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Daniel Barenboim (Don Getsug photo)

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director, Daniel Barenboim!

Barenboim’s history in Chicago began on January 19, 1958, when the fifteen-year-old pianist first performed a solo recital in Orchestra Hall. When he returned that fall for a second engagement, he attended his first CSO concert, which included sixth music director Fritz Reiner leading Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. In his autobiography A Life in Music, Barenboim recounted that, “nothing I had heard in Europe or elsewhere had prepared me for the shock of the precision, the volume, and the intensity of the Chicago orchestra. It was like a perfect machine with a beating human heart.”

In June 1965, Barenboim made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with André Previn, and in February 1969, he first appeared with the Orchestra in Orchestra Hall in Bartók’s First Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez. He first conducted the Orchestra in November 1970 at Michigan State University, and the first work on the program was Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Jacqueline du Pré; a week later, they recorded it in Medinah Temple. Over the next two decades, Barenboim regularly appeared with the Orchestra, as a guest conductor—in Orchestra Hall, on tour, and in the recording studio—and piano soloist.

In January 1989, it was announced that Daniel Barenboim would succeed Sir Georg Solti to become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director, beginning with the 1991-92 season. His music directorship was distinguished by the opening of Chicago’s new Symphony Center in 1997, operatic productions in Orchestra Hall, appearances with the Orchestra in the dual role of pianist and conductor, and numerous international tours (see hereherehere, and here). Barenboim continued the cultivation of the composer-in-residence program and led the CSO in more than 30 world and U.S. premieres. In 1994, he appointed Duain Wolfe as director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, succeeding founding director Margaret Hillis, and he collaborated with the Civic Orchestra, including leading the ensemble’s debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2000.

Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré during a recording session for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in Medinah Temple on November 11, 1970 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

Barenboim amassed an extensive discography with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (see hereherehere, and here), including works by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Falla, Mahler, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schumann, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner; and concertos with Jacqueline du Pré, Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Pinchas Zukerman, and several members of the Orchestra.

As a piano recitalist and chamber musician, Barenboim collaborated with an extraordinary roster of instrumentalists and singers in Orchestra Hall. He performed a dizzying array of repertoire, including Albéniz’s Iberia; Bach’s Goldberg Variations and The Well-Tempered Clavier (books 1 and 2); Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion; Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and cello; Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Piano, Violin and Thirteen Wind Instruments; Brahms’ cello sonatas; Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time; Mozart’s violin sonatas; and song cycles by Mahler, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, and Wolf; along with countless piano works by Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Schoenberg, and Schubert, among others.

In May and June 2006, during his final residency as music director, Barenboim led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a number of valedictory works, including Carter’s Soundings; Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 27 (conducting from the keyboard); the final act of Wagner’s Parsifal; and the ninth symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, and Mahler. He most recently appeared with the Orchestra in November 2018, leading Smetana’s Má vlast.

Happy birthday, maestro!

danielbarenboim.com

This article also appears here.

Principal Horn Dale Clevenger in 2010 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the loss of Dale Clevenger, who served as principal horn from 1966 until 2013. He died yesterday, January 5, 2022, in Italy, at the age of eighty-one.

Dale Clevenger was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 2, 1940. A legend in the world of french horn for his sound, technique, finesse, and fearless music making, he joined the CSO at the invitation of seventh music director Jean Martinon. Throughout his forty-seven-year tenure, he performed under subsequent music directors Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, and Riccardo Muti, along with titled conductors Pierre Boulez, Bernard Haitink, Carlo Maria Giulini, and Claudio Abbado, among countless guest conductors.

“The loss of Dale Clevenger, one of the best and most famous horn players of our time and one of the glories of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, leaves a very deep void in the music world,” Maestro Muti said in a statement. “Fortunately, we have many audiovisual recordings of him with the Chicago Symphony to show his extraordinary technique and nobility of musical phrasing. I am certain that all his colleagues, former and current, all horn students, and myself, as we were personal friends, will mourn this huge loss.”

A versatile musician in many areas, including chamber music, jazz, commercial recordings, and as soloist, Clevenger frequently credited his mentors Arnold Jacobs (CSO principal tuba, 1944–88) and Adolph “Bud” Herseth (CSO principal trumpet, 1948–2001 and principal trumpet emeritus, 2001–04).

Clevenger was a featured soloist on several CSO recordings, including works by Martin, Schumann, Britten, and Mozart. He also played on the Grammy Award–winning recording The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli with the brass ensembles of the Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cleveland orchestras. He recorded horn concertos by Joseph and Michael Haydn with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra of Budapest, as well as Mozart’s horn concertos on two separate releases, each of which was nominated for Grammy awards. Clevenger also performed with Barenboim and colleagues from the CSO and the Berlin Philharmonic on the Grammy-winning CD of quintets for piano and winds by Mozart and Beethoven. With Barenboim and Itzhak Perlman, he recorded Brahms’s Horn Trio for Sony Classical. He performed on the Tribute to Ellington release with Barenboim and other members of the Orchestra, and his recording of Strauss’s First Horn Concerto with Barenboim and the CSO also won a Grammy Award. John Williams wrote a horn concerto for him, which he premiered with the CSO under the baton of the composer, in 2003.

The recording of Richard Strauss’s Wind Concertos—featuring CSO principals Clevenger, clarinet Larry Combs, oboe Alex Klein, and bassoon David McGill—won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with Orchestra).

Also a conductor, Clevenger served as music director of the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra for fourteen years. His conducting career included guest appearances with the New Japan Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Roosevelt University Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Conservatory Orchestra, Northwestern University Summer Symphony, Western Australia Symphony Orchestra, Osaka Philharmonic, National Philharmonic of Slovakia in Bratislava, Sinfonia Crakovia and the Opole Philharmonic in Poland, and the Bartlesville (Oklahoma) Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, he conducted the Valladolid (Spain) Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim as soloist.

Teaching was an integral part of Clevenger’s life, and horn players who studied and coached with him won positions in some of the world’s most prestigious ensembles. Over the years, he taught at Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, and the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Clevenger also gave recitals and master classes throughout the world: in Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, China, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and Israel. In 1985, he received an honorary doctorate from Elmhurst College.

Dale Clevenger (Terry’s Photography)

Before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Clevenger was a member of Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony of the Air directed by Alfred Wallenstein; he also was principal horn of the Kansas City Philharmonic. He appeared as soloist with orchestras worldwide, including the Berlin Philharmonic. Clevenger participated in numerous music festivals, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; Florida Music Festival in Sarasota; Marrowstone Music Festival in Bellingham, Washington; Affinis Music Festival in Japan; and the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival. Additionally, he worked with the European Community Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abbado and participated in countless International Horn Society workshops.

In February 2013, when he announced plans to retire, Clevenger wrote to his colleagues in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: “You are truly some of the finest musicians on the planet. To have had the pleasure and privilege of making music and sharing the stage with you in thousands of concerts is a sweet memory I shall cherish. . . . I encourage you to do everything possible in your power to keep my Chicago Symphony Orchestra ‘the best of the best!’”

In Orchestra Hall on June 10, 2013, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — under the batons of Clevenger and Riccardo Muti — performed an appreciation concert for their longtime colleague. As part of the program, several musicians put together a tribute, and that video is below.

Clevenger married Nancy Sutherland in 1966; they divorced in 1987. Alice Render, also a horn player, became his wife later that year; she died in 2011. He married Giovanna Grassi in 2012, and she survives him, along with a son and a daughter, Michael and Ami, from his first marriage; two sons Mac and Jesse, from his second marriage; a sister, Alice Clevenger Cooper; and two granddaughters, Cameron and Leia. Details for services—to be held at Christ Church in Winnetka, Illinois in the late spring—are pending.

Numerous tributes have been posted online, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago on the Aisle, Chicago Classical Review, New York Times, and Gramophone, among others.

This article also appears here.

Sir Georg Solti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a recording session for Mahler’s Symphony no. 3 in Orchestra Hall in November 1982 (Robert M. Lightfoot III photo)

During his tenure as principal trumpet, Adolph “Bud” Herseth and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded an astonishing number of works, under five music directors and numerous guest conductors for Angel, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, London, Mercury, and RCA. A sample of some of those iconic records is below.

BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
Sir Georg Solti conductor
Recorded in Krannert Center, University of Illinois in May 1972
London

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)
Daniel Barenboim conductor
Recorded in Medinah Temple in November 1972
Deutsche Grammophon

DEBUSSY Nocturnes
Sir Georg Solti conductor
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in January 1990
London

HANDEL The trumpet shall sound from Messiah
Sir Georg Solti conductor
Gwynne Howell bass-baritone
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in October 1984
London

JANÁČEK Sinfonietta
Seiji Ozawa conductor
Recorded in Medinah Temple in Jun 1970
Angel

MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Carlo Maria Giulini conductor
Recorded in Medinah Temple March 1971
Angel

MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Sir Georg Solti conductor
Helga Dernesch mezzo-soprano
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
James Winfield director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 1982
London

MAHLER Symphony No. 5
Georg Solti conductor
Recorded in Medinah Temple in March 1970
London

MAHLER Symphony No. 7
Claudio Abbado conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in January and February 1984
Deutsche Grammophon

NIELSEN Symphony No. 2, Op. 16 (The Four Temperaments)
Morton Gould conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in June 1966
RCA

PROKOFIEV Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60
Fritz Reiner conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 1957
RCA

RESPIGHI Pines of Rome
Fritz Reiner conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in October 1959
RCA

ROSSINI Overture to William Tell
Fritz Reiner conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 1958
RCA

SCRIABIN The Poem of Ecstasy, Op. 54
Pierre Boulez conductor
Recorded in Medinah Temple in November 1995
Deutsche Grammophon

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47
André Previn conductor
Recorded in Medinah Temple in January 1977
EMI

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 60 (Leningrad)
Leonard Bernstein conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in June 1988
Deutsche Grammophon

STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
Fritz Reiner conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 1954
RCA

STRAVINSKY Song of the Nightingale 
Fritz Reiner conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 1956
RCA

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
Rafael Kubelík conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 1951
Mercury

VARÈSE Arcana
Jean Martinon conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 1966
RCA

This article also appears here.

Duain Wolfe in 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to Duain Wolfe, Grammy Award–winning chorus director and conductor of the Chicago Symphony Chorus!

In 1994, ninth music director Daniel Barenboim appointed Wolfe to succeed Margaret Hillis, founder and first director of the Chorus. Since then, he has prepared the ensemble for over 150 programs for concerts in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, as well as at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Carnegie Hall, and Berlin’s Philharmonie. Wolfe’s activities have earned him an honorary doctorate and numerous awards, including the Bonfils Stanton Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and Chorus America’s Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art.

Wolfe also has prepared the Chicago Symphony Chorus for numerous commercial recordings, and a complete list is below.

BARTÓK The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in December 1994 for Deutsche Grammophon. The album was executive produced by Roger Wright and produced by Karl-August Naegler, Rainer Maillard was the balance engineer, Stephan Flock and Hans-Rudolf Müller were the recording engineers, and Stephan Flock and Rainer Maillard were the editors.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13 in B-flat Minor, Op. 113 (Babi Yar)
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Sergej Aleksashkin, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in February 1995 for London Records. The album was produced by Michael Woolcock, John Dunkerley and Andy Groves were the recording engineers, and Nigel Gayler was the recoding editor.

ROUGET DE L’ISLE/Berlioz La Marseillaise
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
The Orchestra and Chorus were recorded in Orchestra Hall in May 1995; Domingo was later recorded at the Hochschule für Musik Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. For Teldec, the album was executive produced by Nikolaus Deckenbrock and produced by Martin Fouqué, Ulrich Ruscher was the recording engineer, Jens Schünemann and Paul Nedel were assistant engineers, and Andreas Florcak and Stefan Witzel were digital editors.

WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Eva Karita Mattila, soprano
Magdalene Iris Vermillion, mezzo-soprano
Walther von Stolzing Ben Heppner, tenor
David Herbert Lippert, tenor
Hans Sachs José van Dam, bass-baritone
Veit Pogner René Pape, bass
Sixtus Beckmesser Alan Opie, baritone
Kunz Vogelgesang Roberto Saccà, tenor
Konrad Nachtigall Gary Martin, baritone
Fritz Kothner Albert Dohmen, bass-baritone
Balthasar Zorn John Horton Murray, tenor
Ulrich Eisslinger Richard Byrne, baritone
Augustin Moser Steven Tharp, tenor
Hermann Ortel Kevin Deas, bass-baritone
Hans Schwarz Stephen Morscheck, bass-baritone
Hans Foltz, Ein Nachtwächter Kelly Anderson, baritone
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 1995 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.

SCRIABIN Prometheus, Op. 60
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Anatol Ugorski, piano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in December 1996 for Deutsche Grammophon. The album was executive produced by Roger Wright and Ewald Markl and produced by Karl-August Naegler; Ulrich Vette was the balance engineer; Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were the recording engineers; and Karl-August Naegler and Ulrich Vette were the editors.

STRAVINSKY Symphony of Psalms
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Emily Ellsworth, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 1997 for London Records. The album was produced by Michael Woolcock, and James Lock and Philip Siney were the balance engineers. Duncan Mitchell was the location engineer, and Sally Drew and Nigel Gayler were the recording editors.

American Spirit
KELLEY/Davis Home on the Range
STEFFE/Davis Battle Hymn of the Republic
WARD/Davis America the Beautiful
Chip Davis, conductor
Mannheim Steamroller Symphony
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded at Saint Michael’s Catholic Church in Old Town, Chicago in March 2003 for American Gramaphone. The album was produced by Chip Davis; Chris Sabold, Mike Konopka, and Dick Lewsey were the engineers; and Mat Lejeune, Brian Pinke, Mike Scasiwicz, Darren Styles were the assistant engineers.

MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in October 2006 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

MENOTTI Amahl and the Night Visitors
Alastair Willis, conductor
Amahl Ike Hawkersmith, treble
Mother Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano
King Kaspar Dean Anthony, tenor
King Melchior Todd Thomas, baritone
King Balthazar Kevin Short, bass-baritone
Page to the Kings Bart LeFan, baritone
Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus
George Mabry, director
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Laura Turner Concert Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2006 for Naxos. The album was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, and John Hill and Mark Donahue were the engineers.

RAVEL L’enfant et les sortilèges
Alastair Willis, conductor
L’enfant Julie Boulianne, mezzo-soprano
Maman, La libellule, L’écureuil Geneviève Després, mezzo-soprano
La tasse chinoise, Un pâtre, La chatte Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano
La théière, Le petit viellard, La rainette Philippe Castagner, tenor
L’horloge comtoise, Le chat Ian Greenlaw, baritone
Le fauteuil, Un arbre Kevin Short, bass-baritone
La princesse, La chauve-souris Agathe Martel, soprano
Le feu, Le rossignol Cassandre Prévost, soprano
La bergère, Une pastourelle, La chouette Julie Cox, soprano
Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus
George Mabry, director
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chattanooga Boys Choir
Vincent Oakes, director
Recorded in Laura Turner Concert Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, in December 2006 for Naxos. The album was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, and John Hill and Mark Donahue were the engineers.

POULENC Gloria
RAVEL Daphnis and Chloe

Bernard Haitink, conductor
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 2007 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Miah Persson, soprano
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in November 2008 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by James Mallinson, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer.

VERDI Messa da Requiem
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in January 2009 for CSO Resound. The album was produced by Christopher Alder, Christopher Willis was the recording engineer, and David Frost and Tom Lazarus were the mixing engineers.
The recording received 2010 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance.

BERLIOZ Lélio ou le retour à la vie
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Gérard Depardieu, narrator
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 2010 for CSO Resound. The album was produced and mixed by David Frost, Christopher Willis was the recording engineer, and Silas Brown was the mixing and mastering engineer.

VERDI Otello
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Otello Aleksandrs Antonenko, tenor
Desdemona Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano
Iago Carlo Guelfi, baritone
Emilia Barbara di Castri, mezzo-soprano
Cassio Juan Francisco Gatell, tenor
Roderigo Michael Spyres, tenor
Montano Paolo Battaglia, bass
Lodovico Eric Owens, bass-baritone
A Herald David Govertsen, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in April 2011 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Christopher Willis was the recording engineer; and Tim Martyn, Silas Brown, and Richard King were the mixing engineers.

SCHOENBERG Kol Nidre, Op. 39
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Alberto Mizrahi, narrator
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in March 2012 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Christopher Willis was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.

WILLIAMS Lincoln (original motion picture soundtrack)
John Williams, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in May 2012 for Sony. The recording was produced by John Williams, Ramiro Belgardt was the music editor, Shawn Murphy was the recording and mixing engineer, Robert Wolff was the recording editor, Brad Cobb was the technical engineer, and Patricia Sullivan Fourstar was the mastering engineer.

Riccardo Muti conducts Italian Masterworks
VERDI Gli arredi festivi from Nabucco
VERDI Patria oppressa! from Macbeth
BOITO Prologue to Mefistofele
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Riccardo Zanellato, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in June 2017 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mixed by David Frost; Charlie Post was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13, Op. 113 (Babi Yar)
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Alexey Tikhomirov, bass
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in September 2018 for CSO Resound. The album was produced, edited, and mastered by David Frost; Charlie Post was the recording engineer; and Silas Brown was the mastering engineer.
The recording received the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album–Classical.

Happy, happy birthday!

Duain Wolfe acknowledges the Chicago Symphony Chorus following a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe on April 5, 2018 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of legendary American pianist, conductor, and pedagogue Leon Fleisher, who died yesterday in Baltimore. He was ninety-two.

Leon Fleisher (Eli Turner photo)

Fleisher began playing the piano at the age of four, and five years later he became a student of Artur Schnabel. At sixteen in 1944, he made his debut performing Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and then with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, both under Pierre Monteux. The following year, he made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Leonard Bernstein conducting at the Ravinia Festival.

In 1964, Fleisher lost the use of his right hand due to focal dystonia, forcing him to concentrate on repertoire written for the left hand. By the late 1990s, he had regained use of his right hand. A tireless pedagogue, he was (according to his son Julian) still teaching and conducting master classes online as recently as last week.

Fleisher appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on numerous occasions, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival. A complete list is below.

July 31, 1945, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Leonard Bernstein, conductor

August 4, 1945, Ravinia Festival
FRANCK Symphonic Variations
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
Leonard Bernstein, conductor

July 4, 1946, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
George Szell, conductor

July 7, 1946, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
George Szell, conductor

July 11, 1946, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
William Steinberg, conductor

July 14, 1946, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
William Steinberg, conductor

Leon Fleisher in 1963 (Bender photo)

March 25, 1947, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Désiré Defauw, conductor

March 27 and 28, 1947, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Désiré Defauw, conductor

February 18, 19, and 23, 1954, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Fritz Reiner, conductor

July 1, 1954, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
William Steinberg, conductor

July 4, 1954, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
William Steinberg, conductor

July 13, 1956, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Igor Markevitch, conductor

July 14, 1956, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Igor Markevitch, conductor

February 1, 1958, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

July 26, 1958, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Igor Markevitch, conductor

July 29, 1958, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Georg Solti, conductor

July 30, 1959, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73
André Cluytens, conductor

August 1, 1959, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
André Cluytens, conductor

June 27, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Walter Hendl, conductor

June 29, 1961, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Walter Hendl, conductor

April 25 and 26, 1963, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Walter Hendl, conductor

July 25, 1963, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, conductor

July 27, 1963, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, conductor

July 30, 1964, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Stanisław Skrowaczewski, conductor

August 1, 1964, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 6, 1968, Ravinia Festival
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

June 30, 1984, Ravinia Festival
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
James Levine, conductor

July 27, 1985, Ravinia Festival
BRITTEN Diversions for Piano Left Hand and Orchestra, Op. 21
James Conlon, conductor

August 14, 1986, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 4 in B-flat Major for the Left Hand, Op. 53
James Conlon, conductor

July 28, 1988, Ravinia Festival
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Yuri Temirkanov, conductor

July 28, 1989, Ravinia Festival
SCHMIDT Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in E-flat Major
Edo de Waart, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

July 26, 1990, Ravinia Festival
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Gianluigi Gelmetti, conductor

December 3, 4, 5, and 8, 1992
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Pierre Boulez, conductor

July 29, 1995, Ravinia Festival
FOSS Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
Manfred Honeck, conductor

December 14, 15, and 16, 1995, Orchestra Hall
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Pierre Boulez, conductor

July 10, 1998, Ravinia Festival
RAVEL Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 1, 1999, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

August 14, 1999, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Adagio from Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 15, 2000, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Iván Fischer, conductor

July 15, 2001, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor

July 13, 2002, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Concerto for Three Pianos in F Major, K. 242 (Lodron)
Leon Fleisher, piano
Claude Frank, piano
Menahem Pressler, piano
Peter Oundjian, conductor

August 1, 2003, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
John Axelrod, conductor

July 30, 2008, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor

July 28, 2013, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Concerto for Three Pianos in F Major, K. 242 (Lodron)
Leon Fleisher, piano
Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, piano
Alon Goldstein, piano

Numerous tributes have been posted online, including The Baltimore Sun, The New York Times, and NPR, among many others.

On April 21, 2020, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra family celebrates the centennial of Italian composer and conductor Bruno Maderna (1920–1973).

According to Phillip Huscher, “For many years he had been a close friend of Pierre Boulez (and a true friend of all those involved in new music activities) and a treasured colleague; like Boulez, he had made his mark both as a composer and as a conductor. ‘In fact, to get any real idea of what he was like as a person,’ Boulez wrote at the time of his death, ‘the conductor and the composer must be taken together; for Maderna was a practical person, equally close to music whether he was performing or composing.'”

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra first performed music by Maderna at the Ravinia Festival on July 23, 1967, when Luciano Berio led a performance of the Serenata no. 2. In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis wrote, that Maderna’s work “fashioned a post-Webern web of deceptively individual notes into an evocative introduction [to the concert].”

As a conductor, Maderna himself led the Orchestra on several occasions, as follows:

January 15 and 17, 1970, Orchestra Hall
SCHUBERT/Maderna Five Pieces for Piano, Four Hands
MADERNA Quadrivium (U.S. premiere)
BERIO Epifanie
Cathy Berberian, soprano
STRAVINSKY Circus Polka
STRAVINSKY Scherzo à la russe

January 16, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MADERNA Quadrivium
BERIO Epifanie
Cathy Berberian, soprano
SCHUBERT/Maderna Five Pieces for Piano, Four Hands

Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, and Karlheinz Stockhausen

January 22 and 23, 1970, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Symphony No. 31, D Major, K. 297 (Paris)
BROWN From Here*
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
GABRIELI/Maderna Motet:: In Ecclesiis
VLIJMEN Serenata II for Flute and Orchestra
Donald Peck, flute
SCHOENBERG Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
*In Earle Brown’s From Here, Maderna conducted the Orchestra and the composer conducted the Chorus.

June 29, 1971, Ravinia Festival
GABRIELI/Maderna Motet: In Ecclesiis
STRAVINSKY Jeu de cartes
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Van Cliburn, piano

March 16, 17, and 18, 1972
MOZART Serenade in D Major, K. 239 (Serenata notturna)
SCHOENBERG Concerto for Violin, Op. 36
Esther Glazer, violin
DRUCKMAN Windows (world premiere)
DEBUSSY Jeux

March 23, 24, and 25, 1972
SCHOENBERG Transfigured Night, Op. 4
LEVY Trialogus (world premiere)
STRAVINSKY Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments
Earl Wild, piano
MADERNA Aura (world premiere)

On March 3, 4, 5, and 8, 2005, David Robertson led the Orchestra in performances of Boulez’s Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna. Written shortly after Maderna’s death in 1974 and 1975, Boulez described the work as “A ceremony of memory, in which there are numerous repetitions of the same formulas, in constantly changing profiles and perspectives.” Phillip Huscher’s program note from those performances can be found here.

Daniel Barenboim leads the applause following the world premiere of Ran’s Legends for Orchestra on October 7, 1993 (Jim Steere photo)

Wishing a very happy seventieth birthday to composer Shulamit Ran!

During her tenure as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s second composer-in-residence from 1990 until 1997, she worked closely with music directors Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim, along with principal guest conductor Pierre Boulez. Born in Tel Aviv, Ran became the second woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her Symphony in 1991.

Works by Ran have been performed by the Orchestra—all in Orchestra Hall—on several occasions, as follows:

October 20, 21, 22, and 25, 1988
RAN Concerto for Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

December 12, 13, 14, and 17, 1991
RAN Chicago Skyline
Pierre Boulez, conductor
World premiere. Commissioned by WFMT in celebration of the radio station’s fortieth anniversary

The world premiere performance of Legends was released on Albany Records in 2007

October 7, 8, and 9, 1993
RAN Legends for Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
World premiere. Commissioned for the centennials of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the University of Chicago by the AT&T Foundation and Meet the Composer Orchestra Residencies Program

October 26, 27, and 28, 1995
RAN Symphony
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

June 3, 4, 5, and 8, 2004
RAN Legends for Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

A staunch advocate for contemporary music, Ran laid the groundwork for the creation of MusicNOW, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new music concerts, and her works have been programmed on the series as follows:

January 24, 2001
RAN Mirage
Cliff Colnot, conductor
Mary Stolper, flute
Larry Combs, clarinet
Baird Dodge, violin
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Amy Dissanayake, piano

Shulamit Ran (Dan Rest photo)

May 8, 2006
RAN Fault Line
Cliff Colnot, conductor
Tony Arnold, soprano
Jennifer Clippert, flute and piccolo
Michael Henoch, oboe
Eric Mandat, clarinet and bass clarinet
Wagner Campos, clarinet and bass clarinet
David Griffin, horn
Christopher Martin, trumpet
Joseph Rodriguez, trombone
Vadim Karpinos, percussion
Michael Kozakis, percussion
Amy Dissanayake, piano
Nathan Cole, violin
Akiko Tarumoto, violin
Yukiko Ogura, viola
Kenneth Olsen, cello
Michael Hovnanian, bass
World premiere. Commissioned for MusicNOW

October 2, 2017
RAN Birkat Haderekh—Blessing for the Road
J. Lawrie Bloom, clarinet
Yuan-Qing Yu, violin
Kenneth Olsen, cello
Winston Choi, piano

Happy, happy birthday!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of legendary soprano Jessye Norman, who died earlier today in New York. She was 74.

Jessye Norman (Royal Philharmonic Society photo)

A frequent visitor to Chicago—on concert, recital, and opera stages—Norman appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as vocal soloist and narrator on many occasions, both at Orchestra Hall and the Ravinia Festival. A complete list of her performances and recordings with the Orchestra is below.

March 21, 22, and 23, 1974, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Das Paradies und die Peri, Op. 50
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Birgit Finnilä, contralto
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Raffaele Arié, bass
Sarah Beatty, soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 29, 30, and 31, 1975, Orchestra Hall
LA MONTAINE Songs of the Rose of Sharon, Op. 6
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

August 9, 1975, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
Edo de Waart, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

Receiving bows following Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall on September 24, 1986

Receiving bows following Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall on September 24, 1986 (Jim Steere photo)

July 7, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te?, K. 505
Edward Gordon, piano
RAVEL Sheherazade
BERLIOZ The Death of Cleopatra
WAGNER Wesendonk-Lieder
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

July 9, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
James Levine, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Jessye Norman, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Kirk Stuart, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Philip Kraus, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 8, 1979, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Seth McCoy, tenor

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BRUCKNER Te Deum
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
David Rendall, tenor
Samuel Ramey, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 28, 1981. For Deutsche Grammophon, Steven Paul was the executive producer, Werner Mayer was the recording producer, and Günther Breest was the balance engineer.

December 1, 2, and 3, 1983, Orchestra Hall
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
David Rendall, tenor

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 (Solti 2)

September 24, 25, 26, and 27, 1986, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Reinhild Runkel, mezzo-soprano
Robert Schunk, tenor
Hans Sotin, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Medinah Temple on September 29 and 30, 1986. For London Records, Michael Haas was the producer, John Pellowe was the engineer, and Neil Hutchinson was tape editor. The recording won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

July 1, 1988, Ravinia Festival
WAGNER Act 1 of Die Walküre
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Gary Lakes, tenor
Aage Haugland, bass

July 5, 1992, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS  Ruhe, meine Seele, Op. 27, No. 1
STRAUSS Waldseligkeit, Op. 49, No. 1
STRAUSS Wiegenlied, Op. 41, No. 1
STRAUSS Die heiligen drei Konige aus Morgenland, Op. 56, No. 6
STRAUSS Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2
WAGNER Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

Boulez Bluebeard

December 2, 4, and 7, 1993, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Bluebeard’s Castle
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
László Polgár, bass
Larry Russo, narrator
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on December 6 and 13, 1993. For Deutsche Grammophon, Roger Wright was the executive producer, Pål Christian Moe was the associate producer, Karl-August Naegler was the recording producer, Helmut Burk was the balance engineer, Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were the recording engineers, and Hans-Ulrich Bastin was the editor. Nicholas Simon was the narrator for the commercial release. The recording won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

June 22, 1996, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Villanelle, Le spectre de la rose Sur les lagunes, and L’ile inconnue from Les nuits d’été, Op. 7
RAVEL Sheherazade
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

James Conlon acknowledges Norman following her narration of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait at the Ravinia Festival on July 18, 2009 (Russell Jenkins photo)

June 21, 1997, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Vado, ma dove?, K. 583
MOZART Porgi amor from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
BIZET Habanera from Carmen
SAINT-SAËNS Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson and Delilah
STRAUSS Final Scene from Capriccio
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano

July 18, 2009, Ravinia Festival
COPLAND Lincoln Portrait
James Conlon, conductor
Jessye Norman, narrator

Norman also also appeared in recital and as soloist in Orchestra Hall (under the auspices of Allied Arts and later Symphony Center Presents) on the following occasions:

Jessye Norman in Orchestra Hall on May 19, 2002 (Peter Thompson for the Chicago Tribune)

January 5, 1986
Phillip Moll, piano

October 20, 1986
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Berlin Philharmonic
James Levine, conductor
Herbert von Karajan was originally scheduled to conduct Strauss’s Metamorphosen and Ein Heldenleben, but he canceled a week before the performance due to illness. The revised program was Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Strauss’s song cycle, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

October 23, 1988
James Levine, piano

March 20, 1992
Phillip Moll, piano

April 2, 1995
Ann Schein, piano

June 3, 1998
Ken Noda, piano

May 19, 2002
Mark Markham, piano

Numerous tributes have been posted on CNN, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times, and NPR, among many others.

Bernard Rands (Ted Gordon photo)

Wishing a very happy eighty-fifth birthday to the Pulitzer Prize–winning British-American composer Bernard Rands!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus have performed several of Rands’s compositions, on subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall as well as on tour to Europe. And during the 2019-20 season, music director Riccardo Muti will lead the Orchestra in the world premiere of the composer’s DREAM for Orchestra.

Below is a complete list of Rands’s works performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

December 2, 3, 4, and 7, 1993, Orchestra Hall
RANDS Le Tambourin, Suites 1 and 2
Pierre Boulez, conductor

May 8, 9, and 11, 2003, Orchestra Hall
RANDS apókryphos
Angela Denoke, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
World premiere. Composed in memory of Margaret Hillis, founder and first director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Commissioned by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

March 10, 11, and 12, 2005, Orchestra Hall
RANDS Cello Concerto
Johannes Moser, cello
Pierre Boulez, conductor

May 5, 6, 7, and 10, 2011, Orchestra Hall
August 26, 2011, Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria
August 28, 2011, Kultur- & Kongresszentrum, Lucerne, Switzerland
August 31, 2011, Grand Auditorium, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Luxembourg
September 2, 2011, Salle Pleyel, Paris, France
September 5, 2011, Grosser Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, Austria
RANDS Danza Petrificada
Riccardo Muti, conductor
World premiere. Commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by The Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund and written for Written for Mexico in Chicago 2010, a citywide celebration of the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

December 19, 20, and 21, 2013, Orchestra Hall
RANDS . . . where the murmurs die . . .
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

Compositions by Rands also have been performed on other series at Symphony Center, including:

February 16, 2000, MusicNOW
RANDS Concertino
Amy Mendillo, oboe
Mathieu Dufour, flute
Sean McNeely, clarinet
Mihaela Ionescu, violin
Jenny Gregoire, violin
Clara Takarabe, viola
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Deanne von Rooyen, harp

May 16, 2002, Symphony Center Presents
RANDS Well-a-day!, My dove, and Silently she’s combing from Canti d’amor
Chicago Symphony Singers
Duain Wolfe, conductor

March 19, 2003, MusicNOW
RANDS Well-a-day!, My dove, and Silently she’s combing from Canti d’amor
RANDS My Child from apókryphos
Chicago Symphony Singers
Duain Wolfe, conductor

A number of new recording releases—from NMC Records and Lyrita—are also now available. More details are here.

Happy, happy birthday!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony were given on April 6 and 7, 1950, in Orchestra Hall under the baton of guest conductor George Szell. Since then, the work has been led by music directors Rafael Kubelík, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim; principal conductor Bernard Haitink; principal guest conductors Carlo Maria Giulini and Pierre Boulez; and Ravinia Festival music directors James Levine and James Conlon; along with guest conductors Sir John Barbirolli, Lawrence Foster, Michiyoshi Inoue, Hans Rosbaud, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

The Orchestra has recorded the work on three notable occasions, as follows.

Carlo Maria Giulini, the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor, led Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in December 1971 and March 1975 before returning in April 1976 to perform and record the work. Following the first concert of that residency, Karen Monson in the Chicago Daily News wrote that “each time the aristocratic maestro meets the transcendent symphony, the relationship becomes more and more special, Giulini and the Orchestra have delved into the deepest secrets of this music, and Thursday evening they delivered a performance so rich and complete . . .”

In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis called the performance “one of Giulini’s great nights in Orchestra Hall.” Recording sessions were scheduled for the following week, and “by the time the tape is rolling, this could be the most heartfelt and compelling recorded version of Mahler’s grief-stricken penultimate symphony. . . . The Chicago Symphony players will take any risks for Giulini. If he wishes them to play softer than soft, applying bow to string, or breath to mouthpiece or reed, they proceed to just this side of bobble or discomfiting silence. . . . No other guest has such control over orchestral color and emotional variation.”

Deutsche Grammophon was on hand on April 5 and 6, 1976, to record the symphony in Medinah Temple. Günther Breest was the executive producer and Klaus Scheibe the recording engineer. The release won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Eighth music director Sir Georg Solti first led the Orchestra in Mahler’s symphony at Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall in April 1981 before taking it on the road to Lucerne, Paris, Amsterdam, and London later that year. Back in Chicago, Solti led a concert performance (benefiting the musicians’ pension fund) on April 28, 1982, and recorded the symphony on May 2 and 4 in Orchestra Hall.

Reviewing in Gramophone magazine, Richard Osborne noted: “When Solti conducted Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in London in the autumn of 1981 the critic of The Financial Times observed: ‘Solti obviously knew how this music should gobut not why.’ Such a reading would be an evident act of self-parody, for it is to this very theme—the modern world’s nightmarish preoccupation with sensation, spiraling, self-referring and impossible to assuage—that Mahler so fearlessly addresses himself in the symphony’s third movement, the Rondo Burleske. It’s clear, though, from the present recording, made in Orchestra Hall, Chicago in May 1982, that Solti’s sense of the music is a good deal more rooted than it appeared to be amid the unsettling razzmatazz of an end-of-tour London performance.

“The new performance has a measure of repose about it as well as much splendour. The second movement is robust and resilient as Mahler directs. There is defiance and obstinacy in the third movement, an awful power which illuminates the music rather than the orchestra’s known expertise.”

James Mallinson produced the recording, and James Lock was the engineer for London Records. The recording won 1983 Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Recording, Best Engineered Recording—Classical, and Best Classical Album.

Soon after being named as the Orchestra’s third principal guest conductor, Pierre Boulez was in Chicago to lead four performances of Mahler’s Ninth in November December 1995.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote that Boulez led “one of classical music’s most profound meditations on relentless death and tumultuous life” as a “study in musical clarity, elegant balances, and proportion. . . . Many conductors play up the contrasts, creating dramatic mood shifts. Boulez and the CSO were after something more subtle.” John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune added that Boulez “[filtered] the work through his own modernist sensibility. Granted, there are ambiguities and uncertainties in this symphony that resist so rational an approach. But there are also levels of purely musical meaning few other conductors have uncovered. The otherworldly stillnesses, the demonic humor, the desolate nostalgia, the strange lapses into folkish banality registered that much more strongly because the hand organizing them was so calm and precise. . . . Let us hope the studio sessions capture in full the splendor of the live performances.”

For Deutsche Grammophon, the work was recorded at Medinah Temple on December 2 and 4, 1995. Roger Wright was the executive producer, Karl-August Naegler recording producer and editor, Ulrich Vette was the balance engineer, and Jobst Eberhardt and Stephan Flock were recording engineers. The release won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony no. 9 on May 17, 18, 19, and 22, 2018.

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Theodore Thomas

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