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Program book for the August 22, 1942, performance at the Ravinia Festival

Program book cover for the August 22, 1942, performance at the Ravinia Festival

As Phillip Huscher includes in his program note, “Shostakovich composed most of his seventh symphony in Leningrad, his birthplace, during the siege of the city that ultimately took nearly a million lives—roughly one-third of its inhabitants—as a result of hunger, cold, and air raids.”

Less than a year later at the height of one of the worst periods of World War II, the symphony was given its world premiere in Kuibyshev (now Samara) on March 5, 1942, with Samuil Samosud conducting the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. Later that month on March 29, it was performed in Moscow with members of the Bolshoi orchestra and the All-Union Radio Orchestra. The now legendary premiere in Leningrad took place on August 9 under the baton of Karl Eliasberg.

In the United Kingdom, Sir Henry Wood led the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a broadcast performance on June 22 followed by a concert performance at the Royal Albert Hall on June 29. The United States broadcast premiere was given on July 19 in New York, with Arturo Toscanini leading the NBC Symphony Orchestra (the now-famous Time magazine cover story anticipated the broadcast). Serge Koussevitzky conducted the student orchestra of the Berkshire Music Centre in the first U.S. concert performance on August 14.

Dmitri Shostakovich's program book biography

Shostakovich’s August 22 program book biography

And on August 22, 1942, less than six months after the world premiere, Frederick Stock led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony—“which has aroused more interest than any other symphonic work in decades”—in a special concert for the benefit of Russian war relief at the Ravinia Festival. A complete copy of the program book is here.

According to Edward Barry‘s account in the Chicago Tribune, “All that we had heard in advance about the new work, even in the broadcast of July 19, failed to prepare us adequately for the full impact of it. Its scale is huge, and this does refer to its length (over an hour and a quarter) alone. It calls for a mammoth orchestra (99 players crowded the Ravinia stage last night). . . . These huge forces Shostakovich deploys with a boldness and a vigor and a boiling passion that are often electrifying. . . . To our generation the symphony’s faults are comparatively unimportant because of the smoking passion with which it treats of the events which are so strongly affecting our lives and enlisting our emotions. ‘My music is a weapon,’ says Shostakovich boldly, thus confounding those who would criticize the work because of a too close connection with immediate political and military events.”

Barry concludes, “Last night’s performance was an extraordinarily fine one, especially when one realizes that Dr. Stock had to master the bewildering score on short notice and communicate his findings to the orchestra in two rehearsals [for the New York premiere, Toscanini had six rehearsals].” The complete review is here.

Frederick Stock's program book biography for the August 22, 1942, concert

Stock’s August 22 program book biography

Stock was determined to perform the work again—and soon—so he added it to the programming for the upcoming season at Orchestra Hall on October 27, 29, and 30. According to Cecil Smith, “No symphony in modern times—and perhaps no symphony in musical history—has ever been prepared for by such a barrage of publicity.”

Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra opened the fifty-second season with subscription concerts on October 15 and 16 and a Popular concert on October 17, 1942. On Monday October 19 it was business as usual and Stock was in Orchestra Hall’s offices, “talking over plans for the season with Henry E. Voegeli, business manager of the orchestra and his coworker for forty-three seasons.” But tragically, Stock died of a heart attack the following day and, according to Claudia Cassidy, “The bottom dropped out of Chicago’s music life . . .”

Associate conductor Hans Lange immediately assumed conducting duties, leading the majority of concerts for the remainder of the 1942-43 season, including the three performances of Shostakovich’s Seventh in Chicago and one in Milwaukee. The program was as follows (and the program note for the Leningrad Symphony is here):

October 27, 29 & 30, 1942 (Orchestra Hall)
November 15, 1942 (Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee)
SMITH/Stock The Star-Spangled Banner
BRAHMS Tragic Overture, Op. 81
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 7

(On October 27, Stock’s orchestration for strings of the Andante from Bach’s Sonata for Violin no. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003 was performed in memory of the Orchestra’s second music director, following The Star-Spangled Banner, also in his arrangement.)

After the October 27 concert, Cassidy wrote, “That Hans Lange and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave a calm and competent performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony at Orchestra Hall yesterday is undeniably, almost immeasurably, to their credit. Mr. Lange had less than a week—and a tragic week—to prepare the huge and sprawling score. . . . What counts in the score, and what should count in performance, is its blazing expression of the sound and fury of our own times, when invasion, death, defiance, and ultimate triumph are facts we understand and, a least vicariously, share.” The complete review is here.

And following the performance on October 29, Smith commented, “Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, perhaps the most successful musical best seller since Ravel’s Boléro, was repeated in magnificent style last evening. . . . [the composer] is very good at beginning musical ideas, extremely clumsy at continuing them, and virtually unable to stop them.”

Smith ended his review with, “Well, the symphony goes on the shelf for a while, after this afternoon’s repetition and a performance in Milwaukee on Nov. 15. I wonder what it will sound like after the war?”

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In a recent, beautifully crafted article in The Guardian, Ed Vulliamy wrote, “Solti’s shattering Mahler Ninth at the Royal Festival Hall with the Chicago orchestra in 1981 left anyone who heard it dazed with wonderment.”

Sir Georg Solti first led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall in April 1981 and then later that year during a European tour, culminating on September 19, 1981, with that performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He and the Orchestra next performed it on a musicians’ pension fund concert on April 28, 1982, and recorded it the following week in Orchestra Hall.

Richard Osborne’s review in Gramophone magazine, disagreeing somewhat with Vulliamy, noted: “When Solti conducted Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in London in the autumn of 1981 the critic of The Financial Times observed: ‘Solti obviously knew how this music should go but not why.’ Such a reading would be an evident act of self-parody, for it is to this very theme—the modern world’s nightmarish preoccupation with sensation, spiralling, self-referring and impossible to assuage—that Mahler so fearlessly addresses himself in the symphony’s third movement, the Rondo Burleske. It’s clear, though, from the present recording, made in Orchestra Hall, Chicago in May 1982, that Solti’s sense of the music is a good deal more rooted than it appeared to be amid the unsettling razzmatazz of an end-of-tour London performance.

“The new performance has a measure of repose about it as well as much splendour. The second movement is robust and resilient as Mahler directs. There is defiance and obstinacy in the third movement, an awful power which illuminates the music rather than the orchestra’s known expertise.” (Osborne’s review goes on to favor Herbert von Karajan‘s 1980 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic (on Deutsche Grammophon), perhaps because he was already working on his excellent biography of the conductor.)

James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock was the engineer for London Records. The recording won the 1983 Grammy Awards for Best Orchestral Recording, Best Engineered Recording—Classical, and Best Classical Album from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus dominated that year at the Grammy Awards, also winning for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) for Haydn’s The Creation. Solti also won for Best Opera Recording for Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

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In addition to his twenty-two-year tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1969-1991), Sir Georg Solti held a number of notable posts with other orchestras and opera companies.

At the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 1952, leading Wagner’s Das Rheingold

His first official post was with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, where he served as music director from 1946 until 1952. Subsequently, he was also Generalmusikdirektor and Impresario for the Frankfurt Opera from 1952 until 1961.

Shortly after his guest conducting debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1959, he was invited by Dorothy Chandler—then the chairman of the Philharmonic’s board—to become their music director beginning the following year. He accepted.

Also in 1959, following the tremendous success in a production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, he was invited to become music director by their chairman, the Earl of Drogheda.

In Solti’s words: “To his great surprise, I explained to him that although I was honored by the offer, I did not want the job, and that my refusal had nothing to do with the salary. I had accepted the directorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic because I felt that I had spent enough time as an opera conductor and wanted to concentrate on symphonic music, and privately, I was not certain that I would be able to do justice to both Los Angeles and London if I accepted both jobs.”

While in Los Angeles for concerts in January 1960, Solti met with Bruno Walter who insisted he take the offer from Covent Garden. Solti took Walter’s advice and telegrammed his acceptance to David Webster (general manager of the Royal Opera House). They agreed that his residence would start in the fall of 1961, one year after the beginning of his tenure in Los Angeles.

At the same time, twenty-three-year-old Zubin Mehta had been invited to be an assistant conductor in Los Angeles. For the 1961-62 season, Fritz Reiner had been engaged to guest conduct the Philharmonic, but after his heart attack in October 1960, he canceled all engagements. According to Solti: “Without consulting me, Mrs. Chandler decided that Reiner’s concerts should be given to Mehta. In June 1960, while I was in London on Covent Garden business, I received a telegram from Mrs. Chandler, saying, ‘With your kind permission I have engaged Zubin Mehta as chief guest conductor of the Philharmonic.’ I was horrified. I had nothing at all against Mehta, who was an outstandingly talented young conductor, but the fact that the chairman of my new orchestra’s board had engaged a chief guest conductor without asking my opinion was intolerable. . . . I cabled back to say that under these conditions, I was unable to honor my contract in Los Angeles.”

Receiving applause with members of the Frankfurt Opera on tour in Paris in 1959, following a performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro

Solti went on to serve as music director at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden from 1961 until 1971. He also served as music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the 1961-62 season.

During Solti’s one season in Dallas, he was approached by two members of the CSO’s Orchestral Association, Eric Oldberg (chairman of the board) and Seymour Raven (general manager). Fritz Reiner had announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 1962-63 season and they were searching for a possible replacement. Solti was concerned about not being able to honor his commitment to Covent Garden and wasn’t able to accept an offer.

In 1967, new general manager John Edwards, “came to tell me that Jean Martinon, Reiner’s successor, would be leaving the orchestra the following year and to ask whether I would be willing to become music director. I was certainly willing, but I thought that the job might be too much for me, inasmuch as I was still committed to Covent Garden. I suggested sharing responsibilities with [Carlo Maria] Giulini, who had worked often in Chicago and was much liked there.” After some negotiation, it was agreed that Solti would be music director and Giulini would become the CSO’s first principal guest conductor beginning in the fall of 1969.

Solti also served as music director of the Orchestre de Paris from 1972 until 1975 and as principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1979 until 1983.

Finally, Sir Georg Solti founded the World Orchestra for Peace in 1995 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations. He only conducted the orchestra’s inaugural concert on July 5, 1995, in Geneva, Switzerland. According to Sir Georg, “I was delighted to be involved in this event, as the UN is an organization in which I firmly believe, although I wish it could have more power and be allowed to function more effectively. Fittingly, the orchestra’s seventy-nine outstanding musicians came from forty-five orchestras in twenty-four countries. We played Rossini’s William Tell Overture as a tribute to Switzerland, our host country; Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death; and the final scene from [Beethoven’s] Fidelio, for its theme of liberation.”

Text excerpted from Memoirs by Sir Georg Solti.

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Solti and Margaret Hillis show off their 1986 Grammy Awards for Liszt’s Faust Symphony and Orff’s Carmina burana.

Sir Georg Solti won thirty-one Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences—more than any other recording artist. Twenty-four of those awards were with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. In addition, Solti and producer John Culshaw received the first NARAS Trustees’ Award in 1967 for their “efforts, ingenuity, and artistic contributions” in connection with the first complete recording of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen with the Vienna Philharmonic. Sir Georg also received the Academy’s 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alison Krauss and Quincy Jones tie for the number two slot with twenty-seven awards each, and Pierre Boulez—CSO conductor emeritus and former principal guest conductor—is number three, with twenty-six Grammy Awards, including eight with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Following is a complete list of Sir Georg Solti’s Grammy Awards.*

1962
Best Opera Recording (1)
VERDI Aida
Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, Rita Gorr, Jon Vickers, Robert Merrill, Giorgio Tozzi
Rome Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
RCA

1966
Best Opera Recording (2)
WAGNER Die Walküre
Georg Solti, conductor
Birgit Nilsson, Régine Crespin, Christa Ludwig, James King, Hans Hotter, Gottlob Frick
Vienna Philharmonic
London

1972
Album of the Year—Classical (3)
Best Choral Performance—Classical (other than opera) (4)
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, Lucia Popp, Arleen Augér, Yvonne Minton, Helen Watts, René Kollo, John Shirley-Quirk, Martti Talvela
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Singverein Chorus
Vienna Boys’ Choir
Norbert Balatsch and Helmut Froschauer, chorus masters
David Harvey, producer
London

1972
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (5)
MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor
Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
London

1974
Album of the Year—Classical (6)
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (7)
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
David Harvey, producer
London

1974
Best Opera Recording (8)
PUCCINI La bohème
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Montserrat Caballé, Judith Blegen, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes, Vicente Sardinero, Ruggero Raimondi
London Philharmonic Orchestra
John Alldis Choir
Wandsworth School Boys’ Choir
RCA

1975
Album of the Year—Classical (9)
Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 in B flat Major, Op. 60
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
BEETHOVEN Overture to Coriolan, Op. 62
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Pilar Lorengar, Yvonne Minton, Stuart Burrows, Martti Talvela
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Ray Minshull and David Harvey, producers
London

1976
Best Classical Orchestral Performance (10)
STRAUSS Also sprach Zarathustra
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Ray Minshull, producer
London

1977
Best Choral Performance (other than opera) (11)
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, Janet Baker, Veriano Luchetti, José van Dam
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
RCA

1978
Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) (12)
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, Yvonne Minton, Mallory Walker, Gwynne Howell
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1979
Best Classical Album (13)
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (14)
Brahms’s Complete Symphonies
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
BRAHMS Tragic Overture, Op. 81
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Mallinson, producer
London

1979
Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) (15)
BRAHMS Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, Bernd Weikl
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1980
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (16)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Ray Minshull, producer
London

1981
Best Classical Album (17)
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (18)
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Isobel Buchanan, Mira Zakai
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Mallinson, producer
London

1982
Best Choral Performance (other than opera) (19)
BERLIOZ La Damnation de Faust, Op. 24
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Frederica von Stade, Kenneth Riegel, José van Dam, Malcolm King
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
London

1983
Best Classical Album (20)
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (21)
MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Mallinson, producer
London

1983
Best Opera Recording (22)
MOZART Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, Lucia Popp, Frederica von Stade, Samuel Ramey, Thomas Allen, Kurt Moll
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Opera Chorus
Christopher Raeburn, producer
London
This recording actually tied with the soundtrack for Verdi’s La traviata with James Levine conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; principal soloists Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil.

1983
Best Choral Performance (other than opera) (23)
HAYDN The Creation
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Norma Burrowes, Sylvia Greenberg, Rüdiger Wohlers, James Morris, Siegmund Nimsgern
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1985
Best Opera Recording (24)
SCHOENBERG Moses und Aron
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Franz Mazura, Philip Langridge
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Mallinson, producer
London

1986
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (25)
LISZT A Faust Symphony
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Siegfried Jerusalem
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Michael Haas, producer
London

1987
Best Orchestral Recording (26)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Jessye Norman, Reinhild Runkel, Robert Schunk, Hans Sotin
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Michael Haas, producer
London

1988
Best Opera Recording (27)
WAGNER Lohengrin
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Jessye Norman, Eva Randová, Plácido Domingo, Siegmund Nimsgern, Hans Sotin, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Vienna Philharmonic
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Christopher Raeburn, producer
London

1988
Best Chamber Music Performance (28)
BARTÓK Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion
Sir Georg Solti and Murray Perahia, pianos
Evelyn Glennie and David Corkhill, percussion
CBS

1991
Best Performance of a Choral Work (29)
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Felicity Lott, Anne Sofie von Otter, Hans Peter Blochwitz, William Shimell, Gwynne Howell
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1992
Best Opera Recording (30)
STRAUSS Die Frau ohne Schatten
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Hildegard Behrens, Júlia Várady, Sumi Jo, Reinhild Runkel, Plácido Domingo, José van Dam
Vienna Philharmonic
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Vienna Boys’ Choir
Christopher Raeburn, Morten Winding, and Stephen Trainor, producers

1997
Best Opera Recording (31)
WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Karita Mattila, Iris Vermillion, Ben Heppner, Herbert Lippert, José van Dam, Alan Opie, René Pape
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Michael Woolcock, producer

*A database of former Grammy Award winners can be found here; category titles have changed over the years. For opera recordings, only principal soloists are listed.

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Sir Georg Solti introduced soprano Kiri Te Kanawa to Chicago audiences in May 1978, in Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem. Her program biography from those debut performances is here.

The reviews only briefly mentioned the vocal soloists. In the Chicago Tribune: “Miss Te Kanawa and [Bernd] Weikl, both making subscription-series debuts, were a beautifully matched pair of young, fresh-voiced soloists. She seemed a mite cautious at the outset of her solo, but her message of consolation had a billowing purity of sound that was irresistible.” And in the Chicago Sun-Times: “Two soloists are required and both were known to us by reputation, but it was splendid to have singers of the standard of soprano Kiri Te Kanawa and baritone Bernd Weikl on stage to sustain the consistency of achievement in this performance at the highest level.” The complete reviews are here and here.

In addition to the performances at Orchestra Hall, Brahms’s Requiem was also performed at Carnegie Hall on May 12, 1978.

Te Kanawa also appeared with Solti at Orchestra Hall in Duparc’s Mélodies françaises and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony on March 23, 24, 25, and 26, 1983; in Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion on March 19 and 21, 1987; in excerpts from Verdi’s Otello (with Plácido Domingo) on a special concert celebrating Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday on October 9, 1987; and in complete performances of Otello in 1991 at Orchestra Hall (April 8 and 12) and Carnegie Hall (April 16 and 19).

Solti and Te Kanawa made a number of recordings together. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, they collaborated on Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem in 1978, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony in 1983, Handel’s Messiah in 1984, Bach’s Saint Mathew Passion in 1987, and Verdi’s Otello in 1991.

Te Kanawa also recorded under Solti’s baton in Bizet’s Carmen in 1975 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in 1981 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Puccini’s Tosca in 1984 with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, and in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra in 1988 with The Royal Opera (for video). (All recordings were released by London Records.)

In 1990, Solti and Te Kanawa collaborated on a special video project, entitled The Maestro and the Diva, directed by Humphrey Burton. The program candidly showed the two of them in rehearsal (in Solti’s home studio in London) and performance of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Vienna Philharmonic. An audio recording was also released and also included several more Strauss songs with Solti at the piano.

Several additional excerpts from the program are also available here.

The attached YouTube video is not the property of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. We just thought it was interesting.

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Even though she debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in August 1972 (in Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt conducting), Korean violinist Kyung-Wha Chung was introduced to downtown Chicago audiences in January 1974 by Sir Georg Solti, performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Her program book biography is here.

From the Chicago Tribune: “Few soloists of any age can match Georg Solti in drive and energy output, but last night it took only a measure or two of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto to certify Kyung-Wha Chung as one of them. The comely Korean violinist still in her mid-twenties, took those familiar old melodies and made them sing as if their life depended on it—as indeed it does. There are more accurate players in the thinning ranks of true virtuoso performers, but only a handful with her ability to sustain listener interest and communicate the feeling behind the notes. . . . Miss Chung takes fullest advantage of her instrument’s ability to breathe life into a sustained tone and has an actress’ sense of phrase and pacing. . . . It has been years since I attended a performance of this work which seemed too short. She left me wishing for more.” The complete reviews are here, here, and here.

With Solti and the CSO at Orchestra Hall, Chung again appeared in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on October 23, 24, 26, and 27, 1979; in Berg’s Violin Concerto and Bartók’s First Violin Concerto on October 13, 14, and 15, 1983; and Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto on October 5, 6, and 7, 1995. Out of town, she performed with Solti and the Orchestra in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on January 21, 1974, in Milwaukee.

Chung recorded with Solti on several occasions. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in 1979 she recorded Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto for video, and in 1983 she recorded Bartók’s First Violin Concerto and Berg’s Violin Concerto. With the London Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1976 she recorded Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto and in 1977 she recorded the Elgar Violin Concerto. All recordings were released by London Records.

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The May 2012 issue of Gramophone magazine includes the first installment of their Hall of Fame, and Sir Georg Solti is included on the list.

The print edition of the magazine includes a tribute written by pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet: “The more I grow in my life as [a] musician, the more the example of Sir Georg shines in my private pantheon. With his always-ongoing energy, insatiable curiosity, and desire to meet and help the younger generation, he showed us how a career should be built progressively and organically in order to achieve one’s own artistic goal. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to meet Sir Georg in the last three years of his life when he was extremely generous to share with me his extremely precise and powerful musical ideas. He also gave me the best advice: ‘Never give up, keep working, there is always room at the top.'”

Online, Gramophone also includes a link to an article from 1981, written by Edward Greenfield. The article describes some of the recording sessions for Solti’s 1981 recording of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro for London. A dream cast had been assembled:

Count Almaviva Thomas Allen, baritone
Countess Almaviva Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Susanna Lucia Popp, soprano
Figaro Samuel Ramey, bass
Cherubino Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Marcellina Jane Berbié, mezzo-soprano
Doctor Bartolo Kurt Moll, bass
Don Basilio Robert Tear, tenor
Don Curzio Philip Langridge, tenor
Barbarina Yvonne Kenny, soprano
Antonio Giorgio Tadeo, bass
Jeffrey Tate, continuo
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Opera Chorus

The recording won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Three other notable conductors affiliated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also made Gramophone‘s list: Pierre Boulez (principal guest conductor 1995-2006, conductor emeritus 2006- ), Daniel Barenboim (music director 1991-2006), and Claudio Abbado (principal guest conductor 1982-1985).

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