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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of legendary soprano Jessye Norman, who died earlier today in New York. She was 74.

Jessye Norman (Royal Philharmonic Society photo)

A frequent visitor to Chicago—on concert, recital, and opera stages—Norman appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as vocal soloist and narrator on many occasions, both at Orchestra Hall and the Ravinia Festival. A complete list of her performances and recordings with the Orchestra is below.

March 21, 22, and 23, 1974, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Das Paradies und die Peri, Op. 50
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Birgit Finnilä, contralto
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Raffaele Arié, bass
Sarah Beatty, soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 29, 30, and 31, 1975, Orchestra Hall
LA MONTAINE Songs of the Rose of Sharon, Op. 6
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

August 9, 1975, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
Edo de Waart, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

Receiving bows following Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall on September 24, 1986

Receiving bows following Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall on September 24, 1986 (Jim Steere photo)

July 7, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te?, K. 505
Edward Gordon, piano
RAVEL Sheherazade
BERLIOZ The Death of Cleopatra
WAGNER Wesendonk-Lieder
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

July 9, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
James Levine, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Jessye Norman, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Kirk Stuart, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 8, 1979, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Seth McCoy, tenor

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BRUCKNER Te Deum
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
David Rendall, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 28, 1981. For Deutsche Grammophon, Steven Paul was the executive producer, Werner Mayer was the recording producer, and Günther Breest was the balance engineer.

December 1, 2, and 3, 1983, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
David Rendall, tenor

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 (Solti 2)

September 24, 25, 26, and 27, 1986, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Reinhild Runkel, mezzo-soprano
Robert Schunk, tenor
Hans Sotin, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on September 29 and 30, 1986. For London Records, Michael Haas was the producer, John Pellowe was the engineer, and Neil Hutchinson was tape editor. The recording won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

July 1, 1988, Ravinia Festival
WAGNER Act 1 of Die Walküre
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor
Aage Haugland, bass

July 5, 1992, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS  Ruhe, meine Seele, Op. 27, No. 1
STRAUSS Waldseligkeit, Op. 49, No. 1
STRAUSS Wiegenlied, Op. 41, No. 1
STRAUSS Die heiligen drei Konige aus Morgenland, Op. 56, No. 6
STRAUSS Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

Boulez Bluebeard

December 2, 4, and 7, 1993, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Bluebeard’s Castle
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
László Polgár, bass
Larry Russo, narrator
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on December 6 and 13, 1993. For Deutsche Grammophon, Roger Wright was the executive producer, Pål Christian Moe was the associate producer, Karl-August Naegler was the recording producer, Helmut Burk was the balance engineer, Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were the recording engineers, and Hans-Ulrich Bastin was the editor. Nicholas Simon was the narrator for the commercial release. The recording won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

June 22, 1996, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Villanelle, Le spectre de la rose Sur les lagunes, and L’ile inconnue from Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
RAVEL Sheherazade
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

James Conlon acknowledges Norman following her narration of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait at the Ravinia Festival on July 18, 2009 (Russell Jenkins photo)

June 21, 1997, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Vado, ma dove?, K. 583
MOZART Porgi amor from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
BIZET Habanera from Carmen
SAINT-SAËNS Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson and Delilah
STRAUSS Final Scene from Capriccio
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

July 18, 2009, Ravinia Festival
COPLAND Lincoln Portrait
James Conlon, conductor
Jessye Norman, narrator

Norman also also appeared in recital and as soloist in Orchestra Hall (under the auspices of Allied Arts and later Symphony Center Presents) on the following occasions:

Jessye Norman in Orchestra Hall on May 19, 2002 (Peter Thompson for the Chicago Tribune)

January 5, 1986
Phillip Moll, piano

October 20, 1986
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Berlin Philharmonic
James Levine, conductor
Herbert von Karajan was originally scheduled to conduct Strauss’s Metamorphosen and Ein Heldenleben, but he canceled a week before the performance due to illness. The revised program was Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Strauss’s song cycle, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

October 23, 1988
James Levine, piano

March 20, 1992
Phillip Moll, piano

April 2, 1995
Ann Schein, piano

June 3, 1998
Ken Noda, piano

May 19, 2002
Mark Markham, piano

Numerous tributes have been posted on CNN, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times, and NPR, among many others.

Title page of Beethoven’s Third Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

Regarding the Third Symphony, “Beethoven, now fully emancipated from the preceding era, may be said for the first time to stand forth and show his lion’s paw!” wrote Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “In my judgment, the Eroica is only a perfectly legitimate step forward, a logical sequence in his normal development. . . . His soul now began to long to express that which had never before been said in music—anticipating centuries; hence this symphony, the first dawn of modern music, written in a definite mood, giving expression to the soul through color and contrast rather than attempting to illustrate a specific program.”

1954 recording (RCA)

“The Eroica is perhaps the first great symphony to have captured the romantic imagination,” according to CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Beethoven’s vast and powerful first movement and the funeral march that follows must have sounded like nothing else in all music. Never before had symphonic music aspired to these dimensions. . . . Beethoven’s Allegro con brio was longer—and bigger, in every sense—than any other symphonic movement at the time (the first movement of Mozart’s Prague Symphony comes the closest). It’s also a question of proportion, and Beethoven’s central development section, abounding in some truly monumental statements, is enormous.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Third Symphony during the first season, on January 12, 1892, at The Odeon in Cincinnati and later that week in Chicago on January 15 and 16 at the Auditorium Theatre.

1973–74 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on December 4, 1954. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The Third Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 5, 6, and 9, 1973, and May 18, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Third Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 6 and 8, 1989. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

Title page of Beethoven’s First Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

In Beethoven’s First Symphony, “the composer tries his wings,” according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director. In Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies, Thomas continues: “It is sometimes said that the First Symphony is Haydn and Mozart rather than Beethoven, but that is not correct. It is Beethoven, pure and simple, but Beethoven carrying on the art of his day as it had been transmitted to him by his predecessors. He knew no other style of symphonic writing because, until his own later development, there was no other. . . . One might say that Haydn and Mozart were the cradle in which the art of Beethoven was rocked, and in the First Symphony, his art was still in this cradle. . . . [The First Symphony] is a noble work and is of especial interest as the connecting link between the art of the classic and that of the romantic period.”

1961 recording (RCA)

CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher agrees. “As the first symphony by the greatest symphonist who ever lived, one might expect clues of the daring and novelty to come; since it was written at the turn of the century and premiered in Vienna, the great musical capital, in 1800, one might assume that it is with this work that Beethoven opened a new era in music. But, in fact, this symphony belongs to the eighteenth, not the nineteenth, century; it honors the tradition of Mozart, dead less than a decade, and Haydn, who had given Beethoven enough lessons to know that his student would soon set out on his own.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s First Symphony during the third season, on May 4 and 5, 1894, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on May 8, 1961. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The First Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 14, 15, and 18, 1974 (along with the Second Symphony). Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989-90 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The First Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 14 and 16, 1989, and January 27, 1990 (along with the Second Symphony). Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (IMG Artists photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to the celebrated New Zealand soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa!

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Te Kanawa has appeared in concert—in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in Carnegie Hall—and on recording on a number of notable occasions. The complete list is below.

May 4, 5, and 6, 1978, Orchestra Hall
May 12, 1978, Carnegie Hall
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded at Medinah Temple on May 15 and 16, 1978. For London Records, James Mallinson was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and Colin Moorfoot were the balance engineers.

March 23, 24, 25, and 26, 1983, Orchestra Hall
DUPARC Melodies françaises
MAHLER Symphony No. 4 in G Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Mahler’s Fourth Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on April 28 and 29, 1983. For London Records, James Mallinson was the recording producer, and James Lock and John Dunkerley were the balance engineers.

October 1, 2, and 9, 1984, Orchestra Hall (recording sessions only)
HANDEL Messiah
Anne Gjevang, contralto
Keith Lewis, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis director
For London Records, Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were the balance engineers.
Handel’s
Messiah also was performed on subscription concerts on September 27, 28, and 29, 1984. In addition to the cast above, Elizabeth Hynes was the soprano soloist.

June 29, 1985, Ravinia Festival
HANDEL Let the Bright Seraphim from Samson
MOZART Bella mia fiamma, K. 528
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
James Levine, conductor

March 19 and 21, 1987
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Thomas Moser, tenor
Tom Krause, bass
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
Olaf Bär, baritone
Richard Cohn, baritone
Patrice Michaels, soprano
Debra Austin, mezzo-soprano
William Watson, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 23, 24, 28, 30, and 31, 1987. For London Records, Andrew Cornall was the recording producer, and Simon Eadon and John Pellowe were the balance engineers.

Sir Georg Solti leads the Orchestra along with Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa in the final scene from act 1 of Verdi’s Otello on October 9, 1987 (Jim Steere photo)

June 28, 1987, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Così fan tutte, K. 588
Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Tatiana Troyanos, mezzo-soprano
Jerry Hadley, tenor
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Richard Garrin, director
James Levine, conductor

October 9, 1987, Orchestra Hall (A Concert in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Sir Georg Solti)
VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
David Huneryager, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
The concert was recorded for radio broadcast, and for WFMT, Norman Pellegrini was the producer and Mitchell G. Heller was the engineer. The duet “Già nella notte densa” was released on Solti: The Legacy in 2012, and for London Records, Matthew Sohn was the restoration engineer.

April 8 and 12, 1991, Orchestra Hall
April 16 and 19, 1991, Carnegie Hall
VERDI Otello
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Leo Nucci, baritone
Elzbieta Ardam, mezzo-soprano
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor
John Keyes, tenor
Dimitri Kavrakos, bass
Alan Opie, baritone
Richard Cohn, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Terry Edwards, guest chorus master
Chicago Children’s Choir (April 8 and 12)
Leslie Britton, director
Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus (April 16 and 19)
Elena Doria, director
Recorded live in Orchestra Hall on April 8 and 12 and in Carnegie Hall on April 16 and 19, 1991. For London Records, Michael Haas was the recording producer, Christopher Pope was the assistant recording producer, and James Lock and John Pellowe were the balance engineers.

July 28, 2001, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
LÉHAR “Lippen Schweigen” from Die lustige Witwe
LÉHAR “Vilja” from Die lustige Witwe
LÉHAR “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss” from Giuditta
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 19, 2008, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4
STRAUSS Ständchen, Op. 17, No.2
STRAUSS Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2
CANTELOUBE Baïlèro, La delaïssádo, and Lo fiolairé from Chants d’Auvergne
PUCCINI Mi chiamano Mimì and Donde lieta uscì from La bohème
CILEA Io son l’umile ancella from Adriana Lecouvreur
James Conlon, conductor

Happy, happy birthday!

Kiri Te Kanawa and Luciano Pavarotti onstage at Orchestra Hall in April 1991 (Jim Steere photo)

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the wonderful Welsh bass, Gwynne Howell!

Gwynne Howell (Guy Gravett photo)

Howell has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions and on several award-winning recordings between 1974 and 1990. A complete list is below (concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted).

April 12 and 13, 1974
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Jerry Jennings, tenor
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

April 24 and 26, 1975
April 30, 1975 (Carnegie Hall)
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

January 29, 30, and 31, 1976
STRAVINSKY Oedipus Rex
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Peter Pears, tenor
Josephine Veasey, mezzo-soprano
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mallory Walker, tenor
Dominic Cossa, baritone
Werner Klemperer, narrator
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

May 5, 6, and 7, 1977
May 13, 1977 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded in Chicago’s Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977. For London Records, 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.

May 10 and 12, 1979
May 19, 1979 (Carnegie Hall)
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Peter Hofmann, tenor
David Kübler, tenor
Theo Adam, baritone
Hans Sotin, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Robert Johnson, tenor
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director
The opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

April 7, 9, and 12, 1983
April 18, 1983 (Carnegie Hall)
WAGNER Das Rheingold
Siegmund Nimsgern, bass-baritone
Hermann Becht, baritone
Gabriele Schnaut, mezzo-soprano
Siegfried Jerusalem, tenor
Robert Tear, tenor
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Malcolm Smith, bass
Gwynne Howell, bass
Mary Jane Johnson, soprano
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Dennis Bailey, tenor
Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Emily Golden, mezzo-soprano

September 27, 28, and 29, 1984
HANDEL Messiah
Elizabeth Hynes, soprano
Anne Gjevang, contralto
Keith Lewis, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
David Schrader, harpsichord
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded in Orchestra Hall on October 1, 2, and 9, 1984. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were balance engineers.

January 25, 26, and 28, 1990
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Felicity Lott, soprano
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
William Shimell, baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
The work was recorded on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990, in Orchestra Hall. For London Records, Michael Haas was the recording producer, and Stanley Goodall and Simon Eadon were the balance engineers. The recording won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Performance of a Choral Work from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Check out the video below, produced by Wild Plum Arts, in which Howell talks about working with Solti and many others.

Happy, happy birthday!

Under the leadership of chorus directors Margaret Hillis and Duain Wolfe, the Chicago Symphony Chorus has won ten Grammy awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in the category of Best Choral Performance.*

Recordings have been led by music directors Sir Georg Solti and Riccardo Muti, principal guest conductor Pierre Boulez, and Ravinia Festival music director James Levine on RCA, London, Deutsche Grammophon, and CSO Resound.

1977 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on June 1 and 2, 1977, for RCA
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
Paul Goodman, recording engineer

1978 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Victor Aitay, violin
Lucia Popp, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 16, 17, and 18, 1977, for London
Ray Minshull, producer
Kenneth Wilkinson, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes, balance engineers

1979 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 15 and 16, 1978, for London
James Mallinson, recording producer
Kenneth Wilkinson and Colin Moorfoot, balance engineers

1982 – Best Choral Performance–Classical
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981, for London
James Mallinson, recording producer
James Lock and Simon Eadon, balance engineers

1983 – Best Choral Performance
HAYDN The Creation
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sylvia Greenberg, soprano
Norma Burrowes, soprano
Rudiger Wohlers, tenor
James Morris, bass-baritone
Siegmund Nimsgern, bass
David Schrader, harpsichord
Frank Miller, cello
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 9, 10, and 11, 1981, for London
Paul Myers, recording producer
James Lock and John Dunkerley, balance engineers

1984 – Best Choral Performance
BRAHMS A German Requiem, Op. 45
James Levine, conductor
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Håkan Hagegård, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 5 and 6, 1983, for RCA
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
Paul Goodman, recording engineer
John Newton and Thomas MacCluskey, engineers

1986 – Best Choral Performance
ORFF Carmina burana
James Levine, conductor
June Anderson, soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Bernd Weikl, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on July 9 and 10, 1984, for Deutsche Grammophon
Steven Paul, producer
Cord Garben, recording supervisor
Klaus Scheibe, recording engineer
Jürgen Bulgrin, editing

1991 – Best Performance of a Choral Work
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Felicity Lott, soprano
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
William Shimmell, baritone
Gwynne Howell, bass
Richard Webster, organ
John Sharp, cello
Willard Elliot, bassoon
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on January 25, 26, and 28, 1990, for London
Michael Haas, recording producer
Stanley Goodall and Simon Eadon, balance engineers

1993 – Best Performance of a Choral Work
BARTÓK Cantata profana
Pierre Boulez, conductor
John Aler, tenor
John Tomlinson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on December 16, 1991, for Deutsche Grammophon
Alison Ames, executive producer
Karl-August Naegler, recording producer
Rainer Maillard, balance engineer
Oliver Rosalla, editing

2010 – Best Choral Performance
VERDI Messa da Requiem
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on January 15, 16, and 17, 2009, for CSO Resound
Christopher Alder, producer
Christopher Willis, recording engineer
David Frost and Tom Lazarus, mixing
Silas Brown and David Frost, stereo mastering

*The name of the category has changed slightly over the years; see here for details.

Title page for the first printed edition of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra

Guest conductor George Szell led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra on December 2 and 3, 1948, almost exactly four years following the work’s premiere on December 1, 1944, with Serge Koussevitzky leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

In the Chicago Daily News, Clarence Joseph Bulliet called the work, “violent and awesome in its contrasts, sometimes as stormy as the most sensational of modern music. Then it calmed down to rival in delicacy the classicism of Haydn and Beethoven between which it was programmed at Orchestra Hall Thursday night.” (Haydn’s Oxford Symphony opened the concert, followed by the Bartók and Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto, that featured the debut of Seymour Lipkin.) Felix Borowski, writing for the Chicago Sun, added, that Bartók’s Concerto was, “of more than ordinary worth . . . Modern, indeed it is, but there are ideas—often very beautiful ideas—in the course of it. The orchestration is rich and colorful, frequently with new and beguiling textures.”

Early in his tenure as sixth music director, Fritz Reiner first led the Orchestra in his friend and countryman’s work on October 13 and 15, 1955. “This wonderful score, a network of nerves spun and controlled by the most brilliant of nervous energies, was played as only great orchestras can play,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune. “It is a superb work and a Reiner triumph.”

The following week, Reiner and the Orchestra committed their performance to disc on October 22; for RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton the recording engineer. In February 2016, Gramophone listed this release as one of the “finest recordings of Bartók’s music,” noting the “sheer fervour of Reiner’s direction . . . taut and agile . . . [his] precision and control is immediately apparent.”

The Orchestra has since recorded the work on five additional occasions, as follows:

During his year as principal conductor of the Ravinia Festival, Seiji Ozawa recorded the work in Orchestra Hall on June 30 and July 1, 1969, for AngelPeter Andry was the executive producer, Richard C. Jones the producer, and Carson Taylor was the recording engineer. Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti conducted the Concerto for London on January 19 and 20, 1981, in Orchestra Hall. James Mallinson was the producer and James Lock the balance engineer.

James Levine, Ravinia’s second music director, led sessions in Orchestra Hall on June 28, 1989, for Deutsche Grammophon. Steven Paul was executive producer, Christopher Alder the recording producer, and Gregor Zielinsky was balance engineer. During the 1990 tour to the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Austria, Solti conducted the Orchestra in an all-Bartók program, video recorded at the Budapest Convention Centre on November 28, 1990, for London. Humphrey Burton directed the production, and Katya Krausova was producer, Eric Abraham the executive producer, and Michael Haas the audio producer.

Most recently, Pierre Boulez recorded the work in Orchestra Hall on November 30, 1992, for Deutsche Grammophon. Roger Wright was the executive producer, Karl-August Naegler the recording producer, Rainer Maillard the balance engineer, and Jobst Eberhardt and Reinhild Schmidt were recording engineers. The release won 1994 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance.

Guest conductor Rafael Payare makes his subscription concert debut leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra on January 18 and 20, 2018.

As we prepare for Riccardo Muti‘s interpretation of Verdi’s Macbeth, we’re reminded that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has quite the performance history with the opera, both in whole and in part.

The CSO first performed music from Verdi’s Macbeth at the Ravinia Festival on July 21, 1977, under the baton of James Levine, the Festival’s music director. The first half of the program included selections from several Verdi operas (I vespri siciliani, Aida, La traviata, and Simon Boccanegra), but the second half was dedicated solely to Macbeth. Soprano Marisa Galvany (a last-minute replacement for an indisposed Martina Arroyo) and baritone Cornell MacNeil performed several selections, including the scena and duet from act 1, scene 2; “Pietà, rispetto, amore”; “Una macchia è qui tuttora”; and “Ove son io?”

Ravinia Festival, June 26, 1981

Ravinia Festival, June 26, 1981

Opening the Ravinia Festival’s forty-sixth season, the CSO gave its first complete performance of Verdi’s Macbeth on June 26, 1981. James Levine conducted, and the complete cast was as follows:

Macbeth Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Banquo John Cheek, bass-baritone
Lady Macbeth Renata Scotto, soprano
Servant/Herald Rush Tully, bass-baritone
Macduff Giuliano Ciannella, tenor
Malcolm Timothy Jenkins, tenor
Lady-in-Waiting Gene Marie Callahan, soprano
Assassin/Warrior Duane Clenton Carter, baritone
Bloody Child Sharon Graham, mezzo-soprano
Crowned Child Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Physician Terry Cook, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Winfield, associate director

On one of our previous From the Archives CD collections, we released the scene that begins “Una macchia, è qui tuttora” from act 4 (with Scotto, Callahan, and Cook). The set—A Tribute to James Levine—was released in 2004 and was volume 18 in the series.

Verdi Choruses album cover

At Orchestra Hall, the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Margaret Hillis and guest chorus master Terry Edwards) performed numerous choruses from Verdi’s operas and the Requiem, including two from Macbeth: “Tre volte miagola” and “Patria oppressa!” on November 2, 3, and 4, 1989. Sir Georg Solti led the first two concerts, and Kenneth Jean led the November 4 performance.

With Solti conducting, the choruses were recorded by London Records. Michael Haas was the producer, James Lock was the engineer, and Deborah Rogers was the tape editor.

Also at the Ravinia Festival, bass-baritone James Morris performed “Studia il passo, o mio figlio!” on July 12, 1997, with Donald Runnicles conducting; on August 8, 1997, Christoph Eschenbach conducted the ballet music; and on August 3, 2002, Eschenbach again led the ballet music as well as “Pietà, rispetto, amore” with baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

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The work most closely identified with Sir Georg Solti’s tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra would arguably be Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

During his final season as music director, Solti and the Orchestra recorded Mahler’s Fifth a second time for London Records. The work was recorded live in concert at the Musikverein in Vienna on November 30, 1990, during the Orchestra’s tour to Russia, Hungary, and Austria.

For London, Michael Haas was the producer, Stanley Goodall was the engineer, and Matthew Hutchinson was the tape editor.

In his Memoirs, Solti wrote: “it was Mahler’s Fifth which I shall always associate with the Chicago Symphony. It was part of our first tour program together, to Carnegie Hall in New York [in January 1970]. We went with a certain trepidation, not knowing how New Yorkers would receive us, as we were still an unknown quantity. When we finished the last movement, the audience stood up and screamed hysterically as if it were a rock concert. The applause seemed endless; they had fallen under the spell of our exceptional performance. I had never experienced such an overwhelming phenomenon in my life and probably never will again.” (Shortly after the concert in New York, the symphony was recorded in Chicago’s Medinah Temple in March 1970.)

In the second edition of Paul Robinson’s Solti, the author stated: “In November 1990, Solti and the CSO toured Europe to great acclaim. In Vienna their program included the Mahler Fifth and the Decca engineers were there to record the event for posterity. It turned out to be an even finer recording than the one they had made in Chicago twenty years before. The virtuosity is on the same high level but there is a depth of feeling, particularly in the Adagietto, that is quite striking. The sound quality is also remarkable, taking advantage of the latest in digital technology. There are numerous subtleties of soft playing only hinted at in the earlier recording. One of Mahler’s most original touches of orchestration is the use of a tam-tam in the second movement. It is marked piano and in most recordings it is simply not audible. But in this one it has an altogether distinctive presence that colors the whole texture of the music. Wonderful! There are times when one misses the expansiveness of expression that is so moving in the [Leonard] Bernstein or [Herbert von] Karajan recordings, but this is nonetheless one of [the] best documentations of Solti and the CSO in their prime together.”

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With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Georg Solti led Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in March 1970 in Chicago and again in May 1979, with concerts in Chicago and New York City.

March 12, 14, and 16, 1970, at Orchestra Hall
Leonore Anja Silja, soprano
Marzelline Lucia Popp, soprano
Florestan Jess Thomas, tenor
Jaquino Frank Porretta, tenor
Don Pizarro Herbert Fliether, baritone
Rocco Kurt Boehme, bass
Don Fernando Thomas Paul, bass
Two Prisoners William Wahman, tenor and Gary Kendall, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Fidelio rehearsal in Orchestra Hall

May 10 and 12, 1979, at Orchestra Hall
May 19, 1979, at Carnegie Hall
Leonore Hildegard Behrens, soprano
Marzelline Sona Ghazarian, soprano
Florestan Peter Hofmann, tenor
Jaquino David Kübler, tenor
Don Pizarro Theo Adam, baritone
Rocco Hans Sotin, bass
Don Fernando Gwynne Howell, bass
Two Prisoners Robert Johnson, tenor and Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

Following the performance in Carnegie Hall, the opera was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1979. For London Records, Ray Minshull was the producer, Michael Haas was the assistant producer, and James Lock, David Frost, and Tony Griffiths were the engineers.

In Gramophone, W.S.M. wrote: “No comparative sets are listed above because in one sense, this new Fidelio is at present hors concours: it is the first digitally recorded opera to be released, and in an ensemble opera the new technique pays handsome dividends. . . .

“This Decca/Solti suggests a large studio with a quite reverberant acoustic, actually the Medinah Temple in Chicago. For the outdoor scenes it works well, the garden with sparring lovers, the spacious fresh-air into which the prisoners emerge, later the square where they are freed (at least we hope so) and dramatic complications are resolved. The dungeon scene doesn’t actually sound misplaced, in the literal sense, but neither does it suggest a different, cramped, deep, awesome location. This is not a theatrical representation, or we would hear the guards enter and leave, steps ascended and descended, doors opened, perhaps the rattle of chains, something to suggest that Fidelio is not just an oratorio. . . .

Solti and Margaret Hillis listen to Fidelio playbacks

“Solti views Fidelio steadily and whole; intent on the menace and the ultimate victory of humanity. His tempi are steady, for the most part, only in the duet for Pizarro and Rocco seemingly too slow for the singers. He seldom needs to add ritardandi or accelerandi as other Fidelio conductors do, and he is able to care for nuance and details of part-writing, for example in the canon quartet. Here too each new vocal entry is truly soils tore, a wonderful effect of rapt self-communion, until Jaquino’s, not rapt at all but infuriated, therefore loud, but soon blending into the others. The Prisoners’ Chorus shows the Solti approach at its finest and most moving. If the Florestan were tip to the rest, I would count this the most desirable of recorded Fidelios.”

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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