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May 27, 1999 (Dan Rest photo)

May 27, 1999 (Dan Rest photo)

On May 27, 1999, Mstislav Rostropovich and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched a three-week festival celebrating the music of Dmitri Shostakovich with a concert that included the First Symphony along with arias and interludes from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with soprano Olga Guriakowa.

Interviewed for the Orchestra’s program book, Rostropovich commented, “Shostakovich’s world is our world. For many decades my own life was inextricably part of that world, and has continued to be so, even now. To have lived at the same time as Shostakovich is a source of great joy. To have been invited in his creative life has been an immense responsibility. And to play his music has been the greatest happiness.”

shostakovich-festival

Over the course of the festival, Rostropovich conducted four more of the composer’s symphonies: nos. 10, 11, 12, and 13 with bass Sergei Aleksashkin and men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. He also included a suite from the incidental music to the film Hamlet, the First Piano Concerto with Constantin Lifschitz and principal trumpet Adolph Herseth, and the Violin Concerto with Maxim Vengerov. In addition, Rostropovich conducted the composer’s arrangement of Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Enrico Dindo and Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with contralto Larissa Diadkova. Finally, he performed as soloist in the First Cello Concerto—a work written especially for him—led by associate conductor William Eddins.

Rostropovich first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra on December 9, 10, and 11, 1965, in Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Georg Solti—in his Orchestra Hall debut—conducting. He first appeared as conductor with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on August 14, 1975, leading Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini; arias from Puccini’s operas with his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya; and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Rostropovich first conducted at Orchestra Hall on the Orchestra’s gala centennial concert on October 6, 1990, leading the last movement of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with András Schiff as soloist.

This article also appears here.

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Lorin Maazel (Ben Spiegel photo)

Lorin Maazel (Ben Spiegel photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Lorin Maazel, a frequent and beloved guest conductor for forty years, from 1973 until 2013. Maazel died on July 13, 2014, at his Castleton Farms estate in Virginia. He was 84.

Maazel made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in February and March 1973, leading two weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall as well as a run-out to Milwaukee:

February 22, 23 & 24, 1973
February 26, 1973 (Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
BARTÓK Two Images, Op. 10
SCRIABIN The Poem of Ecstasy, Op. 54

March 1, 2 & 3, 1973
MARTIRANO Contrasts for Orchestra
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61

Mstislav Rostropovich and Lorin Maazel, following their performance of the first movement of Dvořák's Cello Concerto at the Centennial Gala on October 6, 1990

Mstislav Rostropovich and Lorin Maazel, following their performance of the first movement of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto at the Centennial Gala on October 6, 1990

During his forty-year collaboration with the Orchestra, Maazel’s repertoire covered a wide range of composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Hindemith, Holst, Kernis, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Penderecki, Prokofiev, Respighi, Strauss, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Wagner. He was one of several conductors invited to share the podium for the CSO’s Centennial Gala on October 6, 1990, and a few weeks later he led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Shchedrin’s Old Russian Circus Music (commissioned to celebrate the CSO’s centennial season) on October 25, 1990. A noted composer, Maazel also led the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of his own Farewells on December 14, 2000.

Maazel last led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall for two weeks of subscription concerts—including a run-out to the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois—in February 2005:

February 10 & 12, 2005
February 11, 2005 (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois)
BRAHMS Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16
BARTÓK Two Images, Op. 10
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

February 17, 18, 19 & 20, 2005
THOMAS Gathering Paradise
Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1
John Sharp, cello
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 39

His most recent appearance in Orchestra Hall was in March 2009 with the New York Philharmonic, during his final season as that ensemble’s music director:

March 9, 2009
BERLIOZ Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
TCHAIKOVSKY Suite No. 3 in G Major, Op. 55
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring

Maazel’s last appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were tour concerts in January and February 2013, including stops in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Seoul.

A statement from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Lorin Maazel’s passing can be found here.

A February 2005 performance of Maazel leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Brahms’s Serenade no. 2 in A major, op. 16—including the maestro speaking on Brahms—may be listened to here.

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To honor Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gave a gala concert of the highest order on October 9, 1987.

Governor James R. Thompson opened the concert with welcoming remarks, and after the intermission, Mayor Harold Washington presented Sir Georg with the City of Chicago’s Medal of Merit. The concert program was as follows:

CORIGLIANO Campane di Ravello (world premiere)
Kenneth Jean, conductor

J. STRAUSS Overture to Die Fledermaus
Plácido Domingo, conductor

MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Sir Georg Solti, conductor and piano
Murray Perahia, piano

STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa perform a scene from Verdi’s Otello

VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
David Huneryager, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

The commemorative program contained letters and testimonials from numerous public officials, conductors, musicians, and industry professionals, including: Ronald Reagan, James R. Thompson, Harold Washington, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Carlo Maria Giulini, Rafael Kubelík, John Corigliano, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rudolf Serkin, Henry Fogel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christa Ludwig, Birgit Nilsson, Witold Lutosławski, Sir Charles Mackerras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Klaus Tennstedt, David Del Tredici, Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Slatkin, Werner Klemperer, José van Dam, Elliott Carter, Karel Husa, Isaac Stern, Morton Gould, Hans Werner Henze, Itzhak Perlman, Anja Silja, Erich Leinsdorf, Josef Suk, Plácido Domingo, Michael Tippett, Kiri Te Kanawa, Murray Perahia, Leontyne Price, András Schiff, Kenneth Jean, Andrzej Panufnik, Dame Janet Baker, Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Minton, Herbert Blomstedt, Mira Zakai, Margaret Hillis, Gunther Herbig, Ray Minshull, Ann Murray, Philip Langridge, Raymond Leppard, Vladimir Ashkenazy, George Rochberg, Gwynne Howell, Ardis Krainik, Michael Morgan, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Henry Mancini, and Barbara Hendricks.

Solti and Perahia as soloists in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos

The concert was covered widely in the press, in the Chicago Tribune (here, here, and here) and Sun-Times (here and here), as well as Time, Newsweek, the Post-Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many others.

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Sir Georg Solti introduced a number of up-and-coming artists to Chicago audiences, including seventeen-year-old Anne-Sophie Mutter in October 1980. She was a replacement for the originally scheduled Leonid Kogan.

According to her biography in the program book, Mutter had made her U.S. debut with Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic in January 1980, performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Two weeks later, she appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra in Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting.

For her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut, Mutter performed Beethoven’s Romance in G major and Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto. Reviews of the performances, concentrating primarily on Sir Georg’s account of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, are here, here, here, and here.

Mutter appeared twice more with the CSO under Solti’s baton: on January 12 (special University Night concert), 13, 14, and 15, 1983, in Mozart’s Fourth Violin Concerto; and on May 11, 12, and 13, 1989, in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

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To launch the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 100th season, an all-star cast of conductors and soloists was assembled for a gala opening concert on October 6, 1990. From left to right, back row: Associate Conductor Kenneth Jean, András Schiff, Lorin Maazel, Gary Lakes, Sylvia McNair, Samuel Ramey; middle row: Music Director Designate Daniel Barenboim, Lady Valerie Solti, Music Director Sir Georg Solti, Leonard Slatkin, Yo-Yo Ma; front row: Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich, Susanne Mentzer, and Murray Perahia.

Lady Solti served as host and the concert program was as follows:

WAGNER Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

BIZET Adagietto from L’arlésienne Suite No. 1
Lorin Maazel, conductor

HAYDN Allegro molto from Cello Concerto in C Major, Hob. VIIb:1
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

DVOŘÁK Allegro from Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Lorin Maazel, conductor

CORIGLIANO Bells of Ravello
Kenneth Jean, conductor

MOZART Adagio in E Major, K. 261 and Rondo in C Major, K. 373
Isaac Stern, violin
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

BARBER Essay No. 2, Op. 17
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

MOZART Andante and Allegro vivace assai from Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467
Murray Perahia, piano and conductor

BRAHMS Rondo: Allegro non troppo from Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
András Schiff, piano
Mstislav Rostropovich, conductor

STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

BEETHOVEN Finale: Ode, “To Joy” from Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Sylvia McNair, soprano
Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, chorus director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor


I couldn’t resist expanding on today’s On This Day factoid: “December 9, 1965 – Georg Solti makes his Orchestra Hall debut with the Orchestra, conducting Bartók’s Dance Suite, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto (with Mstislav Rostropovich), and Schubert’s Ninth Symphony.”

Solti had appeared with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on several occasions in the 1950s and also had conducted at Lyric Opera in 1956 and 1957. But this was his debut at Orchestra Hall.

And Rostropovich had appeared in Chicago at Orchestra Hall as a recitalist, but this was his first appearance with the Orchestra.

According to Roger Dettmer’s review in Chicago’s American on December 10, Solti’s conducting “was too relentlessly intense, and yet a valid expression because of [his] undeviating vision, and the astoundingly subtle response he won from our orchestra. . . . Welcome back, Maestro Solti. Would that we might be able to say, ‘Welcome home.’”

In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis wrote that the performance of the Dvořák was not to be forgotten: “The Rostropovich attack begins with a swashbuckling preparatory flourish, yet sends the first microsecond precisely where it belongs. This one was intended for the back wall. Later came the variety show—fortissimo and pianissimo, or so you thought until he topped it next time out, all manner of rubato within phrases, heart on sleeve ritards, jutting jaw bravura. . . . For an ending, he laid the final descending phrase exactly when and where it belonged to light the slow fuse.”

Rostropovich responded to the prolonged standing ovation with Bach’s E minor sarabande, “restrained, patrician in its utter authority and command of color and tempo, and absolutely right.”

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Theodore Thomas

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Last night - Maestro Riccardo Muti and the CSO with pianist Kirill Gerstein (@kgerstein) perform Puccini’s Preludio sinfonico, R. Strauss’ Suite from Le bourgeois gentilhomme and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1. Photos by @toddrphoto.

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