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Willard Elliot in the early 1990s (Jim Steere photo)

For more than thirty years, Willard Elliot (1926-2000) was the foundation of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s wind section. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he studied piano and clarinet before switching to the bassoon at the age of fourteen, even though he wanted to play the instrument much sooner. According to his widow, Patricia, “He was waiting until he was big enough to play the bassoon.” Elliot earned a bachelor’s degree from North Texas State University, and, at the age of nineteen, he completed a master’s degree in composition from the Eastman School of Music. He spent three years with the Houston Symphony and eleven years as principal bassoon with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, in addition to performing with the Fourth Army Band at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. In 1964, Elliot was hired by seventh music director Jean Martinon as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal bassoon.

As a composer, Elliot was co-winner of the 1961 Koussevitzky Foundation Award for his Elegy for Orchestra. Under Seiji Ozawa, he was soloist with the CSO in the world premiere of his Concerto for Bassoon, first performed at the Ravinia Festival on June 27, 1965; and Richard Graef was soloist in The Snake Charmer (Concerto for Alto Flute and Orchestra), first performed on Youth Concerts on January 7, 1976, under the baton of then–associate conductor Henry Mazer. Elliot also composed two symphonies; arrangements of works by Glinka, Granados, Grieg, Mozart, Ravel, Scriabin, and Weber; along with numerous chamber works for a variety of instrument combinations.

During his thirty-three-year tenure, Elliot performed as a soloist under Claudio Abbado, Lawrence Foster, Carlo Maria Giulini, Morton Gould, Antonio Janigro, Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti. On March 19, 1966, he was a soloist—along with his colleagues Clark Brody, Dale Clevenger, Jay Friedman, Adolph Herseth, Donald Koss, Donald Peck, and Ray Still—in recording sessions for Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra for RCA under Martinon’s baton. On February 4, 1984, Elliot recorded Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto with Abbado conducting for Deutsche Grammophon.


As an educator, Elliot taught at the University of North Texas and DePaul and Northwestern universities, and he also coached the Civic Orchestra of Chicago‘s bassoon section. Following his retirement from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1996, Elliot and his wife moved to Fort Worth to teach music at Texas Christian University and give master classes around the country. They also continued their work with Bruyere Music Publishers (founded in 1986), preparing his compositions and arrangements for publication.

“When I joined the CSO in 1992, Willard was nearing the end of a long performing career. I was very aware of being a different generation from Willard, but he was very collegial from the first time we worked together,” commented William Buchman, assistant principal bassoon. “He encouraged me to play with real gusto and engagement. It made me feel like my contributions to the Orchestra’s sound were important.”

“Willard Elliot was a fascinating man and wonderful musician,” according to John Bruce Yeh, assistant principal clarinet. He was “a true renaissance musician: arranger, composer, educator, as well as orchestral bassoonist par excellence.” Elliot and Yeh were both founding members of the Chicago Symphony Winds, and together they toured and recorded Elliot’s transcription of Grieg’s Four Lyric Pieces as well as Mozart’s Serenade in E-flat major, K. 375, both for the Sheffield Lab label.

Willard Elliot in 1970 (Zeloof-Stuart Photography)

“In 1979, I formed Chicago Pro Musica,” Yeh continued, and “Willard and I were pleased to explore a wide range of chamber music with our CSO colleagues and guests.” In 1983, the ensemble recorded Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale along with Elliot’s arrangement of Scriabin’s Waltz in A-flat major for their debut on Reference Recordings. “Willard loved the music of Scriabin and the composer’s exotic harmonies. Those of us in the CSO woodwind section to this day fondly remember some of the inspired little signature harmonic touches Willard would inject into standard repertoire, a small alteration that only those close by would be able to hear during a rehearsal, for example. He would always liven things up that way.” The ensemble won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best New Classical Artist.

“Willard was always an upbeat man with a smile on his face,” remembered Michael Henoch, assistant principal oboe. “He was, of course, a marvelous musician, a consummate master of the bassoon, but he had many other interests including geology, gardening, and researching his family’s genealogy. . . . He had a huge presence in the CSO woodwind section, and I was honored to perform with him. Over the years, I also played many chamber music concerts with him in the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players, Chicago Pro Musica, and the Chicago Chamber Musicians.  We played many of his own compositions and arrangements, all crafted with a high degree of professionalism.”

“I remember being aware that Willard was always so well-prepared and enthusiastic. He had played just about every piece at least once before, and he had a photographic memory of all of his previous performances,” added Buchman. “He also was remarkably organized with his reeds. He had a journal in which he kept notes about every reed he made and used, including what pieces he had used each reed for. . . . He adjusted well to retirement, though, and he kindly bestowed upon me a couple of large boxes of reed cane he had been storing for decades. I still have some of it today!”

Willard Elliot’s Two Sketches for Woodwind Quintet—performed by Jennifer Gunn, Michael Henoch, John Bruce Yeh, William Buchman, and Oto Carrillo—can be heard on CSO Sessions Episode 19, available on CSOtv from May 6 until June 4, 2021.

Elliot also can be heard as part of the continuo in the January 1990 London recording of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, under the baton of Sir Georg Solti and featured on the May 11, 2021, From the CSO’s Archives: The First 130 Years radio broadcast.

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 3, 1976, Orchestra Hall
BACH Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068*
RAVEL Alborada del gracioso
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat Major, K. 456
Judith Burganger, piano
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 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 8, 1976, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee
RAVEL Alborada del gracioso
STRAVINSKY Symphony in Three Movements
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (Scottish)

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!

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Theodore Thomas

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