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Irwin Hoffman

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the death of Irwin Hoffman, a titled conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1964 until 1970. Hoffman died yesterday at the age of 93.

On August 13, 1964, Merrill Shepard, then-president of The Orchestral Association, announced that Hoffman had been engaged as the CSO’s new assistant conductor, beginning with the 1964-65 season. Hoffman was to serve the Orchestra and assist music director Jean Martinon in a variety of capacities, including conducting rehearsals and concerts (including youth concerts), leading the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as new score review.

Hoffman’s debut program with the Orchestra was as follows:

December 17 & 18, 1964
VILLA-LOBOS Uirapurú
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Victor Aitay, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Program book announcement from January 1968

Program book announcement from January 1968

Martinon promoted Hoffman to associate conductor the following year. He would serve in that capacity for three seasons, and in January 1968, Association president Louis Sudler announced that Hoffman would be acting music director for the 1968-69 season. (On December 17, 1968, the Association announced that Georg Solti would become the Orchestra’s eighth music director, beginning with the 1969-70 season.)

For the 1969-70 season, Hoffman’s title was conductor and he led several weeks of subscription and popular concerts. In subsequent seasons, he returned as a guest conductor and most recently led the Orchestra in January 1977 with the following program:

January 12, 13, 14 & 15, 1977
January 17, 1977 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
KAY Of New Horizons
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Esther Glazer, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Irwin Hoffman with score

Hoffman made his conducting debut at the age of seventeen with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Robin Hood Dell. He also studied at the Juilliard School and later with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Hoffman has held titled positions with several orchestras, including the Grant Park Music Festival; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; Martha Graham Dance Company; Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, later the Florida Orchestra; Bogotá Philharmonic in Colombia; Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra; and the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra in Chile.

Kurt Loft of the Florida Orchestra has posted a beautiful tribute here.

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Irwin Hoffman

On November 26, 2014, we celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Irwin Hoffman, a titled conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1964 until 1970.

On August 13, 1964, Merrill Shepard, then-president of The Orchestral Association, announced that Hoffman had been engaged as the CSO’s new assistant conductor, beginning with the 1964-65 season. Hoffman was to serve the Orchestra and assist music director Jean Martinon in a variety of capacities, including conducting rehearsals and concerts (including youth concerts), leading the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as new score review.

Hoffman’s debut program with the Orchestra was as follows:

December 17 & 18, 1964
VILLA-LOBOS Uirapurú
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Victor Aitay, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Program book announcement from January 1968

Program book announcement from January 1968

Martinon promoted Hoffman to associate conductor the following year. He would serve in that capacity for three seasons, and in January 1968, Association president Louis Sudler announced that Hoffman would be acting music director for the 1968-69 season. (On December 17, 1968, the Association announced that Georg Solti would become the Orchestra’s eighth music director, beginning with the 1969-70 season.)

For the 1969-70 season, Hoffman’s title was conductor and he led several weeks of subscription and popular concerts. In subsequent seasons, he returned as a guest conductor and most recently led the Orchestra in January 1977 with the following program:

January 12, 13, 14 & 15, 1977
January 17, 1977 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
KAY Of New Horizons
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Esther Glazer, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Irwin Hoffman with score

Hoffman made his conducting debut at the age of seventeen with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Robin Hood Dell. He also studied at the Juilliard School and later with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Hoffman has held titled positions with several orchestras, including the Grant Park Music Festival; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; Martha Graham Dance Company; Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, later the Florida Orchestra; Bogotá Philharmonic in Colombia; Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra; and the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra in Chile.

Happy birthday, maestro!

____________________________________________________

Mrs. Frederick W. Upham and Georg Solti

On December 17, 1970, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Women’s Association hosted a reception at the Casino Club, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the incorporation of The Orchestral Association, which had taken place at the Chicago Club on December 16, 1890. (Of course, it was not possible for the event to be held at the Chicago Club since it did not allow women.)

The guests of honor were Georg and Valerie Solti, along with ninety-five-year-old Helen Hall (Mrs. Frederick W.) Upham. Mrs. Upham—who had occupied the same Friday seats virtually since Orchestra Hall opened its doors in December 1904—had founded the Women’s Association in 1934. She was to serve as the honorary chairperson for the 80th anniversary ball in the spring, and was also honored with a a citation of “special honor and recognition” presented by Louis C. Sudler, then president of The Orchestral Association.

Louis Sudler, Women’s Association President Caroline (Mrs. Paul W.) Oliver, and Valerie and Georg Solti

Press coverage of the Casino Club event is here.

Also, there are a few great images of a young Mrs. Upham (courtesy of the Library of Congress’s American Memory project) here.

____________________________________________________


Following the December 1968 announcement that Georg Solti would be the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director, the next time our new maestro was in Chicago was during March and April 1969. To mark the occasion, Solti and Louis Sudler (president of the Orchestral Association) gave a press conference, at which they outlined plans for the organization’s future.

On March 18, 1969, a reception for Georg and Valerie Solti was held in the ballroom of Orchestra Hall. More than 1,000 people queued up to greet the Soltis, with a line extending down the stairs, through the lobby, and well down Michigan Avenue. At the beginning of the event, Sudler and Solti both addressed the crowd in the ballroom, and selections from their comments are below.

Invitation for the March 18 reception

Louis Sudler: “As you all know, we have sought the greatest musical leadership in the world, and we believe we have accomplished it with Maestro as our music director, and his good friend and colleague, Carlo Maria Giulini, as principal guest conductor.

“We all know how great our orchestra is, but the time is long overdue when it should be taken into the world, and Maestro Solti is the man to do it—the man who has expressed his avowed interest to do it—and who has the determination to accomplish whatever he sets out to do.

“This—in no little measure—will not only be a fulfillment for our orchestra, but also will contribute immeasurably to the international image of our city and in an increasingly larger way, extend to the welfare of our business concerns more and more involved in international commerce. . . .

“We welcome you to our hearts, Maestro, and with great pride, assurance, anticipation, and enthusiasm, entrust to your care the future destiny of our orchestra.”

Valerie and Georg Solti at the reception in Orchestra Hall’s ballroom on March 18, 1969

Solti thanked Sudler for his remarks, and replied: “But you will have to help. And you can do this, first, by coming to the concerts and listening, quietly! Second, by arriving not too late. And third, and most important, by not leaving the concert early!

“And now, seriously. I want to tell you what I told the orchestra this morning when we met for our first rehearsal. It is my belief that an enormous cultural development is essential to the survival of America. At the moment, art is one of the most important things here and everywhere. And of all the arts, music is perhaps the most important because it is the only thing that has meaning worldwide. It is a means of communication that reaches to all people.

“We have a mission—a serious mission—not only in this city but in the world. Wish all of us very good luck.”

Solti led three weeks of subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall during that residency:

March 20, 21, and 22, 1969
WALTON Partita for Orchestra
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Gina Bachauer, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

March 27 and 28, 1969
MENDELSSOHN Fingal’s Cave Overture, Op. 26
BRITTEN Sinfonia da Requiem
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

April 3, 4, and 5, 1969
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Heather Harper, soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

His program biography for those concerts is here.

____________________________________________________

On December 17, 1968, Louis Sudler, president of The Orchestral Association, announced that Georg Solti would become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director beginning with the 1969-70 season. And Carlo Maria Giulini would become the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor.

Details of the announcement were included in an article in the Orchestra’s program book in early January 1969.

A new era was about to begin.

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