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Sir Georg Solti conducted his beloved Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the last time in March 1997. His performance on March 29 was his 999th time conducting the Orchestra.

The program included Mussorgsky’s Prelude to Khovanshchina, Shostakovich’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with bass Sergei Aleksashkin, and Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 15.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote that Solti “is a latecomer to Shostakovich’s music and he is trying to make up for lost time. He has recorded three of the composer’s symphonies with the CSO in recent seasons and these performances are being taped for London Records. He resisted the composer’s music because of Shostakovich’s seeming cooperation with the Soviet regime but has changed his mind as details about the composer’s politics became known. As is usually the case with Solti, details were neatly in place Thursday night.”

And John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune wrote: “Solti’s response to the symphony was to lay everything out with the utmost clarity and precision and to assign each climax its proper weight, so that the listener was free to decide what it all means. At his jaunty tempo, the opening Allegretto was all forced jollity, just right, while the scherzo masked its sardonic intentions behind a poker face. If the funeral march was more brazenly loud than deeply disturbing, the finale was as equivocal as Shostakovich meant it to be.”

For the recording, Michael Woolcock was the producer, James Lock and Philip Siney were the balance engineers, Duncan Mitchell was the location engineer, and Simon Bertram and Matthew Hutchinson were the recording editors.

Solti’s program book biography, part 1 – March 1997

Solti’s program book biography, part 2 – March 1997

Wynne Delacoma’s review in the Chicago Sun-Times – March 21, 1997

John von Rhein’s review in the Chicago Tribune – March 22, 1997

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“After two years at the Fodor School, I passed the entrance examinations [at the age of 12] for the Liszt Academy, where, for six years, I received the most significant part of my formal music education. The Liszt Academy is housed in a magnificent building, and its beautiful Art Nouveau concert hall has marvelous acoustics for solo recitals and chamber music performances. The training I received there was difficult and at times harsh, but those who survived the experience emerged as real musicians. The academy gave me a grounding in discipline and hard work that has sustained me throughout my life, and the lessons I learned there I now try to impress on young people. . . .

Béla Bartók

“My first piano teacher there was Arnold Székely . . . When I was fifteen or sixteen, Professor Székely caught pneumonia, and we pupils were told that during his absence his lessons would be given by Professor Bartók. Although Béla Bartók was a fine pianist and needed to teach in order to earn a living, the obvious question remains: Why was he teaching piano instead of composition? The answer is he believed that composition cannot be taught. He was absolutely right. One does have to learn the elements of composition, such as harmony, counterpoint, and form, but one can’t be taught how to compose anything worth hearing; one either does or does not have a talent for composing music.

“Bartók presented an austere, forbidding front to the world even in those years, when he was still in his mid-forties, his reputation was daunting. . . . We were fully aware that there was an authentic genius teaching at our academy.

“When I learned that I would have to play for him, I felt terribly fearful. Bartók kept our class separate from his own; we spent several hours with him twice a week . . . Seventy years have elapsed since then and I do not remember much about those sessions, but I do recall that at every lesson each pupil played parts of The Well-Tempered Clavier for Bartók. I also played some Debussy preludes for him. During one of the first lessons, I made a terrible faux pas: I sat down to play his Allegro barbaro for piano solo. When he saw me set the music on the stand, he became quite upset. ‘No, no, not that!’ he said. ‘I don’t want to hear that!’ It was stupid of me to have thought that he might have enjoyed hearing an immature pupil play one of his compositions, but my intentions had been good: I had wanted to show my love and respect for him.”

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Zoltán Kodály

“I don’t remember the name of my first teacher at the Liszt Academy, but when, at the age of thirteen or fourteen, I won a prize in a piano competition promoted by a Budapest politician, one of the pieces I played was my own. My mother, convinced that I was a second Mozart, persuaded the politician to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf to the academy’s best-known composition teacher, Zoltán Kodály. . . .

“I don’t know how my mother had the courage to take me to a man of such prestige as Kodály, but there we were one day in his studio at the academy. Such was her naïveté in political matters that she didn’t realize that the politician who had written the letter she handed him was right-wing; Kodály was left-wing. ‘My son composes and has brought along some little pieces that he has written,’ she said. ‘Would you like to listen to them?’

“I am sure that the pieces were terrible, but Kodály listened patiently. ‘The boy certainly has talent,’ he told my mother, ‘but he must finish his education. Bring him back to me when he is eighteen, and we’ll discuss the matter again.’ This was a fair remark, but my mother was deeply offended: How had Kodály dared to turn down her little Mozart? Instead of following his advice, she took me immediately to Albert Siklós, the other principal composition professor at the academy; he listened to my pieces and accepted me as a pupil. . . .

“Composition exams were held twice a year; we were given blank music paper early in the morning and had to produce a certain type of composition by noon. Together, Siklós and Kodály looked at each student’s work and graded it . . . Kodály never gave the slightest indication that he recognized me. He always graded my work fairly, but he never said a word to me. I finished the course successfully and wrote a string quartet as a graduation piece, thereby ending my career as a composer. Kodály handed me my diploma, but not even then did he say a word to me.”

Solti later encountered Kodály on a few occasions, several years after Solti left the Academy. Their final encounter was in 1965 “when he attended some rehearsals and one of my performances of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron at Covent Garden. Afterward, he said the nicest things to me—what a marvelous musician I had become, and so on. I was as pleased as could be, because he was a shy man and not normally generous with compliments.”

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Ernö (Ernst von) Dohnányi

“During my last two years at the academy, I studied composition with Ernö Dohnányi . . . the internationally celebrated pianist, conductor, and composer, who became the academy’s director a few years after I graduated. He was a brilliant man but not a good teacher.

“At first, I had a composition lesson with him once every two weeks. He would look at my work, play it through at the piano, mark it up, and discuss it with me; he was a phenomenal sight reader, and he could whip through whatever I had set down on paper, no matter how messy the scrawl. After a few months, however, he told me ‘Phone me whenever you’ve written something.’ This was a fatal pedagogical error: I worked less and less, and during the second year I didn’t have more than three lessons with him. His attitude toward teaching piano was the same: ‘Call me when you’ve prepared something,’ he would tell his disciples. And when he did give lessons, his method consisted of pushing the pupil away from the keyboard and playing the piece himself. . . .

“Dohnányi was a remarkable pianist. His Beethoven was very free but showed a fine sense of phrasing and form. A performance he gave of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata remains in my memory, not because of the wonderful interpretation, but because he got lost in the first movement’s tricky development section. In an amazing display of sangfroid, he improvised his way out of the problem. Others would have stood up and left the stage, but he went on.”

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Leo Weiner

“Beginning at about the age of fourteen, and until graduation from the academy, [most of] the instrumentalists had to participate in the [chamber music] course. Presiding over it for many years was the composer Leo Weiner, who thus exercised an enormous influence on three generations of Hungarian musicians. . . .

“In his class, I played a vast amount of repertoire, from Mozart to Brahms. I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to him. He was a marvelous, natural musician, but also a complete professional with a broad and profound knowledge of the art of making music. He never spoke about technique, but, rather, about musical structure, freedom of phrasing, and about probing beyond the notes. He taught us to listen to one another when we played in an ensemble, however large or small, and to develop a sense of when to lead and when to follow—and why, and how. Knowing how to listen, knowing how to assess what is going on within the ensemble, and knowing how to pinpoint and fix what is wrong—these are a chamber musician’s basic skills and they are a conductor’s basic skills. I am not exaggerating when I say that whatever I have achieved as a musician I owe more to Leo Weiner than to anyone else.”

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In November 1993 at Orchestra Hall, Music Director Laureate Sir Georg Solti paid tribute to the Liszt Academy and his teachers, performing and recording several works with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The release—entitled Mephisto Magic—included the following works:

LISZT Mephisto Waltz No. 1
LISZT Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
BARTÓK Hungarian Sketches
WEINER Prince Csongor and the Goblins, Op. 10
BARTÓK Romanian Folk Dances
KODÁLY Háry János Suite, Op. 35a

For London Records, Michael Woolcock was the producer, Colin Moorfoot was the engineer, and Matthew Hutchinson was the tape editor.

Text excerpted from Memoirs by Sir Georg Solti.

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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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With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Georg Solti conducted Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman in May 1976, with concerts in Chicago and New York City:

May 6 and 8, 1976, at Orchestra Hall
May 14, 1976, at Carnegie Hall
The Dutchman Norman Bailey, bass-baritone
Senta Janis Martin, soprano
Daland Martti Talvelabass
Erik René Kollo, tenor
The Steersman Werner Krenntenor
Mary Isola Jonesmezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director

Reviews of the performances in Chicago are here and for New York here.

The week 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 assisted by Michael Woolcock, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the engineers.

Solti leading Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in New York’s Carnegie Hall on May 14, 1976


Recording session in May 1976 in Chicago’s Medinah Temple for Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman

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Solti and Margaret Hillis show off their 1986 Grammy Awards for Liszt’s Faust Symphony and Orff’s Carmina burana.

Sir Georg Solti won thirty-one Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences—more than any other recording artist. Twenty-four of those awards were with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. In addition, Solti and producer John Culshaw received the first NARAS Trustees’ Award in 1967 for their “efforts, ingenuity, and artistic contributions” in connection with the first complete recording of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen with the Vienna Philharmonic. Sir Georg also received the Academy’s 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alison Krauss and Quincy Jones tie for the number two slot with twenty-seven awards each, and Pierre Boulez—CSO conductor emeritus and former principal guest conductor—is number three, with twenty-six Grammy Awards, including eight with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Following is a complete list of Sir Georg Solti’s Grammy Awards.*

1962
Best Opera Recording (1)
VERDI Aida
Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, Rita Gorr, Jon Vickers, Robert Merrill, Giorgio Tozzi
Rome Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
RCA

1966
Best Opera Recording (2)
WAGNER Die Walküre
Georg Solti, conductor
Birgit Nilsson, Régine Crespin, Christa Ludwig, James King, Hans Hotter, Gottlob Frick
Vienna Philharmonic
London

1972
Album of the Year—Classical (3)
Best Choral Performance—Classical (other than opera) (4)
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Georg Solti, conductor
Heather Harper, Lucia Popp, Arleen Augér, Yvonne Minton, Helen Watts, René Kollo, John Shirley-Quirk, Martti Talvela
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Singverein Chorus
Vienna Boys’ Choir
Norbert Balatsch and Helmut Froschauer, chorus masters
David Harvey, producer
London

1972
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (5)
MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor
Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
London

1974
Album of the Year—Classical (6)
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (7)
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
David Harvey, producer
London

1974
Best Opera Recording (8)
PUCCINI La bohème
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Montserrat Caballé, Judith Blegen, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes, Vicente Sardinero, Ruggero Raimondi
London Philharmonic Orchestra
John Alldis Choir
Wandsworth School Boys’ Choir
RCA

1975
Album of the Year—Classical (9)
Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 in B flat Major, Op. 60
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
BEETHOVEN Overture to Coriolan, Op. 62
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Pilar Lorengar, Yvonne Minton, Stuart Burrows, Martti Talvela
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Ray Minshull and David Harvey, producers
London

1976
Best Classical Orchestral Performance (10)
STRAUSS Also sprach Zarathustra
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Ray Minshull, producer
London

1977
Best Choral Performance (other than opera) (11)
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, Janet Baker, Veriano Luchetti, José van Dam
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
RCA

1978
Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) (12)
BEETHOVEN Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, Yvonne Minton, Mallory Walker, Gwynne Howell
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1979
Best Classical Album (13)
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (14)
Brahms’s Complete Symphonies
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
BRAHMS Tragic Overture, Op. 81
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Mallinson, producer
London

1979
Best Choral Performance, Classical (other than opera) (15)
BRAHMS Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, Bernd Weikl
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1980
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (16)
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Ray Minshull, producer
London

1981
Best Classical Album (17)
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (18)
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Isobel Buchanan, Mira Zakai
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Mallinson, producer
London

1982
Best Choral Performance (other than opera) (19)
BERLIOZ La Damnation de Faust, Op. 24
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Frederica von Stade, Kenneth Riegel, José van Dam, Malcolm King
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
London

1983
Best Classical Album (20)
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (21)
MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Mallinson, producer
London

1983
Best Opera Recording (22)
MOZART Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, Lucia Popp, Frederica von Stade, Samuel Ramey, Thomas Allen, Kurt Moll
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Opera Chorus
Christopher Raeburn, producer
London
This recording actually tied with the soundtrack for Verdi’s La traviata with James Levine conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; principal soloists Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil.

1983
Best Choral Performance (other than opera) (23)
HAYDN The Creation
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Norma Burrowes, Sylvia Greenberg, Rüdiger Wohlers, James Morris, Siegmund Nimsgern
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1985
Best Opera Recording (24)
SCHOENBERG Moses und Aron
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Franz Mazura, Philip Langridge
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Mallinson, producer
London

1986
Best Classical Orchestral Recording (25)
LISZT A Faust Symphony
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Siegfried Jerusalem
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Michael Haas, producer
London

1987
Best Orchestral Recording (26)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Jessye Norman, Reinhild Runkel, Robert Schunk, Hans Sotin
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Michael Haas, producer
London

1988
Best Opera Recording (27)
WAGNER Lohengrin
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Jessye Norman, Eva Randová, Plácido Domingo, Siegmund Nimsgern, Hans Sotin, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Vienna Philharmonic
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Christopher Raeburn, producer
London

1988
Best Chamber Music Performance (28)
BARTÓK Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion
Sir Georg Solti and Murray Perahia, pianos
Evelyn Glennie and David Corkhill, percussion
CBS

1991
Best Performance of a Choral Work (29)
BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Felicity Lott, Anne Sofie von Otter, Hans Peter Blochwitz, William Shimell, Gwynne Howell
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
London

1992
Best Opera Recording (30)
STRAUSS Die Frau ohne Schatten
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Hildegard Behrens, Júlia Várady, Sumi Jo, Reinhild Runkel, Plácido Domingo, José van Dam
Vienna Philharmonic
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Vienna Boys’ Choir
Christopher Raeburn, Morten Winding, and Stephen Trainor, producers

1997
Best Opera Recording (31)
WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Karita Mattila, Iris Vermillion, Ben Heppner, Herbert Lippert, José van Dam, Alan Opie, René Pape
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Michael Woolcock, producer

*A database of former Grammy Award winners can be found here; category titles have changed over the years. For opera recordings, only principal soloists are listed.

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With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Georg Solti conducted Haydn’s The Creation on three different occasions at Orchestra Hall:

December 11 and 12, 1969 (performed in English)
Gabriel and Eve Heather Harper, soprano
Uriel Stuart Burrows, tenor
Raphael and Adam Giorgio Tozzi, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director
This was Solti’s first collaboration as music director with Margaret Hillis and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. These were also the first subscription concert performances of Haydn’s The Creation.

November 5, 6, and 8, 1981 (performed in German)
Gabriel Norma Burrowes, soprano
Eve Sylvia Greenberg, soprano
Uriel Rüdiger Wohlers, tenor
Raphael James Morris, bass
Adam Siegmund Nimsgern, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director

Following the performances, the work was recorded for London Records. Paul Myers was the producer, and James Lock and John Dunkerley were the engineers. The recording won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

October 29, 30, and November 2, 1993 (performed in German)
Gabriel and Eve Ruth Ziesak, soprano
Uriel Herbert Lippert, tenor
Raphael René Pape, bass
Adam Anton Scharinger, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director

The work was recorded live by London Records. Michael Woolcock was the producer, John Pellowe and Jonathan Stokes were the engineers, and Deborah Gilbert was the tape editor.

Solti rehearsing the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists for Haydn’s oratorio in November 1981.

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In September 1995, Sir Georg Solti led three concert performances of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Orchestra Hall. The performances were split: the first two acts on one concert and the third act on a separate concert over the course of two open dress rehearsals and four concerts.

Pictured here at a rehearsal, Solti discusses the score with Joseph Golan, a member of the Orchestra since 1953 and principal second violin since 1969. Tenor Herbert Lippert looks on.

The cast included Karita Mattila, Iris Vermillion, José van Dam, Alan Opie, René Pape, Ben Heppner, and Herbert Lippert, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Duain Wolfe).

For London Records, the recording was produced by Michael Woolcock; James Lock, John Pellowe, and Neil Hutchinson were the balance engineers; and Krzysztof Jarosz was the location engineer.

The recording won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.

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Theodore Thomas

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