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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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January 15, 1940, at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

January 15, 1940, at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There are conflicting accounts regarding the details of Liberace’s initial contact with Frederick Stock and the CSO (most of them conflicted by Liberace himself), but the most detailed—and colorful—version appeared in a December 1977 interview in the Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger: “It was 1939 and I was passing by Orchestra Hall, the home of the Chicago Symphony. Out front was a sign that said, ‘Orchestra in rehearsal—auditions.’ I thought that meant they were giving auditions, so I walked in.

“[Frederick] Stock was in the middle of a rehearsal. I was discovered by the manager of the Orchestra and immediately invited to leave. A commotion started when I tried to explain why I was there. Dr. Stock turned around and asked the manager what was going on. The manager said, ‘It’s just some kid who plays the piano and thought you were holding auditions. He only wants to play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.’

“Dr. Stock was amused and asked me what I could play. I told him I could play Liszt’s Piano Concerto in A major, and he said, ‘Let’s hear it.’ Pretty soon, he started singing the orchestra parts, and then, halfway through the concerto, he stopped me. He asked the librarian for the score for the entire orchestra, and while it was being passed out, he asked me about my teacher, my family, and my interest in music. Then I sat down and played the concerto with the whole orchestra. I couldn’t believe it was happening!”

Regardless of the details of the account, the young pianist’s audition was indeed successful, and twenty-year-old Walter Liberace was soloist with the Orchestra in Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto on January 15, 1940. Under the baton of CSO associate conductor Hans Lange, the concert was given at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, in Liberace’s native Wisconsin.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

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March 3 and 4, 1938

March 3 and 4, 1938

On March 3 and 4, 1938, Paul Hindemith made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, appearing as composer, conductor, and viola soloist. The concert opened with associate conductor Hans Lange leading Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 followed by Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher (subtitled Concerto on Old Folk Melodies) with the composer as soloist. After intermission, Lange returned to the podium for Hindemith’s Chamber Music no. 1 followed by the composer leading the U.S. premiere of his Symphonic Dances.

March 3 and 4, 1938

March 3 and 4, 1938

In the Journal of Commerce, Claudia Cassidy described Hindemith’s Chamber Music no. 1 as “brilliant, witty, and spectacularly scored. Mr. Lange conducted and the Orchestra turned in a glittering job, particularly in the introduction to the finale, which has that kinetic energy at a boil.” She described Der Schwanendreher as having “no compassion for the poor viola player, taking for granted that he can handle the instrument as Mr. Hindemith does, which is nothing short of amazing.”

Hindemith had conducted the first performance of the Symphonic Dances only three months earlier, on December 3, 1937, in London. Eugene Stinson in the Chicago Daily News described the work as having “more unity, and it seems to me there is more thoughtfulness, in the Symphonic Dances than in almost all the other music Hindemith’s Chicago knows. At a first hearing it struck me as one of the most impressive and most affecting contemporary scores I can recall.”

Hindemith returned to lead the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival for three concerts in July 1961, and again in March and April 1963, leading two weeks of subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall, a television concert, and a run-out concert to the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. Each of those programs included at least one of his compositions, including the Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Pittsburgh Symphony, Concerto for Orchestra, Sinfonietta in E, and Nobilissima visione.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

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January 2 and 3, 1958

January 2 and 3, 1958

Leopold Stokowski made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 2 and 3, 1958, in a program that included his orchestrations of several chorales by J.S. Bach, Brahms’s Second Symphony, Szabelski’s Toccata, and the finale from act 3 of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Over the next decade, he was a frequent visitor, leading concerts in Orchestra Hall and at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

On February 15 and 16, 1968, Stokowski returned to Chicago to conduct the Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Suite from The Golden Age and Symphony no. 6, along with Khachaturian’s Symphony no. 3. The following week at Medinah Temple, RCA recorded the program along with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture. On the subsequent release, the two works by Shostakovich were paired, and Khachaturian’s symphony and Rimsky-Korsakov’s overture were released on the same album.

Leopold Stokowski and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording Khachaturian’s Symphony no. 3 at Medinah Temple in February 1968

Leopold Stokowski and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording Khachaturian’s Symphony no. 3 at Medinah Temple in February 1968 (Terry’s photo)

“This is probably the best Age of Gold ever to be recorded—and it is certainly the funniest,” wrote the reviewer in High Fidelity. Stokowski “brings out all of the work’s many instrumental nuances, and he also manages to exploit the full potential of each melodic line and underline the ballet’s oft-changing moods.” And the writer in Stereo Review raved that Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony was “gloriously played by Stokowski and the Chicagoans and well worth the price by itself.”

Regarding Khachaturian’s Symphony no. 3, the American Record Guide praised “the excellent organ [played by Mary Sauer] used in the performance, the satisfactory way in which it is brought into relation with the regular orchestra and the special trumpet choir [augmented to fifteen players], Stokowski’s own sharp ear for color, and the Chicago Symphony’s responsive playing.”

This article also appears here.

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Stern bio

Nineteen-year-old Isaac Stern first appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 11 and 12, 1940. Frederick Stock conducted an all-Sibelius program, and Stern was soloist in the Violin Concerto.

According to the Chicago Daily News, “Dr. Frederick Stock had been invited to conduct the Sibelius concert with the Helsingfors Orchestra [arranged when Stock visited Sibelius in Finland the previous summer] as a special feature of the Olympic Games.* But Finland has had to abandon peacetime pursuits and now Isaac can thank the Russian regime for both his American citizenship and the chance to play the Sibelius D minor concerto with one of the world’s great orchestras.”

“True to the topsy-turvy condition of the world we live in, while the Finns are playing havoc with the Russians, at home a Russian-born violinist, young Isaac Stern, was the sensation of Mr. Stock’s memorable Sibelius concert at Orchestra Hall last night,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Journal of Commerce. “[Stern] has a commanding and comprehensive technique, a bold and beautiful tone never blatant and he has an urgent intensity of projection that seems to start in his firmly planted heels and flow like fire into the hands that make his music. . . . Stock’s accompaniment was brilliant in the perceptive richness that makes so many soloists prefer him to any other conductor.”

Isaac Stern and music director designate Daniel Barenboim after the Centennial Gala concert on October 6, 1990

Isaac Stern and music director designate Daniel Barenboim after the Centennial Gala concert on October 6, 1990 (Jim Steere photo)

Over the course of the next fifty-two years, Stern was one of the Orchestra’s most frequent guests at Orchestra Hall, the Ravinia Festival, and at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, performing under six music directors (Stock, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim) and a variety of guest conductors, including Fritz Busch, Andrew Davis, Carlo Maria Giulini, Otto Klemperer, Josef Krips, Pierre Monteux, Eugene Ormandy, Seiji Ozawa, and Leonard Slatkin. In 1986, Stern and Yo-Yo Ma recorded Brahms’s Concerto for Violin and Cello with Claudio Abbado for CBS.

*On July 16, 1938, a year after the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, it was announced that the 1940 Summer Olympics would not be held in Tokyo, as originally scheduled. The International Olympic Committee then awarded the games to Helsinki, the runner-up city in the original bidding process. However, following the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 1939, the Olympic Games were indefinitely suspended and did not resume until 1948.

This article also appears here.

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Stravinsky program page

Following the success of his Dumbarton Oaks Concerto—composed in 1938 to celebrate the thirtieth wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods BlissIgor Stravinsky was commissioned that same year by Mrs. Bliss, Mrs. John Alden Carpenter, and several of their friends to compose a work to celebrate the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s fiftieth season.

According to Phillip Huscher, Stravinsky “decided to tackle the ‘standard’ by writing a symphony in C in the four orthodox movements—sonata-allegro, slow movement, scherzo, finale—scored for a Beethoven orchestra (throwing in the tuba for added measure). He did not foresee that this work would become, in effect, his American passport—the score that would accompany his move to this country.”

CSO cello Robert Smith, principal clarinet Clark Brody, principal harp Edward Druzinsky, and assistant concertmaster Victor Aitay look on as Columbia producer John McClure and Igor Stravinsky review the Orpheus score.

CSO cello Robert Smith, principal clarinet Clark Brody, principal harp Edward Druzinsky, and assistant concertmaster Victor Aitay look on as Columbia producer John McClure and Stravinsky review the Orpheus score on July 20, 1964 (Arthur Siegel photo).

The composer himself was on hand on November 7 and 8, 1940, to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in an entire evening of his music, including the world premiere of his Symphony in C. Edward Barry in the Chicago Tribune wrote, “In the course of the performance we caught ourselves muttering, ‘Ha! A major work!’ ” Robert Pollak in the Chicago Daily Times proclaimed that “Musical history is made at night and perhaps it was made last night at Orchestra Hall.” And Claudia Cassidy in the Journal of Commerce described the work as “both contemporary and timeless, autobiographical and impersonal. It has the lovely sense of form as much a part of all Stravinsky scores as indescribable richness of instrumentation is the signature of the finest. It is lyrical to the point of intoxication, and at the same time delicately, immaculately restrained.”

Stravinsky was a frequent guest conductor, leading the Orchestra in concerts at Orchestra Hall, the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, and at the Ravinia Festival between 1925 and 1965. In July 1964, he led the Orchestra in recording sessions of his Orpheus ballet for Columbia Records.

This article also appears here.

Hindemith with viola

During the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-13 season, anonymous donors endowed in perpetuity the principal viola chair but requested some time to decide on how they wanted the chair to be named. After quite a bit of thought, the donors have decided upon “The Paul Hindemith Principal Viola Chair, endowed by an anonymous benefactor.”

On March 3 and 4, 1938, Paul Hindemith debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, appearing as composer, conductor, and viola soloist. The concert opened with associate conductor Hans Lange leading Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 followed by Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher (subtitled Concerto on Old Folk Melodies) with the composer as soloist. After intermission, Lange returned to the podium for Hindemith’s Chamber Music no. 1, followed by the composer leading the U.S. premiere of his Symphonic Dances.

Hindemith's March 1938 program biography

Hindemith’s March 1938 program biography

In the Journal of Commerce, Claudia Cassidy described Hindemith’s Chamber Music no. 1 as “brilliant, witty, and spectacularly scored. Mr. Lange conducted and the orchestra turned in a glittering job, particularly in the introduction to the finale which has that kinetic energy at a boil.” She described Der Schwandendreher as having “no compassion for the poor viola player, taking for granted that he can handle the instrument as Mr. Hindemith does, which is nothing short of amazing.”

Hindemith had conducted the first performance of the Symphonic Dances only three months earlier, on December 3, 1937, in London. Eugene Stinson in the Chicago Daily News described the work as having “more unity, and it seems to me there is more thoughtfulness, in the Symphonic Dances than in almost all the other music Hindemith’s Chicago knows. At a first hearing it struck me as one of the most impressive and most affecting contemporary scores I can recall.”

Hindemith’s complete performance history with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is as follows:

March 3 and 4, 1938

March 3 and 4, 1938

March 3 and 5, 1938, Orchestra Hall
HINDEMITH Der Schwanendreher
Paul Hindemith, viola
Hans Lange, conductor
HINDEMITH Symphonic Dances
Paul Hindemith, conductor

July 25, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major
CHERUBINI Overture to Les Abencerages
HINDEMITH Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50
Paul Hindemith, conductor

July 27, 1961, Ravinia Festival
HINDEMITH Pittsburgh Symphony
MENDELSSOHN Fingal’s Cave Overture, Op. 26
SCHUBERT Symphony in C Major, D. 944
Paul Hindemith, conductor

July 29, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Gary Graffman, piano
HINDEMITH Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 38
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120
Paul Hindemith, conductor

March 28 and 29, 1963, Orchestra Hall
April 1, 1963, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
HINDEMITH Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Paul Hindemith, conductor

April 4 and 5, 1963, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Manfred Overture, Op. 115
REGER Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven, Op. 86
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
HINDEMITH Sinfonietta in E
Paul Hindemith, conductor

April 6, 1963, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Manfred Overture, Op. 115
REGER Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven, Op. 86
BEETHOVEN Grosse Fuge in B flat Major, Op. 133
HINDEMITH Nobilissima visione
Paul Hindemith, conductor

April 7, 1963, Orchestra Hall (television concert)
HINDEMITH Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50
BRUCKNER Allegro moderato (first movement) from Symphony No. 7 in E Major
BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Originally broadcast on WGN and currently available on a VAI DVD release.

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Charles Pikler, principal viola (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Charles Pikler, principal viola (Todd Rosenberg photo)

The principal viola chair currently is held by Charles Pikler, who joined the Orchestra as a violinist in 1978; and in 1986, Sir Georg Solti named Pikler principal viola.

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.

On May 9, 2014, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carlo Maria Giulini, a beloved presence on the Chicago Symphony’s podium from 1955 until 1978, including his tenure as the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor from 1969 until 1972, during which he shared conducting duties with Georg Solti for the first overseas tour to Europe in 1971.

Giulini headshot

In October 1955 “Fritz Reiner delivered an unusually flattering message to the musicians assembled around him on Orchestra Hall’s stage. The orchestra would have a guest conductor the following week, Reiner said, but it would not be any run-of-the-mill substitute. ‘A very special person,’ is how Reiner described Giulini. That Reiner would heap praise upon a potential competitor caught his players off guard. ‘That’s the only time he ever made any comment like that, and boy was he right,’ said Adolph Herseth, the orchestra’s principal trumpet” (excerpt from Thomas D. Saler’s excellent biography of Giulini, Serving Genius).

Giulini made his United States debut in November 1955, leading two weeks of concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The first subscription week originally was to include Debussy’s La mer, but it was replaced at the last minute with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The programs for that first week were as follows:

November 3 & 4, 1955

Original program for the November 3 & 4, 1955, subscription concerts

November 2, 1955 (television concert filmed in WGN’s Studio Theatre)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord

November 3 & 4, 1955 (Orchestra Hall)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord
PIZZETTI Prelude to Fedra
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

November 8, 1955 (Orchestra Hall)
VIVALDI/Moliniari The Four Seasons
John Weicher, violin
Dorothy Lane, harpsichord
PIZZETTI Prelude to Fedra
DEBUSSY La mer

In the Chicago Tribune, Claudia Cassidy wrote: “For a time last night it looked as if we might remember Carlo Maria Giulini as the man who introduced Antonio Vivaldi’s enchanting music of ‘The Four Seasons’ to the Chicago Symphony’s repertory in Orchestra Hall. Then it became plain that we will remember Giulini as himself. This tall, slender young Italian from Milan’s La scala has sensitivity, imagination, and skill, and he has that extra, enkindling thing, the Promethean gift of fire” (the complete review is here).

On November 9, the Tribune printed an announcement that “Mr. Giulini’s ‘La mer’ [from Tuesday evening] was a performance of such distinction, being large, comprehensive, sweeping, and inspired, that the Thursday-Friday program have been altered to include it.” As a result, the Orchestra’s first performances of Giovanni Salviucci’s Introduction, Passacaglia, and Finale was delayed [Giulini would introduce the work to Chicago audiences in September 1969]. The programs for the second week were:

November 3 & 4, 1955, program bio

November 3 & 4, 1955, program bio

November 9, 1955 (television concert filmed in WGN’s Studio Theatre)
ROSSINI Overture to L’italiana in Algeri
HAYDN Symphony No. 94 in G Major (Surprise)
RAVEL Five Children’s Pieces from Mother Goose

November 10 & 11 (Orchestra Hall), & 14 (Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee), 1955
ROSSINI Overture to L’italiana in Algeri
HAYDN Symphony No. 94 in G Major (Surprise)
DEBUSSY La mer
RAVEL Five Children’s Pieces from Mother Goose
FALLA Three Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat

For Giulni’s second week, Cassidy wrote: “The orchestra played for him with the mobility in equilibrium that let him say what he had to say, whether that communication came in the Debussy, in the sunny charms of Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony, in the pale shimmer of Ravel’s fairy tale palette, or the black, boiling furies of the dances from ‘Tricorne,’ whose farruca had the fierce pride only the young Escudero could have hoped to rival” (complete review is here).

Giulini in Stockholm

Giulini leading the Orchestra at the Folkets Hus in Stockholm, Sweden on September 15, 1971

Giulini’s final residency with the Orchestra was in March 1978, when he led three weeks of concerts. According to his program biography: “Next season Maestro Giulini begins a three-year term as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.” (He went on to serve as the Philharmonic’s eighth music director until 1984.) The programs for his last appearances were as follows:

March 2, 3 & 4, 1978 (Orchestra Hall)
SCHUBERT/Webern Six German Dances, D. 820
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 (Unfinished)
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Isaac Stern, violin

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978

March 6, 1978 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D. 417
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Isaac Stern, violin

March 9, 10 & 11, 1978
GABRIELI Canzon à 4
GABRIELI/Thomas Sonata, pian’ e forte
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Sir Clifford Curzon, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

March 16, 17 & 18, 1978
BEETHOVEN Overture to Egmont, Op. 84
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Pina Carmirelli, vioin
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D. 417

Oh yeah, he made some recordings with the Orchestra too. Stay tuned for part 2 . . .

Claudio Abbado

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Claudio Abbado, who served as our principal guest conductor from 1982 until 1985. Abbado died peacefully on Monday, January 20 in Bologna, Italy, following a long illness. He was 80.

A frequent and beloved guest conductor, Abbado made his debut with the Orchestra in January 1971, leading three weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall as well as a run-out concert to Milwaukee:

January 7, 8 & 9, 1971
January 11, 1971 (Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
BERG Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
Josef Suk, violin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

debut program

. . . and Abbado’s program book biography

debut program page

January 7, 8 & 9, 1971, program page . . .

January 14 & 15, 1971
MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Helen Watts, contralto
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Barbara Born, director

January 21, 22 & 23, 1971
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 2
Maurizio Pollini, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 1 in C Minor

He returned to Chicago frequently, both before and after his tenure as principal guest conductor—also leading domestic tour concerts including stops at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Carnegie Hall—and his final appearances with the Orchestra were in March 1991. Abbado’s residencies included numerous collaborations with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and he also led the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on multiple occasions.

His repertoire with the Orchestra covered a broad spectrum including symphonies by Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky; concertos by Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Bruch, Chopin, Hindemith, Mozart, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Schoenberg, Schumann, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky; as well as twentieth-century works by Boulez, Ligeti, Rihm, and Webern. Some of Abbado’s most memorable concerts included complete performances of Berg’s Wozzeck, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, Schoenberg’s Ewartung, Stockhausen’s Gruppen for Three Orchestras, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Pulcinella, and Verdi’s Requiem.

Abbado acknowledges applause following a performance of Berg's Wozzeck on May 24, 1984 (J. Wassman photo)

Abbado acknowledges applause following a performance of Berg’s Wozzeck on May 24, 1984 (J. Wassman photo)

Abbado collaborated with a vast array of soloists including instrumentalists Salvatore Accardo, Carter Brey, Natalia Gutman, Yuzuko Horigome, Zoltán Kocsis, Cecile Licad, Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Shlomo Mintz, Viktoria Mullova, Ken Noda, Ivo Pogorelich, Maurizio Pollini, David Schrader, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Josef Suk, and Pinchas Zukerman; vocalists Francisco Araiza, Hildegard Behrens, Gabriela Beňačková, Rockwell Blake, Claudio Desderi, Maria Ewing, Donald Gramm, Aage Haugland, Marilyn Horne, Gwynne Howell, Philip Langridge, Benjamin Luxon, Carol Neblett, Margaret Price, Ruggero Raimondi, Samuel Ramey, Hanna Schwarz, Ellen Shade, John Shirley-Quirk, Lucia Valentini-Terrani, and Helen Watts; narrator Maximilian Schell; and CSO members Victor Aitay, Dale Clevenger, Willard Elliot, Adolph Herseth, Samuel Magad, Frank Miller, Mary Sauer, and Ray Still.

Following his last CSO guest conducting engagement in 1991, Abbado returned to Chicago on three occasions with the Berlin Philharmonic:

Berlin program

Abbado’s final appearance in Chicago, with the Berlin Philharmonic on October 10, 2001

October 22, 1993
MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major

October 18, 1999
MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Anna Larsson, contralto
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Emily Ellsworth, director

October 10, 2001
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

Statements on Claudio Abbado’s passing from Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can be found on CSO Sounds and Stories.

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This afternoon CSO musicians performed at the Tierrasanta Library in San Diego as part the CSO's 2017 Fall US Tour. Comment below if you recognize the piece they're playing! The link to the CSO's tour schedule is in our bio. Photos by @toddrphoto. #CSOonTour

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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