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Erica Morini (Ledger photo, Vienna)

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate and remember the remarkable Austrian violinist Erica Morini, who, over the course of nearly forty-five years, was a frequent and favorite soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in recital in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in WGN‘s television studios.

Born in 1904, Morini was a seasoned performer by 1924, when her father purchased a $10,000 Stradivarius violin—made in 1727 and named for the Russian cellist Karl Davydov—for her. It soon became her instrument of choice and prized possession for the remainder of her career. Shortly before her death in October 1995, the instrument—along with artwork, correspondence, and annotated scores—was stolen from her apartment in New York City. The unsolved crime remains one of the FBI’s “Top Ten Art Crimes.”

Morini and her violin are the subject of a new documentary, Stolen: The Unsolved Theft of a $3,000,000 Violin. Several members of the CSOA family were interviewed for the film, including Robert Chen, concertmaster; Kenneth Olsen, assistant principal cello; Hilary Hahn, violinist and CSO Artist-in-Residence; Rachel Barton Pine, Chicago-based violinist; and Frank Villella, director of the Rosenthal Archives. (If you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, please contact

On November 18, 1921, seventeen-year-old Erica Morini made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Vieuxtemps’s First Violin Concerto with second music director Frederick Stock on the podium. “Good violinists, as all concert attendants know, are common enough these days, and most of them are young,” wrote Edward Moore in the Chicago Tribune. “Miss Morini, however, has a few things in her artistic makeup that take her widely out of even their class. It is not once in twenty times that one hears a violinist with the fiery vitality of this young girl. . . . She gave rise to more violinistic fireworks at higher speed and got more of them correct than any one who has been on the stage since the day that Jascha Heifetz took away the breath of the same audience a few years ago.”

One month later, Morini gave her debut recital in Orchestra Hall. In the Chicago Evening Post, Karleton Hackett wrote, “there was no doubt of the remarkable powers as well as the charm of this young artist. The tone was lovely in quality, the technique of extraordinary accuracy, and everything was done with gratifying ease. . . . Miss Morini has something to say with her violin and the power to say it.”

Morini’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, re-released on LP in 1957, featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. (RCA Victor)

Morini later earned the distinction of being not only the first violinist but also the first woman to commercially record as a soloist with the Orchestra. On December 12, 1945, she recorded Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto under the baton of third music director Désiré Defauw in Orchestra Hall. The initial RCA Victor release was as a 78 RPM record, and the subsequent 1957 LP re-release featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. For WGN, Morini was soloist with the Orchestra for a television broadcast recorded on December 10, 1961, performing Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto with George Szell conducting. The video was later released by Video Artists International.

A complete list of Morini’s performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is below.

November 18 and 19, 1921, Orchestra Hall
VIEUXTEMPS Violin Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 10
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 8 and 9, 1922, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
SARASATE Fantasy on Carmen for Violin and Orchestra
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 14 and 15, 1930, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 18 and 19, 1921

December 14, 1937, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 16 and 17, 1937, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Hans Lange, conductor

January 27, 1942, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
Frederick Stock, conductor

July 24, 1945, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Massimo Freccia, conductor

July 28, 1945, Ravinia Festival
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Massimo Freccia, conductor

December 3, 1945, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
December 6 and 7, 1945, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Hans Lange, conductor

December 11, 1945, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Désiré Defauw, conductor

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was initially released as a 78 RPM disc in 1946 by RCA Victor

December 10, 1946, Orchestra Hall
December 16, 1946, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Désiré Defauw, conductor

December 12 and 13, 1946, Orchestra Hall
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Désiré Defauw, conductor

November 22, 1949, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

November 24 and 25, 1949, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

July 3, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965

July 5, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Leonard Rose, cello
George Szell, conductor

December 7 and 8, 1961, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

December 10, 1961, WGN Studios
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

December 18, 1921

Erica Morini also gave three recitals in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

December 18, 1921
Emanuel Balaban, piano

January 14, 1923
Harry Kaufman, piano

April 3, 1949
Leon Pommers, piano

This article also appears here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, who died on Sunday at his home in Krakow following a long illness. He was eighty-six.

Krzysztof Penderecki (Adam Kumiszcza photo)

“The death of Krzysztof Penderecki is a great loss for the music world,” wrote Riccardo Muti today from his home in Ravenna. “In the late 1970s with the Philharmonia Orchestra, I conducted his Symphony no. 1—a piece of extreme modernity—in London and in other European cities. In 2007, I was fortunate to meet him in person in Ravenna while he was conducting the Luigi Cherubini Orchestra in a concert dedicated entirely to his music. Later in 2016, he returned to conduct the ensemble at the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, where he led some of his compositions and Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Penderecki was a great musician—open to the contemporary music world—who was passionate to work with the young generation. He was an extraordinary human being and a person of great kindness. His passing is a great mourning to the music world.”

Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s most recent performances of the composer’s music—The Awakening of Jacob—to open the 127th season of subscription concerts on September 23 and 26, 2017.

In 2000, the composer himself was in Chicago to lead the Orchestra and Chorus in performances of his Seven Gates of Jerusalem, a work commissioned for the 3,000th anniversary of Jerusalem and premiered there in 1997. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote, that the forces required to perform the work “are much larger than in any of Penderecki’s previous works. The symphony calls for five vocal soloists and a speaker, three choruses, a large onstage orchestra (including four percussion groups) and a smaller ensemble of woodwinds and brass stationed at the rear of the hall.” The complete program was as follows:

March 16, 17, and 18, 2000
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D 485
PENDERECKI Seven Gates of Jerusalem
Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor
Bozena Harasimowicz-Haas, soprano
Izabella Klosíinska, soprano
Jadwiga Rappé, alto
Jorma Silvasti, tenor
Romauld Tesarowicz, bass
Alberto Mizrahi, speaker
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

“An air of hammering declamation permeated Seven Gates,” wrote Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The chorus announced its presence with stern, massed song in the work’s opening bars. Several of the movements had a steady, pacing rhythm that moved forward with the implacable force of an invading army. There were a few moments of respite. . . . The fifth movement, the exultant ‘Laude, Ierusalem Dominum (Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem)’ came closest to breaking away from big, somber gestures. Rhythms were more animated, percussion and individual instruments galloped and surged with nervous energy.”

The Orchestra performed music by Penderecki on a number of other occasions, as follows (all performances in Orchestra Hall):

Krzysztof Penderecki (Bruno Fidrych photo)

December 30, 1970; January 1 and 2, 1971
PENDERECKI Polymorphia
Aldo Ceccato, conductor

December 6 and 7, 1973
PENDERECKI Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra
Michael Gielen, conductor
Wanda Wilkomirska, violin

November 21, 22, and 23, 2002
PENDERECKI Symphony No. 4
Lorin Maazel, conductor

March 17, 19, and 22, 2011
PENDERECKI Concerto grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Kenneth Olsen, cello
John Sharp, cello

Numerous tributes have been posted online at the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among several others.

Daniel Barenboim leads the applause following the world premiere of Ran’s Legends for Orchestra on October 7, 1993 (Jim Steere photo)

Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to composer Shulamit Ran!

During her tenure as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s second composer-in-residence from 1990 until 1997, she worked closely with music directors Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim, along with principal guest conductor Pierre Boulez. Born in Tel Aviv, Ran became the second woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her Symphony in 1991.

Works by Ran have been performed by the Orchestra—all in Orchestra Hall—on several occasions, as follows:

October 20, 21, 22, and 25, 1988
RAN Concerto for Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

December 12, 13, 14, and 17, 1991
RAN Chicago Skyline
Pierre Boulez, conductor
World premiere. Commissioned by WFMT in celebration of the radio station’s fortieth anniversary

The world premiere performance of Legends was released on Albany Records in 2007

October 7, 8, and 9, 1993
RAN Legends for Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
World premiere. Commissioned for the centennials of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the University of Chicago by the AT&T Foundation and Meet the Composer Orchestra Residencies Program

October 26, 27, and 28, 1995
RAN Symphony
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

June 3, 4, 5, and 8, 2004
RAN Legends for Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

A staunch advocate for contemporary music, Ran laid the groundwork for the creation of MusicNOW, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new music concerts, and her works have been programmed on the series as follows:

January 24, 2001
RAN Mirage
Cliff Colnot, conductor
Mary Stolper, flute
Larry Combs, clarinet
Baird Dodge, violin
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Amy Dissanayake, piano

Shulamit Ran (Dan Rest photo)

May 8, 2006
RAN Fault Line
Cliff Colnot, conductor
Tony Arnold, soprano
Jennifer Clippert, flute and piccolo
Michael Henoch, oboe
Eric Mandat, clarinet and bass clarinet
Wagner Campos, clarinet and bass clarinet
David Griffin, horn
Christopher Martin, trumpet
Joseph Rodriguez, trombone
Vadim Karpinos, percussion
Michael Kozakis, percussion
Amy Dissanayake, piano
Nathan Cole, violin
Akiko Tarumoto, violin
Yukiko Ogura, viola
Kenneth Olsen, cello
Michael Hovnanian, bass
World premiere. Commissioned for MusicNOW

October 2, 2017
RAN Birkat Haderekh—Blessing for the Road
J. Lawrie Bloom, clarinet
Yuan-Qing Yu, violin
Kenneth Olsen, cello
Winston Choi, piano

Happy, happy birthday!

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to John Corigliano!

The recipient of numerous honors—including a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, the Grawemeyer Award, and multiple Grammy awards—Corigliano served as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first composer-in-residence from 1987 until 1990.

The Orchestra first performed Corigliano’s Concerto for Piano in February 1969, with Sheldon Shkolnik as soloist and acting music director Irwin Hoffman on the podium. Under the baton of Sir Georg Solti, the Orchestra performed the Concerto for Clarinet with Larry Combs, as well as the Tournaments Overture on concerts in Orchestra Hall and during the 1985 tour to Europe, performing the work in Hamburg, Madrid, Paris, and London.

On March 15, 1990, music director designate Daniel Barenboim led the world premiere of Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, jointly commissioned for the Orchestra’s centennial by the Chicago Symphony and the Meet-the-Composer Orchestra Residencies Program.

“During the past decade I have lost many friends and colleagues to the AIDS epidemic, and the cumulative effect of those losses has, naturally, deeply affected me. My First Symphony was generated by feelings of loss, anger, and frustration,” wrote Corigliano in the program note for the premiere. “A few years ago, I was extremely moved when I first saw ‘The Quilt,’ an ambitious interweaving of several thousand fabric panels, each memorializing a person who had died of AIDS, and, most importantly, each designed and constructed by his or her loved ones. This made me want to memorialize in music those I have lost, and reflect on those I am losing.”

The live recording—Barenboim and the Orchestra’s first on the Erato label—featured principal cello John Sharp and, offstage, pianist Stephen Hough. The recording was recognized with two 1991 Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Performance and Best Contemporary Composition. Barenboim programmed the symphony again in 1992, also taking it on tour to Carnegie Hall, Madrid, and London.

Corigliano’s First Symphony also has been performed at the Ravinia Festival under the batons of Christoph Eschenbach in 1996 and Marin Alsop in 2003; Eschenbach also led performances in Orchestra Hall in 1998.

With the Orchestra, Neeme Järvi conducted the Pied Piper Fantasy with Sir James Galway; Eschenbach led The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra with Joshua BellWilliam Eddins conducted Phantasmagoria on The Ghosts of Versailles; and Leonard Slatkin has led Three Hallucinations, Fantasia on an Ostinato, and The Mannheim Rocket.

To celebrate Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday in 1987, associate conductor Kenneth Jean led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Corigliano’s Campane di RavelloWritten while on vacation in Ravello, Italy, the composer remarked, “On Sundays, the multitude of churches in Ravello and the surrounding towns play their bells, each in a different key and rhythm. The cacophony is gorgeous, and uniquely festive. My tribute to Sir Georg attempts to make the sections of the symphony orchestra sound like pealing bells: that tolling, filigreed with birdcalls in the woodwinds, provides the backdrop for a theme that grows more and more familiar as it is clarified. At the end, it is clear and joyous—a tribute to a great man.”

Jean also led the work on the Centennial Gala concert on October 6, 1990, and current music director Riccardo Muti conducted it on September 19, 2015, on the Symphony Ball concert launching the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 125th season.

Corigliano and Stephanie Jeong at the Harris Theater on October 2, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

MusicNOW, the Orchestra’s contemporary music series, kicked off its twentieth season on October 2, 2017, at the Harris Theater with a concert celebrating past composers-in-residence. Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek honored their predecessors by programming works by Anna Clyne, Osvaldo Golijov, and Mark-Anthony Turnage, along with—in attendance—Mason Bates, Shulamit Ran, Augusta Read Thomas, and Corigliano.

CSO violins Yuan-Qing Yu and Hermine Gagné, viola Danny Lai, and cello Kenneth Olsen performed Corigliano’s A Black November Turkey (in the composer’s string quartet arrangement), and violin Stephenie Jeong soloed in the Red Violin Caprices. The Chicago Classical Review’s Lawrence A. Johnson observed, “Jeong delivered a powerful tour de force performance, sensitively serving the pages of introspective melancholy and throwing off Corigliano’s artful retake on nineteenth-century Paganini-esque fiddle fireworks with blazing virtuosity and panache. It was wonderful to see the veteran composer join the CSO’s young associate concertmaster for a double curtain call.”

And next season, in January 2019, Thomas Hampson will perform the song “One Sweet Morning” from Corigliano’s song cycle One Sweet Morning, commissioned to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Bramwell Tovey will conduct.

Happy, happy birthday!

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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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