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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.

Enlist: On Which Side of the Window are
You?,
Laura Brey, U.S., 1917

The recruitment poster at right, from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library collections, shows a civilian man looking out a window as soldiers march to service.

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Boston Globe, March 26, 1918

For a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance in Providence on October 30, 1917, several Rhode Island ladies’ clubs had contacted orchestra manager Charles Ellis, requesting the addition of The Star-Spangled Banner to the concert. After consulting with BSO founder Henry Higginson, Ellis decided not to change the program. Unaware of the request, music director Karl Muck—born in Germany but naturalized as a Swiss citizen—after the concert was accused in the press of working for the German cause and eventually arrested on March 25, 1918. He also was imprisoned at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia until August 1919, when he and his wife were deported. The article is here.

Ernst and Lina Kunwald, December 8, 1917 (National Archives and Records Administration)

Music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra since 1912, Ernst Kunwald continued to express pride in his Austrian heritage during the war. He led The Star-Spangled Banner before one concert but only after expressing to the orchestra and the mostly German audience that his sympathies were with his homeland. Kunwald was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service on December 8, 1917, and released the following day, whereupon he resigned his post as conductor. One month later, he was interned under the Alien Enemies Act at Fort Oglethorpe and was deported soon thereafter.

Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock

At the invitation of founder and first music director Theodore Thomas, Frederick Stock came to the U.S. in 1895 to join the Orchestra as assistant principal viola. He applied for his first U.S. citizenship papers four days after his arrival, but inadvertently neglected to complete the process. He was promoted to assistant conductor in 1899, and shortly after Thomas’s unexpected death on January 4, 1905, the board of trustees soon elected Frederick Stock as the Orchestra’s second music director on April 11.

Columbia Graphophone Company 1917 recording

Stock’s arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner

In 1916, on the eve of U.S. involvement in the war, President Woodrow Wilson ordered The Star-Spangled Banner to be played at military and other notable events. Stock made his own orchestration of the Banner along with America (My Country ’Tis of Thee) and recorded both with the Orchestra for the Columbia Graphophone Company on May 28, 1917.

Stock’s fingerprints (FBI Case Files, National Archives)

When the trustees encouraged Stock to finalize his citizenship—to deflect concerns over his German heritage—he discovered that his 1895 application was invalid and needed to start the process a second time. But first, Stock had to submit a Registration Affidavit of Alien Enemy, complete with fingerprints, on February 7, 1918.

With his citizenship status incomplete and the country at war, on August 17, 1918, Frederick Stock made the decision to resign, asserting his loyalty to the U.S. “I do not hesitate to classify myself as American, because all who know me are aware that at heart, in thought and in spirit, as well as in action and deed, I am American, just as willing as any patriot to give my last drop of blood and my last penny for the land of my adoption and of my affections.” Stock’s handwritten letter and a transcript are here.

The trustees of the Orchestral Association reluctantly accepted Stock’s resignation on October 1, 1918. Acknowledging that he had changed the language at rehearsals to English in 1914 and had programmed countless works by American composers, the board expressed its hope that the separation would be temporary, and it would soon be their “joy to welcome to our conductor’s stand Citizen Stock.” The transcript of the board meeting minutes is here.

Eric DeLamarter

Chicago composer Eric DeLamarter, was hired as assistant conductor and led the first concerts of the 1918-19 season. DeLamarter also served as organist at Fourth Presbyterian Church from 1914 and as the first conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival beginning in 1935.

Chicago Daily News, February 20, 1919

At the trustees’ meeting on February 14, 1919, Orchestra manager Frederick Wessels reported that Stock “had complied with all the requirements of the law,” having filed the necessary papers on February 7; ninety days later, his citizenship would be complete. The executive committee met five days later and unanimously resolved that Stock should resume his music directorship the following week.

February 28, 1919

On February 28, 1919, “as Mr. Stock came through the door . . . cheers sounded in the upper tiers, and the audience rose to utter its gladness that he was back at the post.” That evening’s program began with The Star-Spangled Banner and concluded with the world premiere of Stock’s new March and Hymn to Democracy, “conceived,” according to the composer, “in the spirit of our day, a spirit, indeed, of world-wide turbulence and strife, but also a spirit imbued with unending hope and implicit faith in the ultimate regeneration of humanity.”

Linda Wolfe at the Frederick Stock School

Linda Wolfe, Stock’s great-granddaughter, added: “Most of Frederick Stock’s adult life had been with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—ten years as a violist and thirteen as music director—when he was classified as an alien enemy. He was forced to temporarily step down from the podium, and I cannot imagine his anguish and heartache. However, Stock’s devotion to the ensemble and the city did not waver during this dark time, as he spent his exile developing plans for the Civic Orchestra, the series of children’s concerts, and the youth auditions, all endeavors that continue to thrive today.”

Wolfe is pictured here at the Frederick Stock School in Chicago’s Edison Park neighborhood. Opened in 1955, Stock School is a Chicago Public School early childhood center for students between the ages of three and five, providing a model program for children with and without disabilities.

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A Time for Reflection—A Message of Peace—a companion exhibit curated by the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library—will be on display in Symphony Center’s first-floor rotunda from October 2 through November 18, and the content also will be presented on CSO Sounds & Stories and the From the Archives blog.

This article also appears here. For event listings, please visit cso.org/armistice.

This exhibit is presented with the generous support of COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Founder and Chair, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, through the Pritzker Military Foundation.

Additional thanks to Shawn Sheehy and Jenna Harmon, along with the Arts Club of Chicago, Newberry Library, Poetry Foundation, and Ravinia Festival Association.

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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