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Richard Kanter headshot

Richard Kanter, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section from 1961 until 2002, passed away on Friday evening, October 10. He was 79.

A native Chicagoan, Kanter was born in 1935 and began studying the oboe at the age of fourteen with CSO oboe and english horn Robert Mayer. After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his teachers included Marcel Tabuteau and John de Lancie; he also studied with CSO principal oboe Ray Still and Robert Bloom. While a student, Kanter played principal oboe for the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra for one season and english horn with the Grant Park Symphony for several summers.

After graduation from Curtis, he served as first oboe for the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C. for four years, traveling to every state in the continental United States. Following his military service, Kanter joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section at the invitation of Fritz Reiner in 1961, where he served for forty-one years—under music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—before retiring in 2002. In his retirement, Kanter was an active member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association, serving several years a member and officer of the board of directors. He also was an oboe and english horn coach with the Asian Youth Orchestra, based in Hong Kong.

Ray Still and Richard Kanter onstage at Orchestra Hall in the 1970s

Ray Still and Richard Kanter onstage at Orchestra Hall in the 1970s

Richard is survived by his beloved wife of forty-six years, Janet; his children David (Rebecca) Kanter and Rachel (Eric) Hoglund; and grandchildren. There will be a chapel service Tuesday, October 14, at 12:15 p.m. at Shalom Memorial Funeral Home, 1700 West Rand Road in Arlington Heights. Interment will follow at Shalom Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Magen David Adom. For information and to leave tributes and condolences, please call 847.255.3520 or visit www.shalom2.com.

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Schoen, William (SRS)

Last evening we received word that William Schoen, a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s viola section from 1964 until 1996, passed away yesterday, July 21, following a brief illness. He was 94.

Before coming to Chicago, Schoen served as principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra and was soloist with that ensemble under the baton of Eugene Ormandy. In 1964 he was invited by CSO music director Jean Martinon to be the Orchestra’s assistant principal viola, a post he held for twenty-four years. In 1988, he became assistant principal emeritus and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1996. Schoen made his debut as soloist with the CSO under Antonio Janigro, and also made solo appearances with maestros Martinon and James Levine.

Born in Czechoslovakia of Hungarian parents and raised in Cleveland, William Schoen received his bachelor of music degree from the Eastman School of Music. He was chosen by Leopold Stokowski to tour with the All-American Youth Orchestra and during the Second World War he served as a member of the United States Marine Band and Orchestra, was featured as a concerto soloist, and appeared numerous times with ensembles for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at The White House. After the war he was solo viola of the Columbia Broadcasting System in New York for eight years. While in New York, Schoen was a member of the Guilet and Claremont string quartets, with which he toured and made many recordings.

Schoen received his master of music degree from Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University and later also served as a member of the faculty and a member of the Roosevelt Trio. In 1991, he was invited to be a recitalist and lecturer at the International Viola Congress in Ithaca, New York.

Schoen, William ca1960s

An active chamber musician, he performed with many of his CSO colleagues, frequently as a member of the Chicago Symphony String Trio. Schoen was a founding member of the Chicago Arts Quartet, which in addition to performances at the Bruckner Festival in Linz, Austria and at the Tokyo School of Music, the quartet gave many college concerts, appeared on the CSO’s Chamber Music Series, and was featured on WFMT radio broadcasts. As a member of Indiana University’s Berkshire Quartet, he performed at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Connecticut for several summers, and he also was a participant at the Marlboro Festival in Vermont.

Schoen and his wife Mona Reisman Schoen, a former member of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, performed in duo concerts, as soloists with orchestra, at university concerts, and at the Frank Lloyd Wright estates in Wisconsin and Arizona. In their retirement, the Schoens were active members of the CSO Alumni Association, and in 1998, the Chicago Viola Society awarded William Schoen their lifetime achievement award.

He is survived by his beloved wife Mona. Funeral services will be held this Thursday, July 24, at noon at Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 North Broadway in Chicago. Interment will be at Memorial Park Cemetery, 9900 Gross Point Road in Skokie immediately following.

An obituary was posted to the Chicago Tribune website on July 22, 2014.

Just before the opening of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s seventieth season, our sixth music director Fritz Reiner suffered a heart attack on October 7, 1960. He had been scheduled to conduct the first four weeks of concerts, but his recuperation forced the cancellation of his remaining appearances for the calendar year.

Maria Callas with Antonino Votto

Antonino Votto was one of Maria Callas‘s integral collaborators, leading many of her important productions at La Scala in the 1950s. He also was conductor of several of her landmark recordings on EMI including Puccini’s La bohème, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, Bellini’s La sonnambula, and Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.

Replacement conductors included CSO associate conductor Walter Hendl, Robert Shaw (leading Beethoven’s Missa solemnis), Erich Leinsdorf (to conduct a special Saturday evening concert on October 15 featuring the U.S. debut of Sviatoslav Richter as soloist in Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto), and Antonino Votto (who would soon become Riccardo Muti‘s conducting teacher).

Votto was in Chicago to make his debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago and (according to their Performance + Cast Archive) he led the season opening performances of Verdi’s Don Carlo on October 14, 21, and 24. The cast included Giulietta Simionato, Margherita Roberti, Richard Tucker, Tito Gobbi, and Boris Christoff. Votto also conducted performances of Verdi’s Aida on October 17, 19, 22, and 28, with a cast that included Leontyne Price, Simionato, Carlo Bergonzi, and Robert Merrill.

Antonino Votto and Guiomar Novaes's program book biographies

Antonino Votto and Guiomar Novaes’s program book biographies

According to an October 16, 1960, CSO press release: “Antonino Votto will conduct the subscription concerts in the third week of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s current season. The concerts of Tuesday afternoon, October 25, and the subscription pair of Thursday-Friday, October 27-28, originally scheduled for music director Fritz Reiner, will be directed by the Italian conductor who is currently in Chicago for his first season with the Lyric Opera. A leading conductor of both opera and symphony concerts at La Scala in Milan, Maestro Votto’s appearance with the Orchestra has been made possible through the courteous cooperation of Miss Carol Fox, General Manager of the Lyric Opera.”

October 25, 1960 - revised program

October 25, 1960 – revised program

October 25, 1960 - original program advertisement

October 25, 1960 – original program advertisement

Both programs were modified (see images right and below) to accommodate conductor and soloist. According to Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune regarding the first concert on October 25: “From the start of Haydn’s London Symphony thru the Mozart with Guiomar Novaes and Debussy’s Faun to the perfectly planned and executed climax of a stunning Pictures at an Exhibition this was a major concert on the sounder shores of style” (complete review is here). Also according to Cassidy, word traveled fast and the following two concerts on Thursday and Friday quickly sold out: “. . . Votto is a man to respect a score, an orchestra and a soloist. When you add that to knowing your business and you can work with other musicians on a high level remarkable things can happen. Such as orchestral equilibrium, a sense of proportion in displaying a soloist, a mounting excitement on the stage and in the audience. In other words, quite a concert” (complete review is here).

October 27 & 28, 1960 - revised program

October 27 & 28, 1960 – revised program

October 27 & 28, 1960 - original program advertisement

October 27 & 28, 1960 – original program advertisement

According to a newspaper account, Reiner—from his hospital bed at Presbyterian/Saint Luke’s—was able to hear a portion of the Friday afternoon matinee via “telephone from a remote pickup thru a microphone in the concert hall to a loudspeaker in the manager’s office.” Reiner’s statement: “Please convey my warm compliments on the splendid performance of Mme. Novaes and Maestro Votto. I enjoyed very much the finesse and style of the orchestra, which has been inoculated in the years of our association.”

Votto was re-engaged at Lyric the following season for Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor on October 14, 16, and 18, 1961 (with Joan Sutherland, Bergonzi, and Tucker); Giordano’s Andrea Chenier on October 20, and 25, 28 (with Shakeh Vartenissian and Jon Vickers); and the company premiere of Boito’s Mefistofele on October 21, 23, and 27 (with Ilva Ligabue, Christa Ludwig, Christoff, and Bergonzi).

Votto returned to Italy and in November 1962, twenty-one-year-old Riccardo Muti met him during his first year as a student at the Milan Conservatory. Muti remembers: “And then there was Votto, whom I recall so vividly. He was solemn and incredibly strict, and had worked with [Arturo] Toscanini during his years at La Scala. . . . Within a few days, however, I realized that Votto had taken a liking to me, to the point of giving me—as if to prefer me over less talented students, or ones he didn’t like as much—some pieces to conduct for the performances the following year. Not only did I take a class with him, but I also attended some of his rehearsals at La Scala. . . . I was particularly struck when he did Falstaff: he didn’t have the score! Now, it’s one thing to conduct from memory, but to try that with Falstaff is one of those things that just leaves you flabbergasted and makes you think that maybe, with such experts around, you’d best find another job. I asked him something along those lines, and he replied: ‘If you had worked with Him, you would do the same.’ ‘Him,’ of course, meant Toscanini, with whom such work was an intense, special months-long undertaking; after that, going on memory became spontaneous, the natural result of having complete mastery of the score. . . .

“Votto’s approach was based on conductorial efficiency, music for music’s sake, no frills, no bells and whistles, going straight to the heart of opera, only essential gestures, nothing more than was absolutely necessary. In his classes he’d often repeat, ‘Don’t annoy the orchestra.’ To the uninitiated that phrase might seem absurd or misleading, calling into question the orchestra conductor’s usefulness. In reality he just wanted to advise us that, once the orchestra was on an orderly, rhythmic path (the obvious outcome of long rehearsing), the maestro mustn’t disturb that natural gait, and must therefore avoid rash gestures while on the podium, steering clear of any temptation to become a court jester; basically, he mustn’t alter what the nature of the piece itself had established. And such a position was a clear, complete reflection of Arturo Toscanini’s.”

Their friendship continued well beyond the conservatory, and when Muti married Maria Cristina Mazzavillani on June 1, 1969, in Ravenna, Votto was best man (“while Sviatoslav Richter became our ad hoc photographer and took some of the best photos”).

Excerpts from Riccardo Muti, An Autobiography: First the Music, Then the Words.

Legendary Hollywood filmmaker James A. Fitzpatrick produced, directed, and narrated a number of Traveltalks for MGM during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. And one of his shorts was Chicago, the Beautiful, providing a marvelous glimpse of our fair city in 1948.

Some of MGM’s heavyweights worked on the film, including cinematographers Virgil Miller and Robert Sable, along with composer/arranger Joseph Nussbaum and conductor Irvin Talbot.

The marvelous, brief film can be viewed here. Enjoy!

Even though Orchestra Hall and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are not mentioned, the Civic Opera House (pre-Lyric Opera of Chicago) gets a nice plug.

Gina DiBello

Gina DiBello

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra recently announced Riccardo Muti‘s appointment of Gina DiBello to the Orchestra’s first violin section. She previously had served as principal second violin of the Minnesota Orchestra and as section first violin with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, following studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music and The Juilliard School in New York.

Joseph DiBello (© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2010)

Joseph DiBello (©Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Gina is a Chicago native and has a deep connection to the Orchestra, as she also is the daughter of CSO bass Joseph DiBello (and Lyric Opera of Chicago violin Bonita DiBello), marking only the second father-daughter combination in our history.

Joseph originally studied the bass but initially pursued a career as a pharmacist. He later resumed his musical studies and from 1969 until 1973, he served as principal bass of Philadelphia Lyric Opera and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. In 1973, he was appointed to the bass section of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and in 1976 Sir Georg Solti invited him to join the bass section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Lynne Turner (©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2010)

Lynne Turner (©Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Lynne Turner—currently in her fifty-first season as second harp—also is a CSO legacy, as she is the daughter of former CSO violin Sol Turner (1905–1979). At the age of twenty-one, Lynne was appointed in 1962 by then-music director Fritz Reiner, following her studies with Alberto Salvi in Chicago and with Pierre Jamet at the Paris Conservatory.

Sol Turner

Sol Turner

Sol Turner, a native of Russia, began his career as a violinist with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago from 1927 until 1931 (serving as concertmaster in 1928 and 1929), followed by twelve years in the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Désiré Defauw appointed him to the CSO’s first violin section in 1943 and he served until 1949, when he left to perform with Chicago’s NBC studio orchestra. Sol returned to the CSO in 1963 and was rostered until his death in 1979.

Joseph Vito

Joseph Vito

But we also have to mention the father-daughter combination of Joseph Vito (1887–1970) and Geraldine Vito Weicher (1915–2006). Joseph served as principal harp from 1927 until 1957, and Geraldine was second harp from 1940 until 1957. However, during that time the position of second harp was hired only on an as-needed basis and was not a fully rostered position until the beginning of the 1957-58 season.

Joseph began his career as a harpist at the age of nine, and at twenty, debuted with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Emil Paur. He regularly performed with both the San Francisco and Cincinnati symphony orchestras before Frederick Stock hired him as principal harp for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1927.

Geraldine Vito Weicher

Geraldine Vito Weicher

Geraldine studied with her father, and she was a member of the Civic Orchestra from 1935 until 1938. She was also married to John Weicher (1904–1969), who spent forty-six years with the Orchestra from 1923 until 1969, serving as concertmaster, assistant concertmaster, principal second violin, personnel manager, and conductor of the Civic Orchestra.

Fathers and sons? Sisters? Brothers? Stay tuned . . .

Solti - The Legacy release

We just received copies of an excellent new two-CD set from Decca Classics (one of their many releases and re-releases commemorating Solti’s centennial). It’s called Solti: The Legacy, 1937–1997 and includes studio, live, and rehearsal recordings—the majority of them released for the very first time—covering a sixty-year span.

A few highlights:

• A twenty-four-year-old Georg Solti playing the glockenspiel in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with Arturo Toscanini conducting baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender and the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival in 1937.

Renata Tebaldi and Richard Tucker performing the duet “Vicino a te” from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago
on November 10, 1956, during Solti’s debut season there.

• Two selections from Solti’s 75th birthday concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall on October 9, 1987: Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat major, K. 365 with Murray Perahia and Solti (conducting from the keyboard); and Kiri Te Kanawa and Plácido Domingo performing the duet “Già nella notte densa” from Verdi’s Otello.

Check it out!

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With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Georg Solti conducted Beethoven’s Missa solemnis on three sets of concerts:

November 1, 2, and 3, 1973, at Orchestra Hall
Victor Aitay, violin
Wendy Fine, soprano (November 1)
Sarah Beatty, soprano (November 2 and 3)
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano
George Shirley, tenor
Theo Adam, bass (November 1 and 2)
Thomas Paul, bass (November 3)
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director

There were multiple cast changes due to illnesses, both before and after the programs were printed. About a week before the performances, George Shirley replaced Peter Schreier. Karl Ridderbusch was replaced the day before the first performance by Theo Adam, who was in town for Wagner’s Siegfried at Lyric Opera; he sang the first two performances and Thomas Paul sang the third. Following the first performance, Wendy Fine was replaced by Sarah Beatty.

May 5, 6, and 7, 1977, at Orchestra Hall
May 13, 1977, at Carnegie Hall
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director

Following the Carnegie Hall performance, the work was recorded for London Records with multiple sessions in Chicago’s Medinah Temple. Ray Minshull was the producer and Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the engineers.

The recording won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

January 12, 13, and 14, 1984, at Orchestra Hall
January 16, 1984, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Samuel Magad, violin
Felicity Lott, soprano
Diana Montague, mezzo-soprano
Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor
Simon Estes, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director

Available reviews are here (1973), here (1977), and here (1984).

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At Sir Georg Solti’s invitation, Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter made her U.S. debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in October 1985, in Mozart’s Mass in C minor. Her biography from the program book is here. Reviews of the performance (here and here) mentioned her “clear, agile, flexible, and unhooty [!] mezzo-soprano” and her “big, warm voice which she uses with consistent intelligence and fine musical intuitions.”

In 1989 when von Otter made her debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago (as Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier), a feature article in the Chicago Tribune mentioned Solti introducing her to Chicago audiences. She remarked: “I admire Solti immensely . . . He has this incredibly contagious enthusiasm for the music and he fills you with the will to work. Maybe it’s his age and experience, but I respect him more than any other conductor I have worked with.”

With Solti and the CSO at Orchestra Hall, von Otter also appeared in Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion on March 19 and 21, 1987; in Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust on May 18, 19, and 20, 1989; and Bach’s Mass in B minor on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990. (Both Bach works were recorded for London Records.)

She also appeared on tour in 1989 in Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust on August 28 at the Royal Albert Hall in London and on August 30 at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg; and again in 1996 in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on September 13 at the Royal Albert Hall. (The London performance of the Berlioz was also released by London Records on video.)

With Solti, von Otter also recorded Mozart’s Mass in C minor in December 1990 with the Vienna Philharmonic and Mozart’s Così fan tutte (as Dorabella) in May 1994 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (both for London Records).

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Georg Solti made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut on October 19, 1956 (during the company’s third season), conducting Strauss’s Salome with Inge Borkh in the title role. Claudia Cassidy’s complete Chicago Tribune review (courtesy of ProQuest via the Chicago Public Library) is here.

That season he also led Wagner’s Die Walküre with Borkh, Birgit Nilsson, and Paul Schöffler (and a young Ardis Krainik as Rossweisse); Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Eleanor Steber, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, and Léopold Simoneau; and Verdi’s La forza del destino with Renata Tebaldi, Giulietta Simionato, and Richard Tucker. Ruth Page provided choreography for the Mozart and Verdi.

Solti also shared the podium with Emerson Buckley for a gala concert on November 10 with a star-studded cast that included Tebaldi, Simionato, Tucker, Ettore Bastianini, and Miraslav Čangalović.

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Theodore Thomas

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