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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family remembers one of its iconic musicians, Milton Preves (1909–2000), in honor of the anniversary of his birth on June 18.

Milton Preves in 1934, the year he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (George Nelidoff)

Born in Cleveland, Preves moved to Chicago as a teenager and attended Senn High School. He was a student of Leon Sametini at Chicago Musical College, Richard Czerwonky at the Bush Conservatory of Music, and Albert Noelte and Ramon Girvin at the Institute of Music and Allied Arts before attending the University of Chicago.

Preves joined the Little Symphony of Chicago in 1930, regularly worked in radio orchestras, and was invited by Mischa Mischakoff (then CSO concertmaster) to join the Mischakoff String Quartet in 1932. Two years later, second music director Frederick Stock appointed Preves to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s viola section, promoting him to assistant principal in 1936 and principal in 1939. He would remain in that post for the next forty-seven years, serving under a total of seven music directors, including Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti.

Preves performed as a soloist with the Orchestra on dozens of occasions, including the world premieres of David Van Vactor’s Viola Concerto and Ernest Bloch’s Suite hébraïque for Viola and Orchestra, both dedicated to him. Under Reiner, he recorded Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote—along with cellist Antonio Janigro and concertmaster John Weicher—with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for RCA in 1959.

Louis Sudler (Orchestral Association chairman emeritus), Lady Valerie and Sir Georg Solti, and Milton and Rebecca Preves celebrate Preves’s fiftieth anniversary as a member of the CSO in October 1984 (Terry’s Photography)

A lifelong educator, Preves served on the faculties of Roosevelt, Northwestern, and DePaul universities, and he also always taught privately out of his home. An avid conductor, he held titled posts with the North Side Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, Oak Park–River Forest Symphony, Wheaton Summer Symphony, Gary Symphony, and the Gold Coast Chamber Orchestra. As a chamber musician, he performed with the Budapest, Fine Arts, Gordon, and Chicago Symphony string quartets, as well as the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players.

As reported in his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, “It was while directing the Oak Park–River Forest group that he gained an unusual measure of national attention. He briefly became an icon of the fledgling civil rights movement in 1963, when he resigned from the community orchestra because it would not allow a Black violinist he had invited to perform with the group.” (More information can be found here.)

Preves died at the age of ninety on June 11, 2000, following a long illness. Shortly thereafter, his family began donating materials to the Rosenthal Archives, establishing his collection of correspondence, contracts, photographs, scrapbooks, programs, and recordings. Most recently, his children donated additional photographs, mostly portraits of music directors and guest conductors, all autographed and dedicated to Preves. A sample of that collection is below.

In October 1984, on the occasion of Milton Preves’s fiftieth anniversary with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, fellow viola Isadore Zverow (1909–1999) composed this poem to honor his colleague:

It’s no mean feat, without retreat
To hold the forte so long,
To stroke and pluck in cold and heat—
All to produce a song.

Toward music bent, with single intent,
Unyielding dedication,
You of yourself so gladly lent
Your valued perspiration.

You sat and played and marked and bowed
And sometimes e’en reproached
And sometimes we squirmed (just a bit)
We didn’t wanna be coached.

And yet whene’er the chips were down
Throughout these fifty anna,
Your steadfast presence was a crown
Aiming at Nirvana.

This article also appears here.

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 July 21, 2020, we commemorate the centennial of legendary Russian-born American violinist Isaac Stern.

Stern first appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 11 and 12, 1940, in Orchestra Hall. Second music director Frederick Stock conducted an all-Sibelius program, and nineteen-year-old 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 [Stern] 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.”

January 11 and 12, 1940

November 27 and 28, 1941, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Hans Lange, conductor

November 9, 1943, Orchestra Hall
PAGANINI Allegro maestoso from Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6
Hans Lange, conductor

November 11 and 12, 1943, Orchestra Hall
SZYMANOWSKI Concerto in One Movement, Op. 61
RAVEL Tzigane
Hans Lange, conductor

July 15, 1948, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Fritz Busch, conductor

July 18, 1948, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Fritz Busch, conductor

December 14, 1948, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
Tauno Hannikainen, conductor

March 31 and April 1, 1955, Orchestra Hall

December 16 and 17, 1948, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Eugene Ormandy, conductor

December 12, 1950, Orchestra Hall
LALO Symphonie espagnole in D Minor, Op. 21
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

December 14 and 15, 1950, Orchestra Hall
December 18, 1950, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

July 26, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Otto Klemperer, conductor

July 31, 1952, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Otto Klemperer, conductor

March 19 and 20, 1953, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

March 24, 1953, Orchestra Hall
VIEUXTEMPS Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 31
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

March 31 and April 1, 1955, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Fritz Reiner, conductor

April 12, 1955, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Fritz Reiner, conductor

August 5, 1955, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Enrique Jordá, conductor

July 2, 1959, Ravinia Festival

August 6, 1955, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Leonard Rose, cello
Enrique Jordá, conductor

November 22 and 23, 1956, Orchestra Hall
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
Fritz Reiner, conductor

November 27, 1956, Orchestra Hall
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Fritz Reiner, conductor

July 13, 1957, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Pierre Monteux, conductor

July 14, 1957, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Pierre Monteux, conductor

October 28, 1958, Orchestra Hall
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Fritz Reiner, conductor

October 30 and 31, 1958, Orchestra Hall
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
Fritz Reiner, conductor

June 30, 1959, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Pierre Monteux, conductor

July 2, 1959, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Isaac Stern (William T. Haroutounian photo)

March 31 and April 1, 1960, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Romance for Violin in F Major, Op. 50
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
Fritz Reiner, conductor

April 13 and 14, 1961, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 2
Fritz Reiner, conductor

August 1, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Izler Solomon, conductor

August 3, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
VIOTTI Violin Concerto No. 22 in A Minor
Izler Solomon, conductor

March 1, 2 and 3, 1962, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major, K. 207
BARTÓK Rhapsody No. 1
Jean Martinon, conductor

January 24, 25 and 26, 1963, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Josef Krips, conductor

June 29, 1965, Ravinia Festival
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

Claudio Abbado, Martha Gilmer, Yo-Yo Ma, and Isaac Stern onstage at Orchestra Hall during recording sessions for Brahms’s Double Concerto in November 1986 (Jim Steere photo)

July 1, 1965, Ravinia Festival
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 3, 1965, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
BEETHOVEN Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 (Triple)
Leonard Rose, cello
Seiji Ozawa, piano and conductor

March 31, April 1, and 2, 1966, Orchestra Hall
DVOŘÁK Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

January 19, 20 and 21, 1967, Orchestra Hall
HINDEMITH Violin Concerto
Jean Martinon, conductor

February 13 and 14, 1969, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Rondo in C Major, K. 373
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

October 2 and 3, 1969, Orchestra Hall
October 6, 1969, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

April 15, 16, and 17, 1971, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Georg Solti, conductor

November 22, 24, and 25, 1972, Orchestra Hall
December 9, 1972, Carnegie Hall
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 2
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

April 10, 11, and 12, 1975, Orchestra Hall
ROCHBERG Violin Concerto and Orchestra
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

July 31, 1976, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Andrew Davis, conductor

March 2, 3, and 4, 1978, Orchestra Hall
March 6, 1978, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

March 28, 29, and 30, 1985, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 2
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

November 5 and 7, 1986, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola in E-flat Major, K. 364 (performed by violin and cello)
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Claudio Abbado, conductor

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

November 6 and 8, 1986, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 7 and 8, 1986. For CBS Masterworks, Bud Graham was the control engineer, Tom MacCluskey was the editing engineer, and Tim Geelan was the post-production engineer.

October 6, 1990, Orchestra Hall (Centennial Gala)
MOZART Rondo in C Major, K. 373
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

May 23, 24, 25, and 28, 1991, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

September 16, 1992, Orchestra Hall
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

October 1, 2, and 3, 1992, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents, Stern also appeared in recital and with ensembles on several occasions in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

Program book advertisement for the November 19, 1969, Allied Arts concert in Orchestra Hall

November 14, 1948
Alexander Zakin, piano

October 8, 1950
Alexander Zakin, piano

March 2, 1958
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
National Symphony Orchestra
Howard Mitchell, conductor

June 1, 1963
Alexander Zakin, piano

April 5, 1964
Alexander Zakin, piano

November 27, 1966
Leonard Rose, cello
Eugene Istomin, piano

May 5, 1968
Leonard Rose, cello
Eugene Istomin, piano

April 27, 1969
Leonard Rose, cello
Eugene Istomin, piano

November 18, 1969
Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Zakin, piano

May 17, 1970
Leonard Rose, cello
Eugene Istomin, piano

February 14, 1971
Alexander Zakin, piano

Program book advertisement for the November 19, 1969, Allied Arts concert in Orchestra Hall

November 4, 1979
David Golub, piano

March 26, 1990
DUTILLEUX L’arbre de songes
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
David Zinman, conductor

December 9, 1990
Jaime Laredo, viola
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Emanuel Ax, piano

April 18, 1993
Cho-Liang Lin, violin
Jaime Laredo, viola
Michael Tree, viola
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Sharon Robinson, cello

December 8, 1996
Philip Setzer, violin
Lawrence Dutton, viola
Lynn Harrell, cello
Yefim Bronfman, piano

February 25, 1998
Jaime Laredo, viola
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Emanuel Ax, piano

*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.

William and Shirlejean Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

The Chicago Symphony notes with the sorrow the passing of William Babcock—a former member of the Orchestra’s trumpet section from 1951 until 1958—on June 10, 2019, in Townshend, Vermont. He was 94.

Born in New London, Connecticut on May 7, 1925, Babcock began playing the piano at the age of four and trumpet at seven. He won many high school competitions as a trumpet player, was first solo cornet in the All New England High School Band for three years, and graduated from Bulkeley School for Boys in 1943.

After graduation, Babcock enlisted in the US Air Force and was called into duty on June 14, 1943, serving for nearly three years, active in combat flying in the European theatre.

Benefiting from the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in January 1946. While in line for admittance, Babcock met not only his future colleague Adolph “Bud” Herseth but also his future wife Shirlejean Wallace (whom he would marry on March 29, 1947). During his three years at the conservatory, he studied with Boston Symphony Orchestra trumpets Roger Voisin and Marcel LaFosse. Babcock performed at Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center (under the guidance of BSO principal trumpet Georges Mager), with the New England Opera Theater and at Boston’s Shubert Theatre, and also as a substitute with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Leonard Bernstein, and Pierre Monteux.

William Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

Rafael Kubelík, during his first season as music director, hired Babcock into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s trumpet section, beginning with the 1951 Ravinia Festival season. He was a member of the section until 1958, when he became principal trumpet of Chicago’s NBC Orchestra, where he remained until 1965. Babcock continued to work as a freelance musician and private trumpet teacher into his retirement, and he and his wife were longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

William Babcock’s beloved wife Shirlejean—after sixty-seven years of marriage—preceded him in death in 2014. He is survived by his children Douglas, Richard, Barbara LaMontagne (Henry), Laura Casoli (Darrel), and granddaughter Melissa. Memorial gifts may be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and services have been held.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg (Library of Congress)

On June 28, 1914, heir-apparent to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, are assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb and south Slav nationalist.

Austria declares war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, launching a chain reaction. In a few short weeks, the world is at war, ultimately pitting the Triple Entente (France, Russia, and Britain) against the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). In an effort to cut off French forces, Germany invades Luxembourg and Belgium in early August with the eventual goal of occupying Paris.

First Battle of the Marne (Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

During the First Battle of the Marne, from September 6 through 12, 1914, the French army and British Expeditionary Force successfully thwart German progress just east of Paris. A major turning point early in the war, by August 1914, the entire Allied army on the Western Front is forced into a general retreat back towards Paris as the German armies continue through France.

RMS Lusitania (Bain Collection, Library of Congress) and an English recruiting poster (Sir Bernard Partridge)

To weaken the British war effort, Germany seeks to cut off U.S. aid to Britain through naval warfare, at its height when the passenger liner RMS Lusitania sets sail from New York for Liverpool. German submarines torpedo and sink the ship on May 7, 1915, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. Germany limits submarine warfare due to U.S. outrage over the incident. Seen at right, a Parliamentary Recruiting Committee poster portrays Justice emerging from the sea, as the Lusitania sinks in the background.

Verdun, France and Battle of the Somme (Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

A German offensive on the French town of Verdun from February 21 through December 18, 1916—the largest and longest battle on the Western Front between the German and French armies—results in nearly one million casualties. The Battle of the Somme—fought by the armies of the British Empire and France against the Germans—begins on July 1, 1916, with the launch of an Allied offensive, initiating the largest battle of the war on the Western Front.

Chicago Tribune, April 3, 1917; Chicago Daily News, 1918

In January 1917, a telegram from German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann to U.S. German ambassador Count Johann von Bernstorff—offering financial aid to Mexico if it agrees to partner with Germany on the U.S. entering the war—is intercepted by British intelligence and forwarded to President Woodrow Wilson. The story reaches the public on March 1, as Germany reinstitutes unrestricted submarine warfare. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. declares war on Germany.

American forces land in France on June 25, 1917, and African American troops are the first to arrive, including the 370th Infantry Regiment from Illinois (many from Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood).

Second Battle of the Marne (Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

Led by Bolshevik Party leader Vladimir Lenin, leftist revolutionaries launch a takeover of the provisional government on November 6 and 7, 1917, marking the end of the Romanov dynasty and centuries of Russian Imperial rule.

The Second Battle of the Marne is fought on June 2, 1918, with American forces preventing Germans from crossing the Marne River at Château-Thierry.

Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

On September 26, 1918, Allied forces launch the Meuse-Argonne Offensive—part of the Hundred Days Offensive, the final series of Allied attacks—covering the entire Western Front between France, Belgium, and Germany. It is the largest and bloodiest attack of the war for the American Expeditionary Forces, involving over one million U.S. soldiers. The French map at the left illustrates the offensive and shows American daily lines of advance, divisions in lines, French colonial troops, enemy defenses, and railroads.

On November 11, 1918, Germany signs the Armistice of Compiègne. In accordance with the agreement, fighting ends at 11:00 a.m., Paris time, ending the war on the Western Front.

Ignace Paderewski and his wife Helena (Library of Congress)

Representatives from the Allied nations—including pianist Ignace Paderewski, newly appointed as prime minister of Poland—along with German authorities sign the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, signifying the end of the war.

____________________________________________________

Death in Venice and The War That Will End War

Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig) is published in Germany in 1912.

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is first performed at the Hofburg Theatre in Vienna on October 16, 1913.

In August 1914, H.G. Wells begins publishing a series of articles in London newspapers, later published in the book The War That Will End War.

The New York Times, June 7, 1913, and The Saturday Evening Post (Norman Rockwell)

Pierre Monteux conducts the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris on May 29, 1913. In Le Figaro, Henri Quittard calls the work, a “laborious and puerile barbarity.”

A painting by Norman RockwellMother’s Day Off—first appears on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on May 20, 1916.

A family arrives in Chicago (University of Washington)

By 1916, the first wave of the Great Migration is fully underway, with nearly 1.5 million African Americans moving from the southern United States into the northern states, many settling in major cities, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Saint Louis, and Detroit.

Stock and the Orchestra onstage at the Auditorium Theatre, April 24, 1917

Less than three weeks after the U.S. enters the war, second music director Frederick Stock leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony on April 24, 26, and 28, 1917, at the Auditorium Theatre as part of the Chicago Music Festival. The Orchestra is expanded to 150 players vocalists included six local choruses, two hundred boys from Oak Park and River Forest, and eight soloists. The Chicago Tribune called it “the most important event of its kind the West has ever known.”

During the summer of 1917, International Harvester president Cyrus McCormick, Jr., travels as a government emissary and meets twenty-six-year-old Moscow Conservatory student Sergei Prokofiev at the Winter Palace in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg).

CSO program book, November 23, 1917

Sixteen-year-old Jascha Heifetz debuts with the Orchestra on November 23, 1917, as soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Frederick Stock conducts.

On March 19, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson signs the Standard Time Act into law, implementing daylight saving time and authorizing the Interstate Commerce Commission to define time zones.

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A Time for Reflection—A Message of Peace—a companion exhibit curated by the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library—will be on display in Symphony Center’s first-floor rotunda from October 2 through November 18, and the content also will be presented on CSO Sounds & Stories and the From the Archives blog.

This article also appears here. For event listings, please visit cso.org/armistice.

This exhibit is presented with the generous support of COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Founder and Chair, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, through the Pritzker Military Foundation.

Additional thanks to Shawn Sheehy and Jenna Harmon, along with the Arts Club of Chicago, Newberry Library, Poetry Foundation, and Ravinia Festival Association.

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Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestra onstage at the Ravinia Festival on July 3, 1936 (Ravinia Festival photo)

Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestra onstage at the Ravinia Festival on July 3, 1936 (Ravinia Festival photo)

On July 3, 1936, Ernest Ansermet and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra inaugurated the first season of the Ravinia Festival* with a program that included Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, Clouds and Festivals from Debussy’s Nocturnes, and Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird.

“Three days ago the last seat in the pavilion was sold. The audience was socially brilliant and musically responsive, so that a full-length Beethoven symphony and the most sonorous of the preludes which Wagner wrote for any of his music-dramas evoked a veritable tumult of applause,” wrote Glenn Dillard Gunn in the Herald & Examiner following that first concert. “For the next five weeks the Chicago Symphony will continue the season begun last night, playing on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings and offering programs quite as serious as those presented in Orchestra Hall during the winter season.”

July 3, 1936

July 3, 1936

Several notable conductors made their Chicago Symphony Orchestra debuts at the Ravinia Festival, including future music directors Riccardo Muti, Georg Solti, Jean Martinon, Fritz Reiner, and Artur Rodzinski; future festival music directors James Conlon, Christoph Eschenbach, James Levine, and Seiji Ozawa; and prominent guest conductors Sir Thomas Beecham, Leonard Bernstein, Josef Krips, Erich Leinsdorf, Kurt Masur, Pierre Monteux, Eugene Ormandy, George Szell, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

“I look around at the beauty of the park, the acoustics and proportion of the Pavilion . . . and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in residence,” commented James Levine in the 1985 book Ravinia: The Festival at Its Half Century. “Look at how these people work during the Festival weeks—putting on performances of difficult music under extreme weather conditions sufficiently well to be worthy of recording, finishing one concert and getting up the next morning to rehearse for another. . . . Most of the people around Ravinia seem to find a rejuvenation synonymous with summer from the change of pace, the change of style, the challenge of new repertoire, and the opportunity to work from a different vantage point. It’s that kind of thinking, that buoyant spirit, which has been prevalent throughout the unique history of Ravinia. And it’s that spirit which makes Ravinia truly magical!”

*Ravinia Park had opened on August 15, 1904, and Frederick Stock and the Orchestra first performed at the park’s theater on November 20, 1905. The Orchestra appeared there semiregularly through August 1931, after which the park was closed for most of the Great Depression.

This article also appears here.

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August 5, 1941

August 5, 1941

Pierre Monteux made his debut at the Ravinia Festival on August 5, 1941, leading the Orchestra in Berlioz’s Overture to Benvenuto Cellini and Franck’s Symphony in D minor on the first half; after intermission, he changed the program order, leading with Clouds and Festivals from Debussy’s Nocturnes followed by Griffes’s The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla-Khan and Ravel’s Suite no. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe. That first residency also included music by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Gluck, Milhaud, and Weber, along with songs and arias by Strauss and Wagner with soprano Helen Traubel.

The reviewer in the Chicago Daily News called Monteux “a revelation. Chicago knows no conductor like him. The Orchestra is delighted with him and he is, more than anything else, a sheer and unreserved delight.”

Monteux at the Ravinia Festival in August 1949 (image from the Victor Charbulak collection; Charbulak was a member of the Orchestra's violin section from 1922 utnil 1967)

Monteux at the Ravinia Festival in August 1949 (image from the Victor Charbulak collection; Charbulak was a member of the Orchestra’s violin section from 1922 until 1967)

Over the next twenty years, he returned for every season except one (1958), conducting a vast array of repertoire. Monteux brought to the Orchestra his interpretations of works in whose world premieres he had participated, including Stravinsky’s The Firebird (as a violist under Gabriel Pierné) and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe and Stravinsky’s Petrushka (as conductor), all with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

The first concert of eighty-six-year-old Monteux’s 1961 residency on July 11 included Debussy’s Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, a suite from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. In the Chicago Tribune, Thomas Willis reported the Orchestra “played as it always seems to for Mr. Monteux, with flexibility born of affection, considerable vitality, and a limpid, clear tone quality.” For his final concert on July 15, he led Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Henryk Szeryng, along with Prokofiev and Sibelius’s first symphonies. That evening, Ravinia reported an audience of 7,514—the best attended concert of the season.

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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“Eventually, I got my U.S. visa, but it came so late that I had to cancel my Ravinia engagement. However, my American debut took place . . . when I conducted the San Francisco Opera. At that time, the opera orchestra drew on players from the San Francisco Symphony, which from 1936 until 1952 had been directed by Pierre Monteux, one of the most brilliant conductors of the first half of the twentieth century. I met him later in Frankfurt, when he conducted one of the museum’s concerts.

“In San Francisco, I was delighted to work with an orchestra that played at a much higher standard than that of Munich or Frankfurt. My repertoire consisted of Elektra, Die Walküre, and Tristan . . . the San Francisco performances went well, and so did the performances that I gave with the orchestra when we went on tour to Los Angeles.”*

The casts:

September 25 and 30, 1953 – War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
October 20, 1953 – Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles
STRAUSS Elektra
Klytemnestra Margarete Klose mezzo-soprano (U.S. opera debut)
Aegisthus Ludwig Suthaus tenor (U.S. opera debut)
Elektra Inge Borkh soprano (U.S. opera debut)
Chrysothemis Ellen Faull soprano
Orestes Paul Schöffler baritone
Guardian of Orestes Desire Ligeti bass
The Confidant Eloise Farrell soprano
The Trainbearer Ruth Roehr soprano
A Young Servant Cesare Curzi tenor
An Old Servant Jan Gbur bass
The Overseer of the Servants Yvonne Chauveau soprano
First Maidservant Margaret Roggero contralto
Second Maidservant June Wilkins soprano
Third Maidservant Janice Moudry mezzo-soprano
Fourth Maidservant Lois Hartzell soprano
Fifth Maidservant Beverly Sills soprano
Carlo Piccinato, stage director
Kurt Herbert Adler, chorus director
Harry Horner, set designer
Julius Dobe, set painter

October 2 and 7, 1953 – War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
October 23, 1953 – Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles
WAGNER Tristan und Isolde
Tristan Ludwig Suthaus tenor
Isolde Gertrude Grob-Prandl soprano (U.S. opera debut)
Brangäne Margarete Klose mezzo-soprano
King Mark Dezső Ernster bass (October 2 and 23)
King Mark Desire Ligeti bass (October 7)
Kurwenal Paul Schöffler baritone
Melot George Cehanovsky baritone
Shepherd Lawrence Mason tenor
Steersman Jan Gbur bass
A Sailor’s Voice Cesare Curzi tenor
Carlo Piccinato, stage director
Kurt Herbert Adler, chorus director
Armando Agnini, set designer
Julius Dobe, set painter

October 13 and 18, 1953 – War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
November 1, 1953 – Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles
WAGNER Die Walküre
Brünnhilde Gertrude Grob-Prandl soprano
Sieglinde Inge Borkh soprano
Fricka Margarete Klose mezzo-soprano
Siegmund Ludwig Suthaus tenor
Wotan Paul Schöffler baritone
Hunding Dezső Ernster bass
Helmwige Ellen Faull soprano
Gerhilde Beverly Sills soprano
Ortlinde Yvonne Chauveau soprano
Siegrune Janice Moudry mezzo-soprano
Rossweisse Margaret Roggero contralto
Waltraute Eloise Farrell soprano
Grimgerde Donna Petersen mezzo-soprano
Schwertleite June Wilkins contralto
Carlo Piccinato, stage director
Armando Agnini, set design
Julius Dobe, set painter

*Text excerpted from Memoirs by Sir Georg Solti. Also, thanks to Kirsten Tanaka (head librarian and archivist at the Performing Arts Library, Museum of Performance & Design) and the San Francisco Opera’s online performance archive.

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Chicago Sun-Times - July 12, 1953

“In 1953, I made my first visits to the United States. Interestingly enough, given the turn my career eventually took, my North American debut was originally scheduled to take place at the Ravinia Festival . . . with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But my U.S. visa application was turned down. The American consul in Frankfurt kindly explained that my visa had been denied because I was listed as belonging to the Soviet Friendship Association, a Communist organization. I couldn’t understand how this could be, as I had never belonged to any political group.

“Fortunately, I knew a Dr. Müller, the Minister of Internal Affairs, and he telephoned the police in Munich to authorize them to show me the document. This document turned out to be a list, prepared by this Communist organization, of prominent non-Communists in cultural life who were to have propaganda material sent to them. With that information in hand, I went back to Frankfurt and explained to the American consul that the list they had seized was not a list of members of the Communist party, but merely a mailing list of people in cultural life. . . . Indeed, in the late 1940s, representatives of the U.S. military government in Bavaria had informed me that if I wanted to maintain my position in Munich, I would have to give up my Hungarian citizenship; by then, Hungary had become a Soviet satellite state. I was not sad about renouncing my original nationality, but being stateless for the next few years presented endless bureaucratic complications. In the end, the West German government kindly offered me German citizenship, which I gratefully accepted, and I remained a German national for nearly twenty years.

“Eventually, I got my U.S. visa, but it came so late that I had to cancel my Ravinia engagement. However, my American debut took place . . . when I conducted the San Francisco Opera.”*

The advance program advertisement in the Ravinia Festival program book during the first week of July 1953

The program that would have been Solti's U.S. debut on July 14, 1953

Programs for that week’s concerts were revised. Otto Klemperer, who had conducted the previous week, stayed over for the July 14 and 16 concerts (ironically, according to the advertisement: “one critic, after Solti’s appearance with the Vienna Philharmonic, called him ‘a young Klemperer'”). Pierre Monteux, scheduled for the following week, arrived early to lead the July 18 and 19 performances.

*Text excerpted from Memoirs by Sir Georg Solti.

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