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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.”

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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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In January 1986, Chicago Bears fever invaded Orchestra Hall.

DOWNS Bear Down, Chicago Bears

According to Norman Pellegrini (longtime WFMT program director as well as producer and host of CSO radio broadcasts): “At the end of a Tchaikovsky–Liszt orchestral concert with Sir Georg Solti conducting [on January 23] . . . applause kept the maestro returning to center stage. Suddenly, members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus—wearing Bears sweatshirts—streamed onstage, and Solti led the Orchestra and Chorus in a rousing rendition of the Bears’ fight song, “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” [written by Al Hoffman under the pseudonym Jerry Downs in 1941]. The audience joined in singing, and in the two repeats of the concert, the same thing happened with even more ‘performers’ onstage. Backstage people, Chicago Symphony Orchestra staff, and others—including Lady Valerie Solti—crowded in to sing along.”

On January 26, 1986, the Bears beat the New England Patriots Super Bowl XX, 46–10.

Solti and the Orchestra recorded the fight song—along with The Star-Spangled Banner (also with the Chorus) and John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever—for London Records on January 27. It was released a few months later on a tremendously popular album in conjunction with the annual Marathon fundraiser. A live version from January 23 also was released on Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration in the spring of 1998, in conjunction with the annual Radiothon fundraiser.

This article previously appeared here and also appears here.

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first roster

October 1934

On October 1, 1934, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mrs. Frederic W. Upham presided “this afternoon at the meeting of the Woman’s Campaign Committee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. . . . One hundred invitations were issued asking the presidents and music chairmen of clubs in the vicinity of Chicago to attend today’s meeting.”

Later that month, following the first concerts of the forty-fourth season, The Orchestral Association expressed “its appreciation to the Woman’s Campaign Committee for its organized efforts in the sale of season tickets. It is believed that through the efforts of this committee in stimulating public response to the concerts, a great work is being done in furthering the interests of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The committee reports it has had cooperation from clubs and other organizations in and about Chicago. The Association gratefully acknowledges this evidence of goodwill and confidently anticipates still greater results from this cooperation.”

This spirit of giving has continued ever since, as this group of extraordinary volunteers—later called The Women’s Association and currently the League of the CSOA—continues to play a vital role in the daily life of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. Countless hours are dedicated annually to produce numerous programs including educational activities directed toward all age levels, youth auditions, an annual luncheon for musicians, participation in Symphony Ball and Corporate Night, social events, and fundraising efforts.

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Mrs. Frederic W. Upham and Georg Solti, December 17, 1970

On December 17, 1970, the Women’s Association hosted a reception commemorating the eightieth anniversary of the incorporation of The Orchestral Association, which had taken place at the Chicago Club on December 16, 1890. The guests of honor included Georg and Valerie Solti, along with ninety-five-year-old Mrs. Upham, who had occupied the same Friday seats virtually since Orchestra Hall opened its doors in December 1904.

This article also appears here.

Solti archive detail 1

Harvard University‘s Loeb Music Librarythe relatively new home of Sir Georg Solti‘s collection of scores—has just launched a fantastic new website: Music, First and Last: Scores from the Sir Georg Solti Archive.

From the site: “The Sir Georg Solti Archive in the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University, a gift of the Solti family, includes hundreds of conducting scores heavily marked and annotated by Solti, representing an extensive body of work of significance to scholars and musicians across the globe. Accumulated over the course of a career that spanned more than six decades, these scores illustrate how Solti’s interpretations developed, how he solved musical problems, and how he adapted performances to suit a particular context. Many of the scores in this exhibit illustrate stages in the evolution of his interpretations; even in the recording studio he employed different color pencils when reviewing progressive ‘takes.’ The breadth of this collection, encompassing music from the 18th century to commissions from contemporary composers, indicates the extraordinary scope and variety of Solti’s musical interests. The achievements of his illustrious career secure his legacy as one of the foremost musicians of the 20th century. Throughout this exhibit, pages from scores in the Sir Georg Solti Archive are paired with audio clips demonstrating Solti’s interpretive choices.”

Solti archive detail 2

One example is David Del Tredici’s Final Alice, which had its world premiere in Chicago in October 1976. From the site: “In the composer’s words, ‘Final Alice unfolds a series of elaborate arias interspersed and separated by dramatic episodes from the last two chapters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: the Trial in Wonderland (which gradually turns to pandemonium) and Alice’s awakening to “dull reality.” To these I have added an Apotheosis. The work teeters between the worlds of opera and symphonic music, and were I to invent a category I would call Final Alice an “Opera, written in concert form”‘ (notes to recording, Decca 442 9955). Shown here is the beginning of the ‘Acrostic Song,’ the work’s concluding section, in which ‘those members of the orchestra whose mouths are not otherwise employed’ whisper the letters which spell out the name ‘ALICE PLEASANCE LIDDELL.'”

The site also includes several videotaped interviews with Lady Valerie Solti and Robert Dennis (curator and recordings collections librarian at Harvard) on a variety of topics, including this discussion of Béla Bartók.

Congratulations to our colleagues at Harvard!

CSO cookbook

During the 1982-83 season, members of the Orchestra and their families, along with the Orchestral Association administrative staff, formed an organization called CODA, the Family Organization of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Their first project was a compilation of recipes organized into a cookbook and sold as a premium for the annual Marathon fundraiser that season.

Hundreds of recipes were collected from musicians and staff, including the one below for turkey dressing provided by Teresa Ameling—secretary to general manager John Edwards and still recording secretary for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association—and her husband Bill. (The cookbook also contains Margaret Hillis’s festive sweet potato pudding.)

Stay tuned for Lady Valerie Solti’s Yorkshire pudding as well as Lee and Susan Lane’s fruitcake recipes . . .

Ameling turkey dressing recipe

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In addition to his incredibly vast discography, Sir Georg Solti has left behind a distinct legacy, dedicated not only to the next generations of musicians but also to music lovers.

Headquartered in Belgium, The Solti Foundation provides support to young instrumentalists and composers from all over the world, preparing to embark on international careers. On the foundation’s website, Lady Valerie Solti provides this mission: “Following his death my daughters and I established the Solti Foundation as a memorial to his life by continuing the help he gave. Graduating from a music school is a critical time—financial support comes to an end as well as pastoral care. The Solti Foundation’s aim is to assist this transition period. The small grants are not intended to replace awards and bursaries from larger institutions, they are to be used for projects such as coaching, travel to competitions and auditions, short periods of study, the hire of rehearsal facilities. A team of volunteers also provides pastoral care and career advice.”

The mission of The Solti Foundation U.S., also founded shortly after Sir Georg’s death, is “to assist talented young American musicians at the start of their professional careers. It has made annual grants to awardees since 2003. Since 2004 it has focused on helping exceptional young conductors.” Lady Solti reiterated: “Sir Georg Solti believed in a guardian angel that guided his life and he was grateful to the agents of that angel—the people who helped him at difficult times. The Solti Foundation believes that music is essential—especially during these troubled times—to healing and connecting individuals and global lives. Therefore, we are committed to realizing Sir Georg’s passion for excellence in music and extending help to further the early careers of those with exceptional talent.”

According to their website, the Georg Solti Accademia “aims to educate highly talented young singers and repetiteurs from all over the world in the art of Italian opera and song. The Accademia offers masterclasses of the highest standards in musicianship, language and dramatic interpretation, providing students with the vital bridge between the end of formal training and professional life. . . . [The] annual Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Canto takes place in the Tuscan seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia where Solti spent his summers. The course brings together the greatest living interpreters and teachers with outstanding student singers and repetiteurs. Each summer twelve young singers receive scholarships to come to Castiglione for three weeks of intensive training in Italian music, culture and language. The Accademia has already established itself as one of the leading Italian opera courses in the world, and in 2008 added a two-week programme for repetiteurs.”

Sponsored primarily by the Alte Oper, the Frankfurt Opera House and Museum’s Orchestra, and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, the International Sir Georg Solti Conductors’ Competition seeks to discover and identify new talents. The mission statement on their website includes: “Numerous competitions are being organised for instrumentalists, ensembles, and even for composers; conductors rarely have the chance to match with their competitors. This made it an urgent need to create a forum where young talents can present themselves and receive competent assessment of the standard they have reached. The competition’s superior rank can also be found in its name: Sir Georg Solti, who led the Frankfurt Opera during 1952-1961, referred to this decade as ‘ten happy and fruitful years.’ But how is one to select? What paths does one follow in one’s search? And how does one best present one’s findings to orchestra and public alike? These considerations make the conductors’ competition more than just a qualifying contest; it also offers an opportunity for all involved to usefully gather and exchange experiences.”

The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprenticeship, hosted by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, invites young conductors to “apply for a two-year conducting apprenticeship. The winning candidate, chosen by an international jury chaired by Maestro Riccardo Muti, will have unique access to the CSO’s music director and to key guest conductors of the CSO. Both Riccardo Muti and his predecessor Sir Georg Solti (CSO music director 1969–91) followed the same traditional path to their conducting careers through their work in the opera house. Maestro Muti remains passionate about the importance of a conductor’s ability to rehearse with an artist at the piano. . . . As the CSO’s Conducting Fellow, the winning candidate will have invaluable access to observe and study with preeminent musical leaders. The apprenticeship offers the opportunity, over two consecutive seasons, to spend at least four weeks a year in Chicago studying with CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti, Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez, and other guest conductors of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.”

Founded in 1995 by Sir Georg Solti to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations and to reaffirm, in his words, “the unique strength of music as an ambassador for peace,” the World Orchestra for Peace “draws its players come from orchestras all over the world, many of them concert masters and section leaders in their own right, and the orchestra has no existence outside the very special occasions that call it into being. The orchestra is also unique in practical terms. There’s the logistical challenge of assembling everyone. The eminent players must put aside issues of status: their seating positions rotate, and the section leaders vary from work to work. Even tuning can be tricky since orchestras play at different pitches across the world. Its members do not draw a salary from it, yet return time after time to bear witness to the spirit which animates it.”

“Solti only conducted the first concert in Geneva on July 5, 1995. But this key element of his legacy has been kept alive and administered by Director and General Manager Charles Kaye, Solti’s former executive assistant, who invited Valery Gergiev to take over the baton as its conductor. In the seventeen years since—culminating in the Centenary Concert at Orchestra Hall in Chicago on Solti’s 100th birthday (October 21, 2012)—the World Orchestra for Peace has given twenty concerts in fourteen countries, with the participation of 388 players representing over seventy-five orchestras from more than sixty countries of the world.”*

And finally, in addition to the bust of Solti that resides in Grant Park, there is a small legacy here in Chicago that many of my colleagues and I walk by nearly every day. At the corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street and the corner of Adams and Wabash Avenue, there are honorary street signs—identifying Honorary Sir Georg Solti Place—that were dedicated on October 24, 1997. The signs serve as a small reminder to us of the musician who contributed so much to our Chicago community.

*The second paragraph of the section regarding the World Orchestra for Peace—provided by a representative from the ensemble—was added on January 24, 2013.

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In 1967, Viking Press published John Culshaw‘s book, Ring Resounding, a detailed account of the first complete studio recording of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Solti was the conductor for those recordings, made in Vienna between 1958 and 1965 with an all-star cast of singers and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Rand McNally & Company published a coffee table book in 1974 with text by Chicago Tribune music critic Thomas Willis and photographs by Robert M. Lightfoot III. The book was titled simply The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and included images of rehearsals, performances, and recording sessions in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in tour venues.

Also in 1974, MacMillan published William Barry Furlong‘s Season with Solti. Intended to give a backstage view of how the Chicago Symphony Orchestra operated during a single season, the book included first-hand accounts from numerous members of the Orchestra.

Paul Robinson’s Solti was published in 1979 by Lester and Orpen Limited. It was the third in their Art of the Conductor series, following books on Herbert von Karajan and Leopold Stokowski, also by Robinson.

And, of course, there’s Sir Georg Solti’s Memoirs with assistance from Harvey Sachs. (My well-worn copy is pictured to the right.) It was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1997. The afterword—by Valerie, Gabrielle, and Claudia Solti, to whom Solti had dedicated the book—says it all: “Our beloved Gyrui and Papa died, unexpectedly, in the South of France on Friday, September 5, 1997. Only hours before, he had completed the final corrections to this book. We hope it will give an insight into the most rare and wonderful of human beings, who enriched and blessed our lives beyond any words. No family could have had a more loving, generous, and wise husband and father.”

the vault

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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