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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has recorded each of Brahms’s four symphonies multiple times and also has recorded the complete cycle on three different occasions. A complete listing is below.

During his tenure as Ravinia Festival music director, James Levine recorded the symphonies with the Orchestra for RCA at Medinah Temple. The recordings were produced by Thomas Z. Shepard and Paul Goodman was the recording engineer. Jay David Saks also co-produced the First Symphony, which was recorded in July 1975. The remaining three were recorded in July 1976.

Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti also led the Orchestra in sessions at Medinah Temple. For London, the four symphonies (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures) were produced by James Mallinson; Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, and Michael Mailes were the engineers. The Third and Fourth symphonies were recorded in May 1978, and the First and Second were recorded in January 1979. The set won 1979 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Daniel Barenboim, the Orchestra’s ninth music director, recorded the four symphonies (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures and the Variations on a Theme by Haydn) live at Orchestra Hall for Erato. Vic Muenzer was producer, Lawrence Rock was the sound engineer, assisted by Christopher Willis; and Konrad Strauss was the mastering engineer. All four symphonies were recorded live in 1993: the First and Third in May, the Fourth in September, and the Second in October.

Recordings of the individual symphonies by other conductors are listed below.

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Recorded by Mercury in Orchestra Hall in April 1952
David Hall, recording director
C. Robert Fine and George Piros engineers

Günter Wand, conductor
Recorded live for RCA in Orchestra Hall in January 1989
Norman Pellegrini and David Frost, producers
Mitchell Heller, recording engineer
John Purcell, post-production engineer

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90

Frederick Stock, conductor
Recorded by Columbia in New York’s Liederkranz Hall in November 1940

Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded by RCA in Orchestra Hall in December 1957
Richard Mohr, producer

Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Recorded by Angel in Medinah Temple in October 1969
Peter Andry, producer
Carson Taylor, balance engineer

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Brahms’s four symphonies at Orchestra Hall in May. Details here and here.

Lucia-Popp

On November 12, 2014, we celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of the extraordinary Slovak soprano Lucia Popp, a favorite soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra between 1970 and 1984.

According to Sir Georg Solti, one of her frequent collaborators in Chicago and at Covent Garden, “To my mind, there will never be a Sophie (in Der Rosenkavalier) or a Susanna (in The Marriage of Figaro) to equal hers.” Popp’s career was tragically cut short and she succumbed to brain cancer in 1993, only days after her fifty-fourth birthday.

Popp appeared and recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions. Her complete performance history and discography is listed below:

March 12, 14 & 16, 1970, at Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Fidelio, Op. 72
Georg Solti, conductor
Anja Silja, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Jess Thomas, tenor
Frank Porretta, tenor
Herbert Fliether, baritone
Kurt Boehme, bass
Thomas Paul, bass
William Wahman, tenor
Gary Kendall, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director

August 30, 31 & September 1, 1971, at Sofiensaal in Vienna (recording sessions only, no public performances)
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Arleen Augér, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
René Kollo, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Martti Talvela, bass
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Norbert Balatsch, chorus master
Singverein Chorus
Helmut Froschauer, chorus master
Vienna Boys’ Choir
David Harvey produced the recording, and Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1972 Grammy Award for Album of the Year—Classical, Best Choral Performance—Classical (other than opera), and Best Engineered Recording—Classical from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

May 5, 6 & 7, 1977, at Orchestra Hall
May 13, 1977, at Carnegie Hall
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
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.

Lucia Popp in Strauss's Four Last Songs at Orchestra Hall in October 1977. Sir Georg Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Lucia Popp in Strauss’s Four Last Songs at Orchestra Hall in October 1977. Sir Georg Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

October 17 & 19, 1977, at Orchestra Hall
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
These performances originally were recorded by Unitel for television broadcast and recently were commercially released on the four-DVD set Sir Georg Solti: The Maestro.

October 27 & 28, 1977, at Orchestra Hall
October 31, 1977, at Carnegie Hall
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor (October 27 & 28)
Margaret Hillis, conductor (October 31)
Christiane Eda-Pierre, soprano
Lucia Popp, soprano
Barbara Hendricks, soprano
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
Kenneth Riegel, tenor
William Walker, baritone
Donald Gramm, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

November 1 & 2, 1977, at Carnegie Hall
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Henry Mazer, conductor (November 1)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor (November 2)
Lucia Popp, soprano

December 13, 14, 15 & 16, 1978, at Orchestra Hall
MOZART Mass in C Minor, K. 427
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Maria Venuti, soprano
Daniel Nelson, tenor
Samuel Jones, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

March 13, 14, & 15, 1980, at Orchestra Hall
MOZART Mass in C Major, K. 317 (Coronation)
Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Mira Zakai, mezzo-soprano
Alexander Oliver, tenor
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Originally recorded by WFMT for radio broadcast, this was released on the CSO’s From the Archives, vol. 13 (Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration).

October 21, 22, 23 & 24, 1981, at Orchestra Hall
MOZART Nehmt meinen Dank, K. 383
MOZART Ah, lo previdi, K. 272
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano

December 7, 1981, at Orchestra Hall (special concert dedicating the newly installed Möller pipe organ)
HAYDN Benedictus from Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo, Hob. XXII, No. 7
HANDEL “But oh! what art can teach” and “Orpheus could lead the savage race” from Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Frederick Swann, organ

March 15, 16 & 17, 1984, at Orchestra Hall
March 19, 1984, at Uihlein Hall, Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee
MAHLER Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Walton Grönroos, baritone

A marvelous tribute to Lucia Popp by Louise T. Guinther appears in the November 2014 issue of Opera News.

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Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Bruckner’s ten symphonies between January 1979 and October 1995 for London Records.

Symphony No. 0 in D Minor
Michael Woolcock, producer
Michael Mailes and Simon Eadon, engineers
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
October 1995

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Linz version, 1865-66)
Michael Woolcock, producer
John Dunkerley and Andrew Groves, engineers
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
February 1995

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
John Pellowe, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
October 1991

Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (1877 version, ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
November 1992

Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (ed. Nowak)
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
January 1981

Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major
James Mallinson, producer
James Lock, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
January 1980

Symphony No. 6 in A Major
Ray Minshull, producer
Colin Moorfoot, James Lock, and Kenneth Wilkinson, engineers
Recorded at Medinah Temple
January and June 1979
The recording of the Sixth Symphony won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Michael Haas, producer
Simon Eadon, engineer
Recorded at Medinah Temple
October 1986

Symphony No. 8 in C Minor (1890 version, ed. Nowak)
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot and James Lock, engineers
Recorded at Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonia (now the Saint Petersburg Philharmonia)
November 1990

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor
Michael Haas, producer
Colin Moorfoot, engineer
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
September and October 1985

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Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Brahms’s four symphonies between May 1978 and January 1979 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures), and that set won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album and Best Classical Orchestral Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

For the liner notes, Solti contributed the following:

“I would like to make a few comments about aspects of our recording of the Brahms symphonies, which formed part of a Brahms cycle that included the German Requiem, the Hadyn Variations, and the Academic Festival and Tragic overtures.

“The recordings, which were all made in the Medinah Temple, Chicago, took place over a period of approximately fifteen months, between October 1977, when we started with the Haydn Variations and January 1979, when we completed the cycle with the First and Second symphonies. My principal aim was to try to capture the feeling of real performances on record, and with this in mind, we always recorded whole movements without breaks. I am convinced that this is the only way, especially in the symphonies, to keep the musical architecture of the works alive. It is a tribute to the splendid quality of my Chicago orchestra and chorus that we seldom made more than two takes of anything, and there is in fact one movement of the Requiem which required just a single take.

“I would just like to highlight a few of my thoughts on each of the symphonies:

“The First Symphony is a work of dramatic tension, passion, and grandeur, which inspired von Bülow to refer to it as Beethoven’s Tenth—not, I feel, so much in relation to Beethoven as in this very sense of grandeur. In the first movement, the drama is so effectively created by Brahms by the relentless flow of rhythmic ostinati from the timpani beats at the outset to the throbbing on horns and timpani which underlies the final bars. The second movement has, in contrast, such a gentle, nostalgic, and lyrical quality and gives, together with the third and fourth movements, a variety of beautiful solos for the section leaders.

“In the Second and Third symphonies, while the coloring is much lighter, I have tried again to achieve structural clarity and to reproduce the chamber music quality which is so in evidence in these works, especially in the second and third movements of both. So as to enhance this, we used slightly fewer than full string strength and also undoubled woodwinds.

“The Fourth Symphony is structurally quite differently formed from the first three. The first movement is relatively shorter and the middle two movements much larger both in conception and content. With the last movement comes the complete break with both his own and symphonic tradition, by the creation of such a marvelous passacaglia.

“The question of first movement exposition repeats in the first three symphonies is a debated one. For each of these, Brahms composed prima and seconda volta bars which contain of course marvelous music. In live performances, I feel it should be left to the conductor’s discretion. Nearly always the repeats are omitted, as they make the works rather longer, but I felt that for recording it was important to preserve these few bars, and I have therefore kept in all the repeats. I was interested to discover that I was not alone in never having played the repeat in the First Symphony in all the performances I had ever conducted up until this recording. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had also never done so in the almost ninety years of its existence. So we were all hearing these bars for the first time!

“We had enormous joy in making these records and we felt, at the same time, a very great artistic responsibility. I hope that we have managed to convey some of both.”

All recordings on the set were produced by James Mallinson; Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, and Michael Mailes were the engineers.

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
January 1979

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Tragic Overture, Op. 81
May 1978

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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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Between September 1986 and January 1990, Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony 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 recording of the Ninth Symphony won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21
Michael Haas, producer
Stan Goodall and Michael Mailes, engineers
Jenni Whiteside, tape editor
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
November 1989

Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36
Michael Haas, producer
Stan Goodall and Michael Mailes, engineers
Jenni Whiteside, tape editor
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
January and February 1990

Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)
Michael Haas, producer
Stan Goodall, engineer
Matthew Hutchinson, tape editor
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
May 1989

Symphony No. 4 in B flat Major, Op. 60
Michael Haas, producer
James Lock, engineer
Alison Carter, tape editor
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
September 1987

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
Michael Haas, producer
James Lock, engineer
Alison Carter, tape editor
Recorded at Medinah Temple
October 1986

Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)
Michael Haas, producer
Stan Goodall, engineer
Deborah Rogers, tape editor
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
May and October 1988

Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
Michael Haas, producer
Stan Goodall, engineer
Simon Bertram, tape editor
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
May 1988

Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
Michael Haas, producer
Stan Goodall, engineer
Simon Bertram, tape editor
Recorded at Orchestra Hall
October 1988

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Jessye Norman, soprano
Reinhild Runkel, contralto
Robert Schunk, tenor
Hans Sotin, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Michael Haas, producer
John Pellowe, engineer
Neil Hutchinson, tape editor
Recorded at Medinah Temple
September and October 1986

Margaret Hillis, Solti, and soloists accept applause following the September 24, 1986, opening night performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall. The work was recorded at Medinah Temple with the same forces the following week.

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On October 7, 8, and 9, 1976, Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere performances of David Del Tredici’s Final Alice. Twenty-seven-year-old Barbara Hendricks was the soprano soloist.

The work was performed again on October 26 and 27, 1979, and recorded by London Records with sessions on October 27 and January 29 and 30, 1980. The recording was produced by James Mallinson; James Lock, John Dunkerley, and Michael Mailes were the recording engineers. It recently was released on CD for the first time.

The composer supplied comments for the recording’s liner notes: “Final Alice, commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by the National Endowment for the Arts in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial . . . is dedicated to Sir Georg Solti. Scored for huge forces—an amplified soprano/narrator, a solo concertante group of folk instruments (mandolin, banjo, accordion, two soprano saxophones) and a very large orchestra—Final Alice unfolds a series of elaborate arias interspersed and separated by dramatic episodes from the last two chapters of [Lewis Carroll‘s] Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: the Trial in Wonderland (which gradually turns to pandemonium) and Alice’s subsequent awakening and return to ‘dull reality.’ To these I have added an Apotheosis. The work teeters between the worlds of opera and symphonic music, and were I to invent a category I would call Final Alice an ‘Opera, written in concert form.’

David Del Tredici with Sir Georg Solti and Barbara Hendricks in Chicago, October 1976

Final Alice tells two stories at once; primarily, it is the tale of Wonderland itself, with all its bizarre and unpredictable happenings painted as vividly as possible. But between the lines, as it were, is the implied love of Lewis Carroll for Alice Liddell, as suggested by ‘Alice Gray’ and the Acrostic Song. By introducing these additional poems into the Trial as depositions of evidence, given by the White Rabbit (acting as a kind of chief prosecutor), I wished to bring that love story closer to the surface—not so close as to disturb the amusing, eccentric, sometimes terrifying story, but close enough to leave a recognition. I wished, that is, to add what one might call the human dimension of the man, seen only intermittently to be sure, but, hopefully, always affectingly—perhaps lingering in the memory after the dream of Wonderland itself has faded.”

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in a collection of Italian opera’s greatest masterpieces for a festive season finale. With works by Giuseppe Verdi including “Va, Pensiero” from Nabucco and the famous Anvil Chorus from Il trovatore, along with the Prologue from Boito’s Mefistofele, this performance is not be missed. There will be a post-concert CD signing with Maestro Muti on Sunday, June 25 and tickets for performances on June 23, 24 and 25 are still available - the link is in our bio. Photo by @toddrphoto.

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