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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.

Horowitz album cover

Deutsche Grammophon has released—for the first time on CD—Vladimir Horowitz‘s final recital in Orchestra Hall from October 26, 1986. The concert originally had been broadcast on WFMT (Mitchell Heller was the broadcast-recording engineer and producer). For the CD release, Jon Samuels was producer and Matthew Sohn the restoration engineer.

The two-CD set also includes two interviews, both of which were excerpted for the 1986 broadcast; on the release, they are included in their entirety. The first is with Chicago Tribune music critic Thomas Willis from October 30, 1974, and the second with WFMT’s Norman Pellegrini from October 25, 1986 (the day before the recital). Both interviews also can be heard here.

Horowitz's program for October 26, 1986; Schumann's Träumerei and Moszkowski's Etincelles were performed as encores.

Horowitz’s program for October 26, 1986; Schumann’s Träumerei and Moszkowski’s Étincelles were performed as encores. The complete program is here.

“Those who witnessed past Horowitz recitals might have known what to expect: the famously idiosyncratic phrasings, the errant tempos, the pedal effects that only he can achieve, the bursts of titanic virtuosity,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune on October 27, 1986. “Through it all Horowitz wore a gentle smile, looking rather childlike as he waved to the crowd, clapped his hands and gave little shrugs whenever his keyboard conjuring drew the wonted response. One trusts that the effect was as potent for the thousands who were listening to WFMT’s live radio broadcast as it was for the crowd who packed the hall and stage seats.”

“But there is only one Horowitz, a miraculous, many-faceted artist who delights in surprising us and revealing the plurality of things that enter into his artistry,” added Robert C. Marsh in the Chicago Sun-Times. “Have no doubt, he is still, I am sure, the greatest virtuoso of all. . . . Listening to Horowitz is listening to history. He takes us back to a musical world that, except for himself, is largely gone. I was pleased so many of his listeners were young people. Opportunities for time traveling are always rare. We should savor them.” Both reviews are available here.

In the 1986 interview, the pianist concluded: “I think Chicago was my first success in America . . . Chicago is special for me. I like the people, the whole, everything.”

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Theodore Thomas

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Pianist Radu Lupu joins Maestro Muti and the CSO in Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto for the first half of tonight's program. 
Completing the program is Liszt's Dante Symphony, a multi-movement symphonic poem inspired by the Dante Alighieri's journey through Hell and Purgatory, as described in the Italian poet's 14-century masterpiece The Divine Comedy. Photo by @toddrphoto.

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