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Detail of the cover of a manuscript (not in Holst's hand) of The Planets used by Frederick Stock for the U.S. premiere

Detail of the cover of a manuscript (not in Holst’s hand) of The Planets used by Frederick Stock for the U.S. premiere

Gustav Holst‘s suite for large orchestra, The Planets, was conceived to be “connected with astrology rather than astronomy. There is no ‘program’ attached to the work beyond that which is associated with the subtitles of the movements,” according to Felix Borowski’s note in the CSO’s program book.

The first complete performance of all seven movements was given in London on November 15, 1920, with Albert Coates conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. Less than two months later, on New Year’s Eve, Frederick Stock led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (the offstage women’s chorus was omitted) in the U.S. premiere of The Planets at Orchestra Hall.

December 31, 1920, and January 1, 1921

December 31, 1920, and January 1, 1921

“His rhythmic figures are fascinating, curious, and irresistible. The demonic insistent martial pulse of the first fragment, ‘Mars, Bringer of War,’ was the most vital sample,” wrote Ruth Miller in the Chicago Tribune. “The Planets should be a most dependable and successful addition to the orchestra repertoire.”

This article also appears here.


According to Sir Georg Solti’s entry at the Internet Movie Database, his recordings have been included on numerous movie soundtracks.

Specifically for the soundtrack for the 1994 film Immortal Beloved, he conducted a number of works by Beethoven with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Several works by Tchaikovsky were included in the 1997 film Anna Karenina. Excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem were included in 1993’s The Heartbreak Kid, and selections from Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion were included in 1995’s Casino and 2005’s Domino.

Excerpts from Solti’s opera recordings have been used on many movie soundtracks. 1996’s Thieves and 2010’s Eat Pray Love featured music from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and 2004’s Closer included music from Così fan tutte. Arias from Verdi’s Rigoletto were heard in 1987’s Aria and 1999’s Analyze This. And an excerpt from Strauss’s Salome was included in 1987’s Mascara.

Selections from Wagner operas have been frequently used, including: the opening to Das Rheingold (1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre), the prelude to act 3 of Lohengrin (2000’s Ready to Rumble), and the first act of Die Walküre (2004’s Birth).

Of course, the most frequently used excerpt is the Ride of the Valkyries from the third act of Wagner’s Die Walküre. It has been heard in 1987’s Critical Condition, 1993’s Café au lait, 2001’s Freddy Got Fingered, 2005’s Jarhead, 2007’s Norbit, and perhaps most famously in 1970’s Apocalypse Now.

The scene from Apocalypse Now is viewable below (warning: for mature audiences only).

Movie poster images from the Internet Movie Database. And the attached YouTube video is not the property of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. We just thought it was interesting.


During his twenty-two years as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1969 until 1991), Sir Georg Solti shared the podium with several other titled conductors, who served in a variety of capacities.

Irwin Hoffman

Irwin Hoffman was appointed assistant conductor by Jean Martinon in 1964 and was promoted to associate conductor the following year. After Martinon’s departure and before Solti’s arrival, Hoffman served as the CSO’s acting music director for the 1968-69 season and held the title of conductor for the 1969-70 season.

Carlo Maria Giulini

Carlo Maria Giulini was the CSO’s first principal guest conductor, serving in that capacity for three seasons, beginning in 1969-70. A frequent guest conductor, Giulini appeared and recorded (for Angel and Deutsche Grammophon) with the Orchestra numerous times between 1955 and 1978, after which he began his tenure as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (An excellent biography of Giulini—Serving Genius—was recently published by the University of Illinois Press.)

Claudio Abbado

From 1982 until 1985, Claudio Abbado was the Orchestra’s second principal guest conductor. He also conducted and recorded (for Deutsche Grammophon) with the CSO numerous times between 1971 and 1991. Also during that time, he was music director at La Scala (1968 until 1986), principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1979 until 1987), music director of the Vienna State Opera (1986 until 1991), and chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic (beginning in 1989).

Henry Mazer

A former protégé of Fritz Reiner, Henry Mazer was appointed by Solti in 1970 as associate conductor, and he served the CSO in that capacity for sixteen years until 1986. He became music director of the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985.

Margaret Hillis

Founder and longtime chorus director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Margaret Hillis was hired by Fritz Reiner in 1957 and was the first woman to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in November of that year. Of course, she prepared the Chorus for virtually all choral concerts during Solti’s tenure as music director, worked very closely with Solti on countless recordings, and appeared frequently as a guest conductor with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Kenneth Jean

Michael Morgan

In 1986, Sir Georg Solti appointed two American-born associate conductors, Kenneth Jean and Michael Morgan. Each served the Orchestra until 1993. In 1986, Jean also became music director of the Florida Symphony Orchestra. Morgan was named music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony in 1990 and music director of the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997.

István Kertész

At the Ravinia Festival, two conductors served as titled conductors during Sir Georg Solti’s tenure. Fellow Hungarian István Kertész first led the CSO at Ravinia in 1967 and was principal conductor from 1970 until 1972. Prior to that, his posts included: chief conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Hungary, general music director of the Augsburg Opera, general music director of the Cologne Opera, and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

James Levine

On June 24, 1971, twenty-eight-year-old James Levine replaced an indisposed Kertész in a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Ravinia Festival. (He had made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera only a few weeks earlier, on June 5). Shortly thereafter, he was named the festival’s music director beginning in the summer of 1973 and held the post for twenty years, until 1993. Levine has been the longtime music director of the Metropolitan Opera since 1976.

Daniel Barenboim

Daniel Barenboim first guest conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1970, and he subsequently was a frequent visitor on the podium and in recording (for Angel, Deutsche Grammophon, and Erato). On January 30, 1989, The Orchestral Association announced that he would become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director, beginning in September 1991 (he had also succeeded Solti as music director of the Orchestra de Paris in 1975). Barenboim was given the title music director designate.


On April 3, 4, and 5, 1969, Georg Solti led performances of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. These concerts were not only his final concerts as the Orchestra’s designated music director (he officially became music director in the fall of that year) but also his first collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Margaret Hillis.

The concerts were dedicated to the memory of U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower, who had died on March 28, 1969.

The soloists for the occasion were soprano Heather Harper and contralto Helen Watts.  Solti had already recorded the work with Harper and Watts, along with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in May 1966 for London Records.

Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune noted that the Resurrection message was “well heeded by the performers, certainly. For Georg Solti, conducting his final concerts of the season, the concert was a triumphant affirmation. This is an artist who at his best can create music with a blazing lustre, matching comprehensive understanding of detail with the instincts of a born showman. . . . All of this is highly encouraging for the future, for in the long run, the music must prove itself. It is hard to believe that anyone in the hall last night left without being richer than when he came. That, too, can be a resurrection.” (The complete article is here, courtesy of Proquest via the Chicago Public Library.)

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Theodore Thomas

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After the Europe Tour 2020, Riccardo Muti joined the Orchestra again for a three-week CSO residency in February that included the Florida Tour 2020 and two programs at Symphony Center. In celebration of the Music Director’s time with the Orchestra during the past two months, please enjoy this video featuring Maestro Muti leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in an excerpt from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, featuring mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili as Santuzza. 🎥@toddrphoto
Opening with the most famous four notes in all of classical music, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is featured on this CSO program led by Riccardo Muti, along with the composer’s Second Symphony and the world premiere of Ophelia’s Tears, Concertante Elegy, a new work by Nicolas Bacri featuring the CSO’s own bass clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom as soloist. #Beethoven250 📸@toddrphoto
“In four years, I had been in five orchestras,” said CSO Bass Clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom about the beginning of his orchestral career. As a clarinetist, he never set out to play the bass clarinet, but there just happened to be orchestral positions for the instrument when he began seeking a job. “That is how fast the auditions were happening. But by then, I had really started to realize that the bass gave me a voice I’d never had.” J. Lawrie Bloom takes center stage this week in Orchestra Hall for the world premiere of Nicolas Bacri’s Ophelia’s Tears, Concertante Elegy for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra, led by Riccardo Muti. #MusicianMonday 📸@toddrphoto


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