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Wishing the happiest of birthdays to conductor Herbert Blomstedt, celebrating his ninetieth today!

Over the past thirty years, Maestro Blomstedt has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions:

January 7, 9, 9, and 12, 1988
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Ivan Moravec, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major

February 22, 23, 24, and 27, 1990
HADYN Symphony No. 86 in D Major
LADERMAN Cello Concerto (world premiere)
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
DVORÁK Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70

January 24, 25, 26, and 29, 1991
SIBELIUS The Swan of Tuonela from Four Legends of the Kalevala, Op. 22
Grover Schiltz, english horn
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Rubén González, violin
NIELSEN Symphony No. 3, Op. 27 (Sinfonia espansiva)
Jane Green, soprano
William Diana, baritone

Herbert Blomstedt (Martin Lengemann photo)

March 5, 6, 7, and 11, 1998
MENDELSSOHN The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26
DUTILLEUX Tout un monde lointain . . .
Lynn Harrell, cello
DVORÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

June 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2007
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Annalena Persson, soprano
Ingeborg Danz, contralto
Robert Künzli, tenor
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, chorus director

Blomstedt’s colleagues at the Berlin Philharmonic have just posted this delightful tribute (added on July 14, 2017):

Happy, happy birthday!

Herbert Blomstedt appears with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on March 1, 2, and 3, 2018, leading Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3.

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James Conlon (Todd Rosenberg photo)

James Conlon (Todd Rosenberg photo)

James Conlon began his tenure as the Ravinia Festival’s fourth music director on June 24, 2005, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Ullmann’s Second Symphony and Mahler’s First Symphony. The programming that season of several works by Ullmann was part of a multiseason effort by Conlon to showcase music written by composers whose music was suppressed by the Nazi regime, remaining all but forgotten for decades following World War II.

“Sophisticated programming is one thing, of course. Thrilling performances are another. The ultimate success Friday night was the committed, profoundly nuanced performance each symphony received,” wrote Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times. “Mahler’s Symphony no. 1 was a revelation. . . . The CSO positively glowed, most often with a low, lustrous burnish rather than a hectic gleam. In the final, frenzied movement, the Orchestra’s impeccable precision and tightly wound, urgent rhythmic drive set the blood racing.”

Joshua Guerrero, Michelle DeYoung, Latonia Moore, Roberto Alagna, and James Creswell, along with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Verdi’s Aida on August 3, 2013 (Patrick Gipson photo)

Joshua Guerrero, Michelle DeYoung,
Latonia Moore, Roberto Alagna, and James
Creswell—along with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus—in Verdi’s Aida on August 3, 2013 (Patrick Gipson photo)

Conlon’s eleven seasons at Ravinia’s helm included symphonies by Mahler; seldom-heard works by Korngold, Schulhoff, Schreker, and Zemlinsky; several of Mozart’s operas performed in the Martin Theatre; as well as Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Tosca; Strauss’s Salome; and Verdi’s Aida, Otello, and Rigoletto.

Conlon had made his debut with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on July 28, 1977, with violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Lynn Harrell as soloists in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major, Mendelsssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Brahms’s Double Concerto. Two days later, on July 30, he conducted Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 and Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand with John Browning and Mahler’s First Symphony. Conlon first conducted the Orchestra at Orchestra Hall on November 14, 15, 16, and 19, 1991, leading the first symphonies by Mendelssohn and Mahler. He concluded his tenure at Ravinia on August 15, 2015, leading the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman.

This article also appears here.

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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Just after winning the Avery Fisher Prize (an award he shared with Lynn Harrell), twenty-seven-year-old Murray Perahia made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in January 1975 under the baton of Sir Georg Solti, performing Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Concerto. His program book biography is here.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Perahia was praised for his “bravura in the most generous measure . . . perfectly suited to this repertory. . . . [he] has all the flair for color and phrasing, all the skill in nuance and expression needed to make a Mendelssohn concerto sound worthy of Mozart. It was a gracious, lyric performance for all its energy, and a very exciting debut.” And in the Chicago Tribune, “Perahia is no ordinary pianist. At 27, he has considerably more behind him than the customary string of awards. . . . [He is] an immensely talented musician who seemingly had everything.” The complete reviews are here, here, and here.

With Solti and the CSO at Orchestra Hall, Perahia also appeared in Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 on April 21, 22, and 23, 1977; in Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto on November 30, December 1, and 2, 1978; in Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto on October 9, 10, and 11, 1980; in Schumann’s Piano Concerto on September 24, 25, and 26, 1987; and in Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 24 on March 14, 15, and 18, 1997.

Out of town, he performed with Solti and the Orchestra in Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 on April 20 at the University of Chicago and April 25, 1977, in Milwaukee; and in Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto on October 13, 1980, also in Milwaukee.

Perahia also appeared on a special concert at Orchestra Hall celebrating Sir Georg’s seventy-fifth birthday on October 9, 1987, in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat major with the maestro conducting from the keyboard.

He also recorded with Solti on two occasions: in 1982 performing Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Haydn for Two Pianos, and in 1987 performing Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (with Evelyn Glennie and David Corkhill). Both recordings were for CBS Records.

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The CSO opened its 2017/18 season tonight with Symphony Ball, a festive evening of music and celebration. Riccardo Muti led the CSO in Rossini's William Tell Overture and Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty. Anne-Sophie Mutter performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. Gala patrons then traveled by trolley to the @fschicago for dinner and dancing. Photos by @toddrphoto. #csosymphonyball

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