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by Linda Wolfe

Frederick Stock (George Nelidoff photo)

My parents were Frederick and Lorraine Wolfe. My father was the eldest of two sons of Vera and Alfred Wolfe, my grandparents. Vera was the only daughter of Frederick and Elisabeth Stock, my great-grandparents.

I have often been asked if I heard a lot of Frederick Stock stories growing up in Colorado, but unfortunately not. Stock was a formal photo on the wall with intensely piercing eyes. After my father died on March 13, 1989, I found a bundle of photographs and a packet of letters from Stock to my grandmother, his daughter Vera. The letters were full of cartoon characters and love. I was intrigued and wondered if Chicago knew that side of Stock.

A short time later, I was listening to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic on the radio. Henry Fogel, then executive director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was in town hosting their radiothon fundraiser. I reached out to him, and he said the CSO was preparing for its centennial season (1990–91), and they had been searching for my grandmother to invite her to Chicago for the festivities. I let him know that, unfortunately, she had died in January 1975. So, instead, Henry invited me to attend several events to celebrate the conclusion of the CSO’s centennial.

I traveled to Chicago for the first time with my oldest son, and we had the privilege of representing the Stock family. It was a whirlwind of activities, from attending the gala dinner with Theodore Thomas’s grandson and his wife, seeing three CSO music directors—Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti, and Rafael Kubelik—conducting on the same concert, having lunch with Lady Solti, attending the rededication of the Spirit of Music statue (the Theodore Thomas memorial, at the corner of Balbo and Michigan), seeing Stock’s full-size painting in the stairwell that leads up to the ballroom, and standing on the stage to see Orchestra Hall as Stock saw it. I was practically speechless.

Elisabeth and Frederick Stock in May 1896 (Linda Wolfe collection)

I discovered that a biography about Stock had not been written, so I began a project to gather as much information as I could. The Glessner journals were an incredible source of information, as Stock wrote hundreds of letters to them. While Stock was music director, he and his wife Elisabeth were guests at the Glessner home on an almost weekly basis, joining them for holidays and special events. Frederick and Elisabeth also often spent time at the Glessner farm, The Rocks, in New Hampshire.

It has been a wonderful experience doing research and I am honored to present another side of Stock, his family story.

Frederick Wilhelm August Stock was born on November 11, 1872, in Jülich, Germany, a small fortress town about thirty miles west of Cologne. He was the second son of Frederick Wilhelm Carl Stock, a Kapellmeister in the Prussian Army and Maria Lein. Frederick’s mother died on June 9, 1874, apparently never recovering from complications during his birth. His father remarried in 1887 to Johanna Maria Louise Bister and they had three more children—Maria, Louise, and Wilhelm.

In 1887, at the age of fourteen, Frederick won a scholarship to the Cologne Conservatory. His teachers included conductor Franz Wüllner and composer Englebert Humperdink, and one of his fellow students was Wilhelm Mengleberg, the famous Dutch conductor. While a student, he also became a member of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.

In 1895, Theodore Thomas—the CSO’s founding music director—was in Germany, and twenty-two-year-old Frederick auditioned for him in Cologne, playing Bruch’s First Violin Concerto. Thomas told Stock if he made his way to America, he would have a position in the Chicago Orchestra. On September 22, 1895, Stock sailed from Hamburg to New York on the ship Prussia, and on that same voyage was Elisabeth Musculus, who would become his wife in May 1896. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Stock was given the position of assistant principal viola.

Vera and Elisabeth Stock (Linda Wolfe collection)

In Chicago on May 8, 1902, Frederick and Elisabeth welcomed a daughter, Vera Fredericka Stock. She would be their only child.

According to ocean liner passenger lists, Frederick returned to Europe at least twenty-five times. He met with the musical leaders of the European scene, reviewed new scores, and visited family. Most often Elisabeth accompanied him on his travels, and Vera also joined them several times.

In late September 1912, Frederick traveled on the Lusitania from Liverpool to New York. In a letter to the Glessners, he wrote “This is the finest boat I ever travelled on, very comfortable indeed. A trip on a boat like this spoils one for anything else, because it is the most delightful thing imaginable.”  And in a letter dated September 15, 1920, “One of the novelties I brought from London is called The Planets composed by Gustav (von) Holst . . . Don’t be afraid of all those novelties. I shall stick them into the programs at places where you won’t find them, but they will be there just the same.”

On April 8, 1924, in what was described as the “social event of the year,” Vera married Alfred Morris Wolfe, and Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue was filled to capacity. Soprano Claire Dux, a frequent CSO soloist, sang Stock’s “A Love Letter” with Eric DeLamarter at the organ. The reception was held nearby at the Drake Hotel.

On January 18, 1928, Frederick and Elisabeth’s first grandson, Frederick Stock Wolfe (my father), was born. On June 28, 1929, their second grandchild was born, Alfred “Murph” Morris Wolfe, Jr.

In 1927, the Stocks started building a vacation home in Door County, Wisconsin, overlooking Sister Bay. It was designed by Chicago architect, William Bernhard, who the Stocks undoubtedly met at the Glessner home. This beloved home was a welcome retreat from life in Chicago where the Stock family would spend summers and holidays.

The CSO’s 1942-43 season began with Stock’s usual robustness and enthusiasm, but on October 20, he died suddenly of a heart attack at home at 1325 North Astor Street. During the intermission of the New York Philharmonic’s broadcast on November, 1, Deems Taylor spoke the following: “Let us not again let men like this go, without telling them that we love them. They would appreciate our love. We use many words on Hitler and like creatures, but never the least word to men who have made us better human beings, who have given us a bulwark against cruelty, bigotry, and stupidity. We have all, all good and bewildered people, died a little with Mr. Stock.”

Plaque in Jülich, Germany, dedicated in June 1994

Vera’s husband Alfred Wolfe was originally from Colorado Springs, and after Frederick’s death, they moved Elisabeth and the grandchildren to Colorado. Elisabeth died on August 15, 1951, and Vera and Murph brought her ashes to Chicago. She was interred in the crypt with her beloved husband in the mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery.

In June 1994, Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were on tour in Europe, and several musicians traveled to Jülich to attend a plaque unveiling at the Citadel, commemorating Stock’s birth. The mayor of Julich and I unveiled the plaque, which read:

In memory of the conductor and composer
Friedrich Wilhelm August Stock
November 11, 1872 (Jülich) – October 20, 1942 (Chicago)
The son of a Prussian military band master stationed in the citadel, he studied at the Cologne Conservatory (1891) and then joined the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne as a violinist.
In 1895 he was hired as a violist at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 1905 he became music director and, over the next 37 years, led the CSO to international fame.
The City of Jülich

Linda Wolfe is the great-granddaughter of Frederick Stock.

This article also appears here.

Sir Georg Solti (Yousuf Karsh photo)

As the summer of 1997 drew to a close, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association was putting the finishing touches on Symphony Center, culminating a three-year, $120 million project. To celebrate the renovation of Orchestra Hall and facilities expansion, a three-week festival was planned that included gala concerts and the first Day of Music, twenty-four hours of free, live performances across all genres in multiple Symphony Center venues.

One of the gala concerts was scheduled for Saturday, October 25, with Music Director Laureate Sir Georg Solti leading the Orchestra in an all-Beethoven program: the Seventh Symphony and the Emperor Piano Concerto with Music Director Daniel Barenboim as soloist. The concert would celebrate not only Solti’s 85th birthday (October 21, 1997) but also his 1,000th concert with the Orchestra. In November, he was scheduled to return for two weeks of subscription concerts, leading Ives’s Decoration Day, Schumann’s Symphony no. 3, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 3, along with a full program of choruses from Wagner’s operas with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, to be recorded live by London.

Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, the world had been rocked with the news of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on Sunday, August 31. Barely a week later on the morning of September 5 (the day before Diana’s funeral), news outlets reported the death of Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India. And late that same evening, we heard the unthinkable. While on holiday with his family in Antibes, France, Sir Georg Solti had taken ill and died peacefully in his sleep.

Michigan Avenue entrance of Orchestra Hall on September 6, 1997 (Marilyn Arado photo)

“I had just returned hours earlier from Europe, where I was working with Daniel Barenboim on Solti’s 85th birthday celebration concert,” remembered Martha Gilmer, former vice president for artistic planning. After confirming with Charles Kaye, Solti’s longtime assistant, she called Barenboim in Bayreuth, waking him to relay the news.

“I was stunned,” recalled Henry Fogel, then president of the CSO Association. The following morning, senior staff met to determine how to proceed with the plans for the festival, among several other issues. As some of them approached the entrance, “We were very touched because when we came to Orchestra Hall, one person had left a bouquet of flowers at the Michigan Avenue entrance.”

Daniel Barenboim leads Mozart’s Requiem on October 22, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

The festival would continue mostly as planned. The Symphony Center inaugural gala opened with Barenboim leading Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, performed in Solti’s memory. A special, free memorial concert was added on October 22 with Barenboim leading Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, followed by Mozart’s Requiem with Emily Magee, Anna Larsson, John Aler, René Pape, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Duain Wolfe.

Richard L. Thomas receives one of Solti’s batons from Lady Valerie Solti on October 25, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

The program for the celebration concert on October 25 changed slightly, and Barenboim led Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto from the keyboard along with the Seventh Symphony. At the beginning of the concert, Lady Valerie Solti presented Richard L. Thomas (chairman of the CSO Association from 1986 until 1991) with one of Solti’s batons.

A special commemorative program book for the memorial and celebration concerts was prepared, and it included tributes from President Bill Clinton, Illinois governor Jim Edgar, and Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, along with Solti’s colleagues from all over the world, members of the Orchestra, and administrative staff. (The program book is available here.)

The block of Adams Street between Michigan and Wabash avenues was named honorary Sir Georg Solti Place on October 24, 1997. The following spring (just before the beginning of the fifteenth European tour with concerts in Paris and Berlin), a small contingent of Orchestra family traveled to Budapest for a ceremony on March 28, 1998, in which Solti’s ashes were interred next to the grave of his teacher, Béla Bartók. During the ceremony, Charles Pikler, then–principal viola, performed Ravel’s Kaddish.

Fogel continued, “One thought that I did keep having was how sad it was that Maestro Solti would never see the renovated hall, with which I believe he would have been thrilled.”

“Solti, so vibrant, such energy, such magnetism, such a life force,” added Gilmer. “It was impossible to believe that it ended so quietly and in a place so far away. . . . He was a young 84-year-old and what occurred to all of us is that we had all been robbed of wonderful musical memories that were yet to be made.”

This article also appears here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family remembers one of its iconic musicians, Milton Preves (1909–2000), in honor of the anniversary of his birth on June 18.

Milton Preves in 1934, the year he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (George Nelidoff)

Born in Cleveland, Preves moved to Chicago as a teenager and attended Senn High School. He was a student of Leon Sametini at Chicago Musical College, Richard Czerwonky at the Bush Conservatory of Music, and Albert Noelte and Ramon Girvin at the Institute of Music and Allied Arts before attending the University of Chicago.

Preves joined the Little Symphony of Chicago in 1930, regularly worked in radio orchestras, and was invited by Mischa Mischakoff (then CSO concertmaster) to join the Mischakoff String Quartet in 1932. Two years later, second music director Frederick Stock appointed Preves to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s viola section, promoting him to assistant principal in 1936 and principal in 1939. He would remain in that post for the next forty-seven years, serving under a total of seven music directors, including Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti.

Preves performed as a soloist with the Orchestra on dozens of occasions, including the world premieres of David Van Vactor’s Viola Concerto and Ernest Bloch’s Suite hébraïque for Viola and Orchestra, both dedicated to him. Under Reiner, he recorded Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote—along with cellist Antonio Janigro and concertmaster John Weicher—with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for RCA in 1959.

Louis Sudler (Orchestral Association chairman emeritus), Lady Valerie and Sir Georg Solti, and Milton and Rebecca Preves celebrate Preves’s fiftieth anniversary as a member of the CSO in October 1984 (Terry’s Photography)

A lifelong educator, Preves served on the faculties of Roosevelt, Northwestern, and DePaul universities, and he also always taught privately out of his home. An avid conductor, he held titled posts with the North Side Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, Oak Park–River Forest Symphony, Wheaton Summer Symphony, Gary Symphony, and the Gold Coast Chamber Orchestra. As a chamber musician, he performed with the Budapest, Fine Arts, Gordon, and Chicago Symphony string quartets, as well as the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players.

As reported in his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, “It was while directing the Oak Park–River Forest group that he gained an unusual measure of national attention. He briefly became an icon of the fledgling civil rights movement in 1963, when he resigned from the community orchestra because it would not allow a Black violinist he had invited to perform with the group.” (More information can be found here.)

Preves died at the age of ninety on June 11, 2000, following a long illness. Shortly thereafter, his family began donating materials to the Rosenthal Archives, establishing his collection of correspondence, contracts, photographs, scrapbooks, programs, and recordings. Most recently, his children donated additional photographs, mostly portraits of music directors and guest conductors, all autographed and dedicated to Preves. A sample of that collection is below.

In October 1984, on the occasion of Milton Preves’s fiftieth anniversary with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, fellow viola Isadore Zverow (1909–1999) composed this poem to honor his colleague:

It’s no mean feat, without retreat
To hold the forte so long,
To stroke and pluck in cold and heat—
All to produce a song.

Toward music bent, with single intent,
Unyielding dedication,
You of yourself so gladly lent
Your valued perspiration.

You sat and played and marked and bowed
And sometimes e’en reproached
And sometimes we squirmed (just a bit)
We didn’t wanna be coached.

And yet whene’er the chips were down
Throughout these fifty anna,
Your steadfast presence was a crown
Aiming at Nirvana.

This article also appears here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the Solti family in mourning the loss of Lady Valerie Solti. She died yesterday, March 31, 2021, at home in London. She was eighty-three.

Lady Solti in 2004

Born in Leeds, England on August 19, 1937, Valerie Pitts studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She was an actress before going to work for television in the 1960s, first at Granada, and later at the BBC, presenting and producing many programs. As a freelance broadcaster and writer, she later contributed to BBC Radio 3, BBC Music Magazine, Classic FM, Classic FM Magazine, LBC in the United Kingdom, and WFMT and WTTW in the United States.

In 1964, she was an arts journalist for the BBC magazine program Town and Around when she met Georg Solti, then music director at London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden. They married on November 11, 1967.

In 1969, Georg Solti became the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director. His twenty-two-year tenure was marked by the Orchestra’s first tour to Europe in 1971, dozens of award-winning recordings, and numerous trips to Carnegie Hall. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in March 1972. Following the centennial season, Solti became music director laureate in 1991, continuing his association with the Orchestra during several weeks each year in concerts and recordings until his death on September 5, 1997.

Lady Solti also was a frequent presence onstage, performing as narrator for children’s concerts, as well as hosting the centennial gala concert on October 6, 1990, along with the Orchestra Hall centennial concert on December 14, 2004.

Together with her daughters, Valerie Solti created The Solti Foundation to assist young professional musicians at the start of their careers, and she was founder and chairperson of the Georg Solti Accademia and patron of the World Orchestra for Peace. She was an honorary trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and honorary chair of the Solti Foundation US.

Lady Solti is survived by her daughters Gabrielle (Frederic Dupas) and Claudia (Gary Ross) and grandchildren George, Amelie, Luna, and Mo. Details for services are pending.

Theodore Thomas, ca. 1900 (A.W. Elson and Co., Boston photo)

Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director Theodore Thomas on the occasion of his 185th birthday!

“Theodore Thomas, the German-born conductor and visionary, was a giant in the musical life of nineteenth-century America. Through his carefully planned programs, he hoped to educate the public and encourage the rapidly growing immigrant population to appreciate classical music. His finest achievement, however, was the founding of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the building of its permanent home, Orchestra Hall.

“The more I learned about Thomas, the more I admired this man of tireless energy and enthusiasm who had elevated the orchestral musician from little more than a hired servant to a respected citizen. He was often criticized by those who could not understand his pursuit for excellence or his refusal to compromise. His legacy is a rich one, and as nineteenth-century America’s premiere conductor and builder of orchestras, he deserves to be remembered well and with gratitude.”

—culled from Lady Valerie Solti‘s foreword to Theodore Thomas: America’s Conductor and Builder of Orchestras by Ezra Schabas, 1989.

Happy, happy birthday!

Sir Peter Jonas (Wilfried Hösl photo for English National Opera)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Sir Peter Jonas, the legendary British arts administrator and opera company director, who died yesterday in Munich following a long illness. He was seventy-three. Jonas was personal assistant to Sir Georg Solti from 1974 until 1977, and he served as the first artistic administrator of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1978 until 1985.

“Peter Jonas led a Helden life,” commented Lady Valerie Solti from her home in London. “He was a very special, amazing, and highly talented man—very disciplined, very dedicated, highly intellectual, and quick witted—as was shown by his incredible career. Peter was a legend and a luminary in the world of international opera, and no one had a more thorough knowledge of the repertoire and who should be performing it. There was an extraordinary brilliance about him, as an administrator and as a human being, and despite his health challenges, Peter kept going, never complained, and never gave up.”

Born in England on October 14, 1946, Jonas received his education at Worth School in Sussex, University of Paris, University of Sussex, the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the Royal College of Music in London, and the Eastman School of Music. From 1966 until 1968 he worked with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and in 1974 he was associated with the Chautauqua Opera before becoming personal assistant to Solti later that same year.

In October 1977, John Edwards, general manager of The Orchestral Association, announced that Jonas had been appointed artistic administrator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, effective January 1, 1978. According to a press release, “The position for which there is precedent among a number of symphony organizations in the United States and Europe is a new one for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra . . . [and Jonas] will assist the general manager and music director in programming, selection of artists, and other details of the subscription and non-subscription concerts of the orchestra in Chicago [including] arrangements for recordings and TV and for future American and overseas tour programs.”

Lucia Popp and Peter Jonas in the 1970s (Clive Barda photo)

Jonas served in this capacity until May 1985, when he became managing director of the English National Opera, succeeding Lord Harewood. From 1993 until 2006, he was intendant of the Bavarian State Opera, and he also was a patron to The Solti Foundation.

According to Martha Gilmer, who succeeded Jonas in Chicago, “Peter was, to use Berlioz’s words, a ‘firebrand.’ . . . Peter was my mentor and friend. His incredible programming vision, and his connection with the great artists all over the world enhanced the years that he was at the CSO, and of course continued with his leadership of the English National Opera and the Bavarian State Opera. His close relationship with Claudio Abbado resulted in amazing performances of Berg’s Wozzeck in a semi-staged version that I will never forget. He was responsible for bringing Carlos Kleiber to Chicago twice in amazing performances. In addition to symphonic repertoire, the Orchestra regularly performed concert opera including Solti’s performances of Verdi’s Falstaff, which also went to Carnegie Hall, and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron.

“Peter battled cancer for all of his life. The first time I met him he shook my hand and in a characteristically Peter way said, ‘Nice to meet you, but I’m not going to be in this world for much longer.’ That was in 1977. I worked for him from 1979 until he left to run the English National Opera in 1985. He was a force of nature, loving the fight on behalf of the sustenance and the triumph of the arts. He embraced life and hiked Europe from North to South and East to West. His years in Chicago were pivotal to the Orchestra’s history, including his work with Daniel Barenboim (who would succeed Solti as music director), as well as Erich Leinsdorf, Klaus Tennstedt, and many others.” (Gilmer served the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association for thirty-five years, first as an intern in 1976 and ultimately as vice president of artistic planning and audience development. Currently, she is chief executive officer of the San Diego Symphony.)

“I know I’m speaking with Solti’s voice when I say that we were enormously proud and blessed to have known Peter and to have had his presence in our lives,” continued Lady Solti. “Another bright, brilliant light has gone out, but the memory of that light remains.”

Numerous tributes have been posted at The New York Times, The Guardian, Operawire, and Der Spiegel, among many others.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the death of preeminent record producer James Mallinson. For London/Decca, he produced nearly two hundred recordings, including many with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under eighth music director Sir Georg Solti.

James Mallinson discusses with Sir Georg Solti during playbacks for Mahler’s Third Symphony in November 1982.

Mallinson also was instrumental in the launch of CSO Resound, producing most of the Orchestra’s early releases led by principal conductor Bernard Haitink, including Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony; Mahler’s First, Second, Third, and Sixth symphonies, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe and Poulenc’s Gloria; and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and Webern’s Im Sommerwind.

With Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Mallinson produced a number of legendary recordings for London Records, including Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra; Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust; Brahms’s symphonies and A German Requiem; Bruckner’s Fourth and Fifth symphonies; Del Tredici’s Final Alice; Mahler’s First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Ninth symphonies; Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron; Tippett’s Fourth Symphony; and Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces; among others.

With Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestra, Mallinson also produced several recordings for Erato Records, including Corigliano’s Symphony no. 1, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and tone poems by Richard Strauss (Don Juan, Don Quixote, Ein Heldenleben, and Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks).

In 1980, Mallinson became the recipient of the first Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Classical, and he won a total of sixteen awards in a variety of categories, including Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording. Mallinson’s most recent Grammy win was for producing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Haitink’s recording of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony, which won for Best Orchestral Performance.

Lady Solti shared her thoughts. “I was so very sad to hear of James’ passing. What a fantastic amount of iconic recordings he masterminded that were such a very important part of not only the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s legacy but also Solti’s own personal catalog. I especially remember him working so hard to get the breathing right in Tippett’s extraordinary Fourth Symphony and the balances in Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, and the wonderful Brahms symphonies. James was a man of great skill and diplomacy, always so calm and self-effacing, one of the great unsung heroes.”

Retired WFMT engineering producer and Rosenthal Archives preservation engineer Mitchell G. Heller remembered his longtime colleague and friend. “I was privileged to know and work with James Mallinson for over four decades. He was a sensitive and skilled recording artist. His work with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra especially captured and preserved the unique quality of the orchestra in every album he produced. He will be missed.”

Sir Georg Solti (Yousuf Karsh photo)

As the summer of 1997 drew to a close, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association was putting the finishing touches on Symphony Center, culminating a three-year, $120 million project. To celebrate the renovation of Orchestra Hall and facilities expansion, a three-week festival was planned that included gala concerts and the first Day of Music, twenty-four hours of free, live performances across all genres in multiple Symphony Center venues.

One of the gala concerts was scheduled for Saturday, October 25, with music director laureate Sir Georg Solti leading the Orchestra in an all-Beethoven program: the Seventh Symphony and the Emperor Piano Concerto with music director Daniel Barenboim as soloist. The concert would celebrate not only Solti’s 85th birthday (October 21, 1997) but also his 1,000th concert with the Orchestra. In November, he was scheduled to return for two weeks of subscription concerts, leading Ives’s Decoration Day, Schumann’s Symphony no. 3, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 3, along with a full program of choruses from Wagner’s operas with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, to be recorded live by London.

Over the Labor Day holiday, the world had been rocked with the news of the tragic death of Princess Diana on Sunday, August 31. The day before her funeral on September 5, news outlets began to report the death of Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India. And late that same evening, we heard the unthinkable. While on holiday with his family in Antibes, France, Sir Georg Solti had taken ill and died peacefully in his sleep.

Michigan Avenue entrance of Orchestra Hall on September 6, 1997 (Marilyn Arado photo)

“I had just returned hours earlier from Europe, where I was working with Daniel Barenboim on Solti’s 85th birthday celebration concert,” remembered Martha Gilmer, former vice president for artistic planning. After confirming with Charles Kaye, Solti’s longtime assistant, she called Barenboim in Bayreuth, waking him to relay the news.

“I was stunned,” recalled Henry Fogel, then president of the CSO Association. The following morning, senior staff held a meeting to determine how to proceed with the plans for the festival, among several other issues. As some of them approached the entrance, “We were very touched because when we came to Orchestra Hall, one person had left a bouquet of flowers at the Michigan Avenue entrance.”

Daniel Barenboim leads Mozart’s Requiem on October 22, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

The festival would continue mostly as planned. The Symphony Center inaugural gala opened with Barenboim leading a performance of Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, performed in Solti’s memory. A special, free memorial concert was added on October 22 with Barenboim leading Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, followed by Mozart’s Requiem with Emily Magee, Anna Larsson, John Aler, René Pape, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Duain Wolfe.

Richard L. Thomas receives one of Solti’s batons from Lady Valerie Solti on October 25, 1997 (Jim Steere photo)

The program for the celebration concert on October 25 changed slightly, and Barenboim led Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto from the keyboard along with the Seventh Symphony. At the beginning of the concert, Lady Valerie Solti presented Richard L. Thomas (chairman of the CSO Association from 1986 until 1991) with one of Solti’s batons.

A special commemorative program book for the memorial and celebration concerts was prepared, and it included tributes from President Bill Clinton, Illinois governor Jim Edgar, and Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, along with Solti’s colleagues from all over the world, members of the Orchestra, and administrative staff. The program book is available here.

The block of Adams Street between Michigan and Wabash avenues was named honorary Sir Georg Solti Place on October 24, 1997. The following spring (just before the beginning of the fifteenth European tour with concerts in Paris and Berlin), a small contingent of Orchestra family traveled to Budapest for a ceremony on March 28, 1998, in which Solti’s ashes were interred next to the grave of his teacher, Béla Bartók. During the ceremony, principal viola Charles Pikler performed Ravel’s Kaddish.

Fogel continued, “One thought that I did keep having was how sad it was that Maestro Solti would never see the renovated hall, with which I believe he would have been thrilled.”

“Solti, so vibrant, such energy, such magnetism, such a life force,” added Gilmer. “It was impossible to believe that it ended so quietly and in a place so far away. . . . He was a young 84-year-old and what occurred to all of us is that we had all been robbed of wonderful musical memories that were yet to be made.”

Decca Classics is releasing a 108-CD set of Sir Georg Solti’s entire catalog with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the United States on September 15, 2017. It can be pre-ordered here.

During Sir Georg Solti‘s tenure as eighth music director (1969–1991) and music director laureate (1991–1997), he and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus amassed an astonishing discography. Decca Classics—to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Solti’s death—is releasing a set of these complete recordings in a 108-CD boxed set.

“Recording with the Chicago Symphony was the fulfillment of Solti’s dreams and ambitions, to be able to record for posterity the ephemeral quality and emotions of a performance by this world-class ensemble,” writes Lady Valerie Solti in the accompanying book. “The orchestra were enthusiasts, hard workers, and brilliant musicians who were as eager as Solti to make first-class records and to create for the future a lasting document, a legacy of their wonderful relationship, a collaboration which won worldwide acclaim and unparalleled Grammy awards.” The 180-page hardcover book also includes articles by mezzo-soprano Yvonne Minton; producer and author Humphrey Burton; Martha Gilmer, who served as the Orchestra’s vice president for artistic planning during the latter half of Solti’s tenure; and CSO archivist Frank Villella; along with previously unpublished images from recording sessions.

The range of repertoire is vast: complete cycles of symphonies by Beethoven (twice, see here and here), Brahms, Bruckner, and Mahler (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here); Beethoven’s piano concertos; world premieres of Del Tredici’s Final Alice and Tippett’s Symphony no. 4 and Byzantium; complete operas including Beethoven’s FidelioSchoenberg’s Moses und AronVerdi’s Otelloand Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The set also includes hallmarks of the choral repertoire, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by directors Margaret Hillis and Duain Wolfe) performing Bach’s Mass in B minor and Saint Matthew PassionBeethoven’s Missa solemnisBerlioz’s The Damnation of FaustBrahms’s A German Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s The Creation (twice) and The Seasons, Shostakovich’s Babi Yar Symphony, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, and Verdi’s Requiem, plus many more works by these composers along with Bartók, Berg, Debussy, Dohnányi, Dvořák, Kodály, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Weiner.

Solti leads the Orchestra in a recording session for Mahler’s Symphony no. 3 in November 1982 in Orchestra Hall (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Solti wrote in his Memoirs, “My term as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was the happiest time in my professional life . . . the fulfillment of my dreams, but at the same time, it was a new learning experience for me, a master class in musical directorship.” This set is a testament to that remarkable partnership.

The set releases in the United States on September 15, 2017, and is available here.

Retired violists gather at the October 19, 1996, CSO Alumni Association reunion: William Schoen (1964–1996), Milton Preves (1934–1939, principal 1939–1986), Phillip Kauffman, Isadore Zverow, and Donald Evans (1948–1988)

Retired violists gather at the October 19, 1996, CSO Alumni Association reunion: William Schoen (1964–1996), Milton Preves (1934–1939, principal 1939–1986), Phillip Kauffman, Isadore Zverow, and Donald Evans (1948–1988) (Jim Steere photo)

Virtually every Chicago Symphony Orchestra musician studied with a great teacher, who studied with great teachers before that—a process that traces back to Bernstein, Brahms, and Bach. Along with our beloved Italian maestro, Riccardo Muti, the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association are a living link to past generations of legendary performers, conductors, and composers, and our artist musicians hail from many different countries who share a common musical heritage.

Lady Valerie Solti is greeted by CSOAA president Tom Hall at the Cliff Dwellers on October 16, 2009

Lady Valerie Solti is greeted by CSOAA president Tom Hall at the Cliff Dwellers on October 16, 2009 (Dan Rest photo)

As we conclude the celebrations surrounding the Orchestra’s festive 125th season, the CSOAA also celebrates an anniversary this year—its twenty-fifth. The CSOAA consists of nearly 130 members—including retired and former musicians, spouses, and children—an astonishing aggregate total of well over a thousand years of service to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! In 1991, Isadore Zverow (viola, 1945–1988) fostered the idea of the CSOAA, and subsequent presidents have included Sam Denov (percussion, 1954–1985), Phillip Kauffman (violin and viola, 1927–1930 and 1964–1984), Jerry Sabransky (violin, 1949–1997), and currently Tom Hall (violin, 1970–2006).

Victor Aitay (assistant/associate concertmaster 1954–1967, concertmaster 1967–1986, concertmaster emeritus 1986–2003) and his daughter Ava along with Donald Peck (flute 1957–1958, principal 1958–1999) and Edward Druzinsky (seated, principal harp 1957–1997) at the Cliff Dwellers on October 16, 2009

Victor Aitay (assistant/associate concertmaster 1954–1967, concertmaster 1967–1986, concertmaster emeritus 1986–2003) and his daughter Ava along with Donald Peck (flute 1957–1958, principal 1958–1999) and Edward Druzinsky (seated, principal harp 1957–1997) at the Cliff Dwellers on October 16, 2009 (Dan Rest photo)

Having performed for many years together on stages all over the world, alumni continue to interact with each other through the CSOAA; and each season, members receive discounts to concerts and the Symphony Store. The organization enjoys the warm embrace of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, which holds its former musicians close as senior members of the Orchestra’s family. Current CSOA President Jeff Alexander has been most gracious in supporting the retirees, some of whom are well into their nineties. The CSOAA board of directors meets several times a year to plan annual reunion dinners, which are usually held at the historic Cliff Dwellers club. Members also have contributed to the CSOA’s Rosenthal Archives—a treasure trove of history, recordings, music scores, artifacts, and databases of former orchestra members—lovingly curated and managed by our liaison, director Frank Villella.

Arnold (principal tuba 1944–1988) and Gizella Jacobs in Orchestra Hall’s Grainger Ballroom on October 19, 1996

Arnold (principal tuba 1944–1988) and Gizella Jacobs in Orchestra Hall’s Grainger Ballroom on October 19, 1996 (Jim Steere photo)

So the next time you stroll through Symphony Center’s first-floor arcade, try to imagine the many great musicians of earlier generations behind each portrait—beautifully taken by photographer Todd Rosenberg—of the superb musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This article also appears in the September/October CSO program book.

Donald Moline was a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra cello section from 1967 until 2006, and he currently serves as secretary of the CSOAA.

Edgar (violin 1956–2003) and Nancy Muenzer, Jacques Israelievitch (assistant concertmaster 1972–1978), and Samuel (violin 1958–1966, assistant concertmaster 1966–1972, concertmaster 1972–2007) and Miriam Magad in The Club at Symphony Center on June 3, 2011

Edgar (violin 1956–2003) and Nancy Muenzer, Jacques Israelievitch (assistant concertmaster 1972–1978), and Samuel (violin 1958–1966, assistant concertmaster 1966–1972, concertmaster 1972–2007) and Miriam Magad in The Club at Symphony Center on June 3, 2011 (Dan Rest photo)

Adolph Herseth (principal trumpet 1948–2001, principal trumpet emeritus 2001–2004) and Norman Schweikert (horn 1971–1997) on April 11, 2008, at the Cliff Dwellers

Adolph Herseth (principal trumpet 1948–2001, principal trumpet emeritus 2001–2004) and Norman Schweikert (horn 1971–1997) on April 11, 2008, at the Cliff Dwellers (Dan Rest photo)

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Theodore Thomas

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