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On January 25 and 26, 1907, Maud Powell returned to Chicago to again perform with the Theodore Thomas Orchestra (as we were then known). Under the baton of second music director Frederick Stock, she was soloist in the Orchestra’s first performances of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto (she had just given the U.S. premiere of the concerto with the New York Philharmonic on November 30, 1906, with Vasily Safonov conducting).

Following the first performance, William Lines Hubbard in the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Maud Powell—’our’ Maud Powell, since she is an American and her career has been made largely in this country—scored a triumph yesterday . . . There are extremely few of her brother artists who could compass [the concerto’s] technical intricacies with such surety and seeming ease as she did, and still fewer of them who could interpret it with such masterful skill.” The complete article is here.

On August 22, 2017, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of this extraordinary American violinist and musician. As part of the celebration, a sixty-minute documentary about her life—entitled Our Maud Powell, produced by Paul Butler of Ebenim Media—will premiere on Saturday, August 19, in Powell’s Illinois hometown at the Peru Public Library. Details of other anniversary events can be found on the Maud Powell Society website.

Below are a few excerpts from the film, featuring Karen Shaffer, author of the biography Maud Powell: Pioneer American Violinist; Rachel Barton Pine, violinist and a longtime champion of Powell’s; and Frank Villella, director of archives for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Maud Powell was featured as part of the 125 Moments exhibit during the CSO’s 2015-16 season, and she also posthumously received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2013.

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.

leontyne-price

Today we send all best wishes for a very happy ninetieth birthday to the legendary soprano, Leontyne Price! Several excellent tributes have been written (here, here, and here, among many others) to recognize her extraordinary and groundbreaking career as an artist—in opera, concert, and on recording.

Price has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on numerous occasions, at Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, Carnegie Hall, and the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, as follows:

February 28 and March 1, 1963 (Orchestra Hall)
BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
FALLA El amor brujo
Fritz Reiner, conductor

March 13, 1971 (Orchestra Hall)
March 15, 1971 (Pabst Theater)
BARBER “Give me my robe” from Antony and Cleopatra
MOZART “Dove sono” from Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

April 24 and 26, 1975 (Orchestra Hall)
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

July 11, 1975 (Ravinia Festival)
PUCCINI “Un bel di vedremo” from Madama Butterfly
VERDI “Ernani! Ernani, involami” from Ernani
MOZART “D’Oreste, d’Ajace” from Idomeneo, K. 366
STRAUSS “Zweite Brautnacht” from Die ägyptische Helena
James Levine, conductor

Proof sheet detail from recording sessions for Verdi's Requeim at Medinah Temple in June 1977

Proof sheet detail from recording sessions for Verdi’s Requiem at Medinah Temple in June 1977 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

July 2, 1976 (Ravinia Festival)
PUCCINI “Senza mamma” from Suor Angelica
PUCCINI “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca
VERDI “Pace, pace, mio Dio” from La forza del destino
MOZART “Come scoglio” from Così fan tutte, K. 588
WAGNER “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser
James Levine, conductor

May 31, 1977 (Orchestra Hall)
VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Dame Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 22, 1979 (Ravinia Festival)
VERDI La forza del destino
James Levine, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Sharon Graham, mezzo-soprano
Giuseppe Giacomini, tenor
Andrea Velis, tenor
Cornell MacNeil, baritone
Renato Capecchi, baritone
Carl Glaum, baritone
Bonaldo Giaiotti, bass
Julien Robbins, bass
Daniel McConnell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Price onstage with Solti and the Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on April 29, 1980 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Price onstage with Solti and the Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on April 29, 1980 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

April 29, 1980 (Carnegie Hall)
WAGNER “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

July 13, 1985 (Ravinia Festival)
PUCCINI “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca
PUCCINI “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” from La rondine
VERDI “Ernani! Ernani, involami” from Ernani
VERDI “D’amor sull’ali rosee” from Il trovatore
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
STRAUSS Final Scene from Salome
James Levine, conductor

Advance notice for Price's 1963 debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Advance notice for Price’s 1963 debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Price also recorded with the Orchestra—including two Grammy Award winners—as follows:

BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
FALLA El amor brujo
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded on March 2 and 3, 1963 in Orchestra Hall by RCA
Richard Mohr produced the recording, and Lewis Layton was the engineer. The recording won the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance–Vocal Soloist (with or without orchestra) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

VERDI Requiem
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Leontyne Price, soprano
Dame Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded on June 1 and 2, 1977, in Medinah Temple by RCA
Thomas Z. Shepard produced the recording, and Paul Goodman was the engineer. The recording won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera).

WAGNER “Dich teure Halle” from Tannhäuser
Recorded by WFMT on April 29, 1980, in Carnegie Hall
Released on Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The First 100 Years during the Orchestra’s centennial season in April 1991

Under the auspices of Allied Arts and CSO Presents, Price also gave numerous recitals in Orchestra Hall on the following dates:

  • May 6, 1956
  • April 7, 1957
  • December 6, 1958
  • May 30, 1962
  • February 3, 1963
  • February 1, 1970
  • February 27, 1972
  • April 4, 1976
  • January 29, 1984
  • November 11, 1990
  • April 24, 1994
  • February 16, 1997

Happy, happy birthday!

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

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Maud Powell

Born in Peru, Illinois, Maud Powell first played for Theodore Thomas in 1885 at the age of seventeen in New York’s Steinway Hall, auditioning with Bruch’s First Violin Concerto. Thomas immediately booked her with his orchestra, and she performed the concerto on July 30 that year in a Summer Night Concert in Chicago. According to Karen A. Shaffer and Neva Garner Greenwood’s book Maud Powell: Pioneer American Violinist, Thomas “glowed over her success: ‘At the close of that concert—my debut in America—Mr. Thomas came to me with his two hands full of greenbacks. He handed them to me, saying, “I want the honor of paying you the first fee you have earned as an artist.” ’ Theodore Thomas christened the young American his ‘musical grandchild’ and engaged her as soloist for the New York Philharmonic’s first concert of the 1885–86 season in November.”

July 18, 1893

July 18, 1893

For her Chicago Orchestra debut, Powell again performed Bruch’s First Violin Concerto on July 18, 1893, with Thomas at the World’s Columbian Exposition. According to Shaffer and Greenwood, “Maud Powell took her place among some of the world’s greatest musicians at the exposition. She was the only woman violinist to appear in these concerts and served as the representative American violinist.” In the Musical Courier, the reviewer raved, “It is hard to know where to begin to praise Miss Powell, for nearly every tone she played was full of meaning. She has improved beyond what was supposed to be the limit of her powers; her tone is pure and noble, her bowing grace itself, and her conception of the concerto was equal to that of any of the great violinists whom I have heard.”

Powell appeared with the Orchestra on several more occasions with both Thomas and Frederick Stock. Her final appearances were in March 1916, performing Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto and Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo capriccioso with Stock conducting. In 2014, she was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

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Sir Georg Solti and soloists (standing) Herbert Lippert, Karita Mattila, Ben Heppner, and Alan Opie; (seated) José van Dam, Iris Vermillion, and René Pape (Jim Steere photo)

Sir Georg Solti and soloists (standing) Herbert Lippert, Karita Mattila, Ben Heppner, and Alan Opie; (seated) José van Dam, Iris Vermillion, and René Pape (Jim Steere photo)

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. Principal soloists included Karita Mattila, Iris Vermillion, Ben Heppner, Herbert Lippert, José van Dam, Alan Opie, and René Pape, along with the Chicago Symphony Chorus prepared by Duain Wolfe.

“Last weekend you could call the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, without fear of contradiction, the best and most prestigious Wagnerian pit band in the world of opera,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “Even as Solti blockbusters go, [these concerts] were an extraordinary experience—painstakingly prepared and powerfully executed. . . . It would be no exaggeration to call this a milestone in Solti’s Wagnerian career to rank with his historic recording of the Ring.”

WAGNER Die Meistersinger

The subsequent London Records release won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. The award marked Solti’s thirty-first Grammy, more than any other recording artist in any genre. He received seven awards in addition to his twenty-four awards with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Solti and producer John Culshaw also received the first NARAS Trustees’ Award in 1967 for their “efforts, ingenuity, and artistic contributions” in connection with the first complete recording of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen with the Vienna Philharmonic. Solti also received the Academy’s 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

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On May 5, 2008, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association president Deborah Rutter Card announced that Riccardo Muti would become the Orchestra’s tenth music director, beginning with the 2010–11 season.

Barbara Frittoli sings the final "Libera me" with Riccardo Muti leading the Orchestra and Chorus on January 16, 2009 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Barbara Frittoli sings the final “Libera me” with Riccardo Muti leading the Orchestra and Chorus on January 16, 2009 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Muti’s first appearances as music director designate were on January 15, 16, and 17, 2009, in Verdi’s Requiem. Soloists were Barbara Frittoli, Olga Borodina, Mario Zeffiri, and Ildar Abdrazakov, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by chorus director Duain Wolfe.

“From the moment he walked out onto the stage of Orchestra Hall until the last notes of the Verdi sounded just over ninety minutes later, Muti showed us the summary of nearly every possible positive quality a great conductor can possess,” wrote Andrew Patner in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The CSO played on the edge of its collective seat throughout. . . . When has the CSO Chorus sounded like this? Not since founder Margaret Hillis at her peak. Some 170 voices singing as one, powered from the bottom ranges, standing and delivering on cue with equal parts passion and precision, and investing the softest passages with the greatest musicality.”

CSOR Verdi Requiem

Regarding the subsequent release of the Requiem on CSO Resound, Robert Levine for classicstoday.com wrote, “Muti still brings Toscanini to mind more than any other conductor, but he is more pliable in this performance than that other great Italian maestro or his earlier self. The Chorus, like the Orchestra, moves from fortissimo to pianissimo on a dime; their singing is effortless, precise, and filled with attention to the text. The quieter, spiritual sections are remarkable for their aura of stillness and meditation and their outbursts thrill and terrify. It’s breathtaking.”

On February 13, 2011, the recording received Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

This article also appears here.

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Bartok album cover

At the third annual Grammy ceremony on April 12, 1961, the Orchestra’s recording of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta received the award for Best Classical Performance–Orchestra. Fritz Reiner had conducted the RCA release. That same evening, the Orchestra’s recording of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto—also on RCA and with Erich Leinsdorf conducting—earned the award for Best Classical Performance–Concerto or Instrumental Soloist for Sviatoslav Richter. These were the first two Grammy awards earned for recordings by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Reiner’s commitment to the music of Bartók—one of his teachers at the Liszt Academy in Budapest—was “unmatched by any other contemporary composer, for Reiner had an understanding and devotion of Bartók’s music that no other conductor of his time equaled,” according to Philip Hart in Fritz Reiner: A Biography. He and the Orchestra had first recorded music by Bartók on October 22, 1955: the Concerto for Orchestra. Along with the composer’s Hungarian Sketches, Reiner and the Orchestra recorded the Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta at Orchestra Hall on December 28 and 29, 1958.

Richter album cover

Richter made his U.S. debut with the Orchestra on October 15, 1960, in Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto, and the work was recorded in Orchestra Hall two days later with Leinsdorf conducting. Reiner originally was scheduled to lead both the concert and recording; however, he suffered a heart attack in early October, forcing the cancellation of several concerts and recording sessions (including MacDowell’s Second Piano Concerto and Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto with Van Cliburn, also for RCA and ultimately led by associate conductor Walter Hendl). Reiner returned to the podium in January 1961.

Since 1961, recordings by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have earned sixty-two Grammy awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

This article also appears here.

Frederica von Stade

Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to the wonderful mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade (recently in Chicago for performances of Ricky Ian Gordon‘s A Coffin in Egypt with Chicago Opera Theater)!

Von Stade appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions, at the Ravinia Festival and in Carnegie Hall.

May 1 & 2, 1981, Carnegie Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1)
Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
José van Dam, baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

July 9, 1988, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Levine, conductor

July 14, 1996
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te? . . . Non temer, amato bene (with Claude Frank, piano)
MAHLER Songs from Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

August 14, 1999
MOZART “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio” from La clemenza di Tito,
LEHÁR “Vilja” and “Lippen schweigen” (with John Aler, tenor) from The Merry Widow
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 8, 2000
Selections from:
COPLAND Old American Songs
KERN Show Boat
OFFENBACH The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
MOZART Don Giovanni
RODGERS Oklahoma! and South Pacific
SONDHEIM A Little Night Music
with Samuel Ramey, bass
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

August 5 & 7, 2010
MOZART Così fan tutte
Ana María Martínez, soprano
Ruxandra Donose, mezzo-soprano
Saimir Pirgu, tenor
Rodion Pogossov, baritone
Richard Stilwell, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
James Conlon, conductor

Berlioz album cover

The 1981 interpretation of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust was recorded by London in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981. James Mallinson was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were sound engineers. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Wishing a very happy birthday to Chicago Symphony Orchestra Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday from all of your friends here in Chicago!

Pierre Boulez leading a rehearsal with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on December 8, 2003 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Pierre Boulez leading a rehearsal with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on December 8, 2003 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Boulez recently was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. With twenty-six awards to his credit—including eight with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus—he is the third all-time Grammy Awards champ. (Sir Georg Solti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director, won thirty-one Grammy Awards, more than any other recording artist. Alison Krauss and Quincy Jones tie for the number two slot with twenty-seven awards each.) A complete list of Boulez’s Grammy awards can be found here.

For more information on Pierre Boulez, click here for a complete list of his recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a timeline of his extensive partnership with the CSO, details of his debut with the CSO in 1969, and a select bibliography. A video of the world-premiere performances of the Beyond the Score presentation of A Pierre Dream can be viewed here.

Happy, happy birthday, dear Pierre!

Pierre Boulez (Philippe Gontier photo)

Pierre Boulez (Philippe Gontier photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association congratulates Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez as a recipient of a 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The recognition is given to “performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.”

In a message sent to Maestro Boulez earlier today, Music Director Riccardo Muti said, “Dear Maestro, The news that you are the recipient of the 2015 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award makes me and the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra family extremely happy and proud. You are a giant in the musical world, and we are all so grateful for your great contribution to Music. Congratulations with great admiration, affection, and friendship.”

CSO bass Stephen Lester, chairman of the Members Committee, added, “The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are very pleased that Pierre Boulez has been given this special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy. He is one of the most important and influential musicians and composers of our time. We in Chicago are proud to have had a rewarding and meaningful relationship with him for over thirty years. His contribution to music in Chicago, as well as the world, is important in many ways, helping to open all of our minds, and ears, at every opportunity. Congratulations, Maestro Boulez!”

“As peerless conductor, glittering composer, restless thinker, and polemical champion of the loftiest musical values, Pierre Boulez is simply sans pareil,” commented Gerard McBurney, the CSO’s creative director for Beyond the Score. “He has influenced, irritated, provoked, disturbed, and inspired us all, yes, even those sleepers who do not even dream, that they too have been touched by his ceaseless energy and powers of invention!”

With twenty-six Grammy Awards to his credit, Boulez—along with fellow Lifetime Achievement Award recipients the Bee Gees, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Flaco Jiménez, The Louvin Brothers, and Wayne Shorter—will be honored at a special ceremony in Los Angeles on February 7, 2015, as well as during the Grammy Awards telecast on Sunday, February 8 on CBS.

The CSO’s Beyond the Score series, which “weaves together theater, music, and design to draw audiences into the concert hall and into the spirit of a work,” recently honored Boulez’s upcoming ninetieth birthday. The show was entitled A Pierre Dream by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who designed the production. Click here for a discussion with the creative forces, the genesis of the immersive experience, and a gallery of images from the production.

For more information on Pierre Boulez, click here for a complete list of his Grammy Awards, a complete list of his recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a timeline of his extensive partnership with the CSO, details of his debut with the CSO in 1969, and a select bibliography.

Update: A video of the world-premiere performances of A Pierre Dream can be viewed here. Also, Martha Gilmer, the CSO’s former vice president for artistic planning and audience development, accepted the award on behalf of Boulez in Los Angeles on February 7 (added March 10, 2015).

Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich perform piano works of Boulez at Symphony Center on March 15, 2015.

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