGLIANO Campane di Ravello (world premiere)
Kenneth Jean, conductor

J. STRAUSS Overture to Die Fledermaus
Plácido Domingo, conductor

MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Sir Georg Solti, conductor and piano
Murray Perahia, piano

STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa perform a scene from Verdi’s Otello (Jim Steere photo)

VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
David Huneryager, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

The commemorative program contained letters and testimonials from numerous public officials, conductors, musicians, and industry professionals, including: Ronald Reagan, James R. Thompson, Harold Washington, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Carlo Maria Giulini, Rafael Kubelík, John Corigliano, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rudolf Serkin, Henry Fogel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christa Ludwig, Birgit Nilsson, Witold Lutosławski, Sir Charles Mackerras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Klaus Tennstedt, David Del Tredici, Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Slatkin, Werner Klemperer, José van Dam, Elliott Carter, Karel Husa, Isaac Stern, Morton Gould, Hans Werner Henze, Itzhak Perlman, Anja Silja, Erich Leinsdorf, Josef Suk, Plácido Domingo, Michael Tippett, Kiri Te Kanawa, Murray Perahia, Leontyne Price, András Schiff, Kenneth Jean, Andrzej Panufnik, Dame Janet Baker, Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Minton, Herbert Blomstedt, Mira Zakai, Margaret Hillis, Gunther Herbig, Ray Minshull, Ann Murray, Philip Langridge, Raymond Leppard, Vladimir Ashkenazy, George Rochberg, Gwynne Howell, Ardis Krainik, Michael Morgan, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Henry Mancini, and Barbara Hendricks.

Solti and Perahia as soloists in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (Jim Steere photo)

The concert was covered widely in the press, in the Chicago Tribune (here, here, and here) and Sun-Times (here and here), as well as Time, Newsweek, the Post-Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many others.

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Speaking of Karel Husa‘s Trumpet Concerto . . . .

On February 11, 1988, Sir Georg Solti led the world premiere of Husa’s Trumpet Concerto. Adolph “Bud” Herseth—celebrating his fortieth season as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal trumpet—was the soloist. The work was commissioned for the CSO, Herseth, and Solti, as part of a then-ongoing series of major compositions made possible by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Foundation Endowment Fund.

According to Phillip Huscher‘s program note: “Characteristically, Husa works within the framework of tradition. His orchestra in this concerto is virtually the classical symphony orchestra—pairs of winds, trumpets, and horns, with strings, timpani, harp, and an expanded percussion section. Significant is both the absence of the lower brass and the presence, in a trumpet concerto, of the two orchestral trumpets as well—and Husa makes magical use of them near then end.”

The composer was interviewed for feature articles in the CSO’s program book and the Chicago Tribune, in which he described his goal: “The main idea was to write a piece in which the solo trumpet would sound both virtuosic and, in the slow movement, sensitive and lyrical. I tried to explore all facets of trumpet playing, including a fiendish cadenza at the end. Mr. Herseth made several suggestions while I was writing the piece, advice I was pleased to accept from a musician as experienced as he.” Herseth was also the subject of a feature article in the Tribune. 

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Robert Marsh raved: “[Husa’s] concerto is fresh, completely ingenious, and precisely the sort of piece to present Herseth, Solti, and the CSO at the top of their form. It was written to be accessible and enjoyable, and there is no question that it meets these requirements fully without being anything less than a serious exploration of the instrument.”

And in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote: “one must respect Husa’s canny craftsmanship, expertly judged scoring, and idiomatic writing for the soloist. The concerto is a worthwhile addition to the slim literature of 20th-century trumpet concertos; many a trumpet player will wish to add to his repertory. Few, however, are likely to play it more vividly or with more golden tone than Herseth. He was remarkable.” The complete reviews are here and here.

Composer, soloist, and conductor backstage, following the premiere.

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