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November 3 and 4, 1955

November 3 and 4, 1955

Carlo Maria Giulini made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in November 1955, leading two weeks of subscription concerts. In the subsequent years, he was a regular and popular visitor to Chicago, and it was no surprise when he was invited to be the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor beginning with the 1969–70 season (also Georg Solti’s first as music director). Giulini would serve in that capacity through the 1971–72 season, and he frequently returned to Chicago until beginning his tenure as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1978.

On March 18 and 19, 1971, Giulini led the Orchestra in Mahler’s First Symphony, which, according to Bernard Jacobson in the Chicago Daily News, was his first time leading a symphony by the composer. “And the performance of the First Symphony that burst on us Thursday night showed us, in one dazzling stroke, what the waiting was for.” His interpretation “was of a stature, an integrity, an electrifying grandeur that relegated even those landmark performances to the shadows. It seemed to take all the virtues of every interpretation, heard or merely conceived, and fuse them in a new, flawlessly projected and proportioned unity. . . . And the Orchestra, playing with the sort of devotion their principal guest conductor always arouses in them, responded with perhaps their finest playing of the season. The strings combined polish and delicacy with an irresistible rhythmic zest. The woodwinds produced some of the most tellingly accurate chording we have heard from them. The percussion covered the dynamic gamut—from magical soft cymbal and tam-tam effects in the funeral march to bloodcurdling timpani rolls in the finale—with minute precision, and at the end the brass choir proclaimed a glorious triumph.”

Giulini Mahler 1

“It was Carlo Maria Giulini’s finest hour to date in Orchestra Hall last night, bringing the Chicago Symphony audience cheering to its feet for a prolonged standing ovation,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune, describing the concert as an “impassioned, marvelously balanced performance . . . of monumental stature.”

On March 30, Giulini and the Orchestra recorded the symphony at Medinah Temple for Angel Records. The recording won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance—Orchestra.

This article also appears here.

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On May 9, 2014, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carlo Maria Giulini, a beloved presence on the Chicago Symphony’s podium from 1955 until 1978, including his tenure as the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor from 1969 until 1972, during which he shared conducting duties with Georg Solti for the first overseas tour to Europe in 1971.

Giulini headshot

In October 1955, “Fritz Reiner delivered an unusually flattering message to the musicians assembled around him on Orchestra Hall’s stage. The orchestra would have a guest conductor the following week, Reiner said, but it would not be any run-of-the-mill substitute. ‘A very special person,’ is how Reiner described Giulini. That Reiner would heap praise upon a potential competitor caught his players off guard. ‘That’s the only time he ever made any comment like that, and boy was he right,’ said Adolph Herseth, the orchestra’s principal trumpet” (excerpt from Thomas D. Saler’s excellent biography of Giulini, Serving Genius).

Giulini made his United States debut in November 1955, leading two weeks of concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The first subscription week originally was to include Debussy’s La mer, but it was replaced at the last minute with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The programs for that first week were as follows:

November 3 & 4, 1955

Original program for the November 3 & 4, 1955, subscription concerts

November 2, 1955 (television concert filmed in WGN’s Studio Theatre)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord

November 3 & 4, 1955 (Orchestra Hall)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord
PIZZETTI Prelude to Fedra
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

November 8, 1955 (Orchestra Hall)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord
PIZZETTI Prelude to Fedra
DEBUSSY La mer

In the Chicago Tribune, Claudia Cassidy wrote: “For a time last night it looked as if we might remember Carlo Maria Giulini as the man who introduced Antonio Vivaldi’s enchanting music of ‘The Four Seasons’ to the Chicago Symphony’s repertory in Orchestra Hall. Then it became plain that we will remember Giulini as himself. This tall, slender young Italian from Milan’s La scala has sensitivity, imagination, and skill, and he has that extra, enkindling thing, the Promethean gift of fire” (the complete review is here).

On November 9, the Tribune printed an announcement that “Mr. Giulini’s ‘La mer’ [from Tuesday evening] was a performance of such distinction, being large, comprehensive, sweeping, and inspired, that the Thursday-Friday program have been altered to include it.” As a result, the Orchestra’s first performances of Giovanni Salviucci’s Introduction, Passacaglia, and Finale was delayed [Giulini would introduce the work to Chicago audiences in September 1969]. The programs for the second week were:

November 3 & 4, 1955, program bio

November 3 & 4, 1955, program bio

November 9, 1955 (television concert filmed in WGN’s Studio Theatre)
ROSSINI Overture to L’italiana in Algeri
HAYDN Symphony No. 94 in G Major (Surprise)
RAVEL Five Children’s Pieces from Mother Goose

November 10 & 11 (Orchestra Hall), & 14 (Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee), 1955
ROSSINI Overture to L’italiana in Algeri
HAYDN Symphony No. 94 in G Major (Surprise)
DEBUSSY La mer
RAVEL Five Children’s Pieces from Mother Goose
FALLA Three Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat

For Giulni’s second week, Cassidy wrote: “The orchestra played for him with the mobility in equilibrium that let him say what he had to say, whether that communication came in the Debussy, in the sunny charms of Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony, in the pale shimmer of Ravel’s fairy tale palette, or the black, boiling furies of the dances from ‘Tricorne,’ whose farruca had the fierce pride only the young Escudero could have hoped to rival” (complete review is here).

Giulini in Stockholm

Giulini leading the Orchestra at the Folkets Hus in Stockholm, Sweden on September 15, 1971

Giulini’s final residency with the Orchestra was in March 1978, when he led three weeks of concerts. According to his program biography: “Next season Maestro Giulini begins a three-year term as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.” (He went on to serve as the Philharmonic’s eighth music director until 1984.) The programs for his last appearances were as follows:

March 2, 3 & 4, 1978 (Orchestra Hall)
SCHUBERT/Webern Six German Dances, D. 820
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 (Unfinished)
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Isaac Stern, violin

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978

March 6, 1978 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D. 417
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Isaac Stern, violin

March 9, 10 & 11, 1978
GABRIELI Canzon à 4
GABRIELI/Thomas Sonata, pian’ e forte
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Sir Clifford Curzon, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978
BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Pina Carmirelli, vioin
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D. 417

Oh yeah, he made some recordings with the Orchestra too. Stay tuned for part 2 . . .

Ray Still - 1950s

Orchestral and chamber musician, soloist with countless ensembles, and lifelong teacher and coach Ray Still—a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section for forty years, serving as principal for thirty-nine years—died peacefully on March 12, 2014, surrounded by family in Woodstock, Vermont. He was 94.

Born on March 12, 1920, in Elwood, Indiana, Still began playing clarinet as a teenager. During the Great Depression, his family moved to California, where he was able to regularly hear performances of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a volunteer usher. After hearing the masterful technique and elegant phrasing of Henri de Busscher—principal oboe in Los Angeles from 1920 until 1948—Still switched to the oboe.

Still graduated from Los Angeles High School and at the age of nineteen joined the Kansas City Philharmonic as second oboe in 1939, where he was a member until 1941 (and also where he met and married Mary Powell Brock in 1940). For the next two years, he studied electrical engineering, served in the reserve US Army Signal Corps, and worked nights at the Douglas Aircraft factory. During the height of World War II, Still joined the US Army in September 1943 and served until June of 1946.

Immediately following his honorable discharge from the Army, Still enrolled at the Juilliard School where he studied with Robert Bloom. The following year in 1947, he began a two-year tenure as principal oboe with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of William Steinberg. Beginning in 1949, Still was principal oboe of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for four years.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

In the fall of 1953, Still auditioned for Fritz Reiner, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recently named music director. Reiner invited him to be the Orchestra’s second-chair oboe and the following year promoted him to the principal position. Still would serve the Orchestra in that capacity—under music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—until his retirement in 1993.

Still appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as soloist on countless occasions, including the Orchestra’s first performances of works for solo oboe by Albinoni, Bach, Barber, Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Telemann. His extensive discography includes Bach’s Wedding Cantata on RCA with Kathleen Battle as soloist and James Levine conducting, and Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C minor on Deutsche Grammophon with Claudio Abbado conducting.

Still performed with numerous other ensembles including the Juilliard, Vermeer, and Fine Arts string quartets; he recorded with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Lynn Harrell; and regularly appeared at many music festivals, including those at Aspen, Stratford, and Marlboro, among others.

A tireless educator, Still taught at the Peabody Institute from 1949 until 1953, Roosevelt University from 1954 until 1957, and at Northwestern University for forty-three years until 2003. Throughout his tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he coached members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. At the invitation of Seiji Ozawa, he spent the summers of 1968 and 1970 as a visiting member of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo, where he held coaching sessions for the wind section, conducted chamber music classes, and lectured at Toho University.

Ray Still - 1970s

Following his retirement from Northwestern, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland—where he continued to give master classes and lessons—with his beloved wife Mary and son James to live near his daughter Susan. In 2013, he moved to Saxtons River and later Woodstock, Vermont, where he lived near Susan, his granddaughter Madeline, and her two daughters.

Still is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Mimi and Kent Dixon of Springfield, Ohio; his son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Sally Still of Big Timber, Montana; his daughter and son-in-law, Susan Still and Peter Bergstrom of Saxtons River, Vermont; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death in 2012 by his wife of almost 72 years, Mary Brock Still, and his son James Still.

Services will be private and details for a memorial in Chicago are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Institute for Learning, Access, and Training at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

When interviewed for an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1988, Still was asked why he thought the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was the world’s greatest. His reply: “It’s like a great baseball team. We have a blend of youth and experience, and they work very well together. A lot of orchestras have this. The thing that makes the Chicago Symphony Orchestra very unusual is the tremendous—I hate to use the word—discipline. There is a certain pride, and I think it goes back to the days of Theodore Thomas, the founder. There is something about the tradition of this Orchestra and the level the main body of musicians has come to expect of itself. There’s just a longer line of tradition.”

More information can be found at www.raystill.com.

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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.

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