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Ned Rorem in 1984 (Jack Mitchell photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of American pianist, diarist, and Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Ned Rorem. He died at his home in Manhattan on November 18, 2022, at the age of ninety-nine.

Rorem was born in Richmond, Indiana, on October 23, 1923, and his family soon moved to Chicago. He expressed a talent for music at a young age and attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and the American Conservatory of Music. As a young musician, he regularly attended concerts in Orchestra Hall, where he “was exposed to contemporary music simultaneously with the standard classics. From the very start, I saw—heard—that the present was every bit as vital as the past, a truth made obvious when the two were interlarded.” Rorem later attended Northwestern University, the Curtis Institute, and the Juilliard School.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed a number of Rorem’s works, including the world premiere of Goodbye My Fancy, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of its centennial season. “Goodbye My Fancy finds, both musically and expressively, the inner coherence it strives for,” John von Rhein wrote in the Chicago Tribune, following the first performance on November 8, 1990. “Rorem’s music remains blissfully oblivious to the blandishments of what used to be called modernism: the score is dated 1988 but sounds as if it could been written thirty years earlier. No American composer sets American words more sensitively; no composer is more alive to Whitman’s fierce passions. Rorem’s choral writing savors leanness, elegance and subtlety, even when it roars. The deployment of massed and solo voices with instruments is telling, the cumulative impact affecting. . . . the shining stars of the occasion were the Chicago Symphony Chorus. As prepared by director Margaret Hillis, the CSO contingent sang with firm consonants, clear vowels, full and forward tone and fervent dedication. They were magnificent to hear. Goodbye My Fancy is a work that deserves to be in the repertory of America’s best symphony choruses. But I doubt that any of them will be able to make its Whitmanesque music leap off the page more exactly or vividly than Hillis’s sterling ensemble.”

A complete list of his works performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus is below:

August 4, 1959, Ravinia Festival
ROREM Symphony No. 3
Alfred Wallenstein, conductor

November 12 and 13, 1959, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Design for Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor

July 14, 1962, Ravinia Festival
ROREM Eagles
William Steinberg, conductor

Leonard Slatkin, Margaret Hillis, Ned Rorem, John Cheek, and Wendy White following the world premiere of Goodbye My Fancy on November 8, 1990 (Jim Steere photo)

June 15 and 16, 1972, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Piano Concerto in Six Movements
Irwin Hoffman, conductor
Jerome Lowenthal, piano

January 6, 7, and 9, 1977, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Air Music, Ten Variations for Orchestra
Guido Ajmone-Marsan, conductor

April 24, 25, and 26, 1986, Orchestra Hall
ROREM An American Oratorio
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Donald Kaasch, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

November 8, 9, and 10, 1990, Orchestra Hall
ROREM Goodbye My Fancy (world premiere)
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Wendy White, mezzo-soprano
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

On June 3, 1990, Rorem made a rare appearance as a pianist in Orchestra Hall, accompanying soprano Arleen Augér. “The idea of pairing Augér, one of the few American singers who really care about American vocal music, with composer-pianist Rorem, who has done more than any other living American to cultivate the art of native song, was an inspired one,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “Fully half of the program was given over to his songs. Throughout the program, Rorem’s accompaniments were rich in the special insights perhaps only a composer who happens to be a skilled pianist can bring to them.”

Numerous tributes have been posted online, including AP News, NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among several others.

Ned Rorem and former CSO Composer-in-Residence John Corigliano give a pre-concert conversation in Orchestra Hall’s ballroom on November 8, 1990

This article also appears here.

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.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the eminent British conductor and pianist Bramwell Tovey, who died yesterday, July 12, 2022, following a long illness. He was sixty-nine.

“The music world has lost a true renaissance man with the passing of Bramwell Tovey, and I have lost a dear, dear friend,” wrote CSOA President Jeff Alexander. “We began our tenures at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra the same week in September 2000. For the subsequent fourteen years, we were joined at the hip in our daily quest to advance all artistic and administrative aspects of the organization, and many advancements we indeed made. Bramwell’s concerts were always extremely enjoyable. His many compositions, about which he was so humble, were intricate, thoughtful, meaningful additions to the repertoire. His piano playing a joy to listen to. His unyielding support of my work and the well-being of the institution forever appreciated. In the eight years that have passed since I left the VSO for the CSO, we were simply friends. And he was a wonderful friend. He will be missed by the tens of thousands of people who benefited from experiencing his great talent each concert season. Even more so by his family and his friends, who were very much a part of his family.”

A frequent guest to the Chicago Symphony podium in recent years, Tovey also appeared with the Orchestra as a pianist, most notably leading Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue from the keyboard in all-Gershwin concerts in March 2017.

Bramwell Tovey speaks about Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, in advance of his March 2017 performances

“Elgar’s Enigma Variations does not lack for concert performances, but Tovey’s stood out,” wrote Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, following Tovey’s most recent appearances with the Orchestra in January 2019. “From the statement of the main theme, which the conductor delivered with unusual care and deliberation, it was clear that this was going to be a singular interpretation. Sure enough, Tovey turned these vignettes—each depicting someone in Elgar’s circle of friends—into vividly imagined portraits.”

A complete list of his appearances with the Orchestra is below.

August 10, 2014, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS/Juon Hungarian Dance No. 4 in F Minor, WoO 1, No. 4
BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No. 10 in E Major, WoO 1, No. 10
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Miriam Fried, violin
LEHÁR Gold and Silver Waltz
J. STRAUSS, Jr. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314
R. STRAUSS Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

Thomas Hampson and Bramwell Tovey onstage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 10, 2019 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

August 20, 2016, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Itzhak Perlman, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

February 3 and 4, 2017, Orchestra Hall
WALTON Orb and Sceptre
BRITTEN The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34
TCHAIKOVSKY Act 2 from Sleeping Beauty

March 24 and 25, 2017, Orchestra Hall
GERSHWIN/Rose Overture to Strike Up the Band
GERSHWIN/Tovey A Foggy Day
GERSHWIN Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess
GERSHWIN/Grofé Rhapsody in Blue
Bramwell Tovey, piano
GERSHWIN An American in Paris

January 10, 11, and 12, 2019, Orchestra Hall
IVES/Schuman Variations on “America”
IVES/Adams At the River
COPLAND Selections from Old American Songs
STILL In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy
DAMROSCH Danny Deever
DAUGHERTY Letter to Mrs. Bixby from Letters from Lincoln
CORIGLIANO One Sweet Morning from One Sweet Morning
Thomas Hampson, baritone
ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma)

Most recently, Tovey had accepted the position of music director of Sarasota Orchestra, continued artistic leadership positions with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and BBC Concert Orchestra, and was appointed as principal guest conductor with Orchestre Symphonique de Québec.

This article also appears here.

Donald Peck in 1994 (Jim Steere photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the passing of Donald Peck, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1957 until 1999 and principal flute for over forty years. He passed away earlier today, April 29, 2022. Peck was ninety-two.

Born on January 26, 1930, in Yakima, Washington, Donald Peck received his early musical training in Seattle, where he played in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. As a teenager, he performed with his first teacher, Frank Horsfall, in the Seattle Symphony. He was a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied with William Kincaid. Peck performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and spent three years in the U.S. Marine Band. He was principal flute of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra for two years before Fritz Reiner invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1957 as assistant principal flute. The following year, Reiner promoted Peck to principal flute, a chair he would hold for over forty years until his retirement in 1999.

Peck first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in August 1959, in Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, and on subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall in November 1960, in Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite, both with Walter Hendl conducting. During his tenure, he appeared as soloist on more than 120 concerts directed by twenty-five conductors—including music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and on tour.

Donald Peck in 1966 (Dorothy Siegel Druzinsky photo)

On April 18, 1985, Solti led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Morton Gould’s Flute Concerto, commissioned for Peck. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein described his playing as, “Lustrous and penetrating, tender and lyrical, charming and sensual, its hues would put a chameleon to shame. It is one of the most distinctive voices in the orchestral choir, blending well with any ensemble even as it serves a key role within the woodwind section. . . . as principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck has carried out that role with a combination of technical skill and musical understanding that has earned him widespread admiration. Within the fraternity of the flute he is considered to be without peer. No less a judge than Julius Baker, the longtime principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic [and principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1951 until 1953], pronounces Peck ‘the greatest flutist I’ve ever heard.'”

Also for Peck, William Ferris wrote his Flute Sonata and Lee Hoiby dedicated his Pastorale Dances for Flute and Orchestra. He regularly performed as a guest artist with other orchestras, including appearances at the Pablo Casals Festival with concerts in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and in Carnegie Hall. In Australia, Peck recorded Mozart’s flute concertos for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and he regularly appeared at the Carmel Bach Festival in California, the Victoria International Festival in Canada, the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, and the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, along with numerous other orchestras from coast to coast.

As principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck performed on over three hundred recordings under twenty-two conductors for twelve labels. In his retirement, he recorded works for flute and piano with Melody Lord for the Boston label. Peck also was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

Peck served on the faculties of DePaul and Roosevelt universities, where he taught flute and woodwind ensemble. A frequent lecturer and guest teacher, he gave master classes at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, at the Rotterdam Conservatory in Holland, for the Osaka Flute Club in Japan, at the Sydney Flute Association in Australia, and at over thirty universities and music groups throughout the United States and Canada. For many years, Peck played a flute—fashioned in platinum-iridium—handmade for him by Powell Flutes of Boston.

In 1997, the National Flute Association honored Peck with a lifetime achievement award. Indiana University Press published Peck’s memoir, The Right Place, The Right Time! Tales of Chicago Symphony Days in 2007, and the Chicago Flute Club’s biennial international flute competition is named in his honor.

Near the end of his tenure as principal flute, Peck spoke again with von Rhein for the Chicago Tribune. “The flute has the potential for more color and brilliance [and] the woodwind section can be most exquisite, like glittering jewels. . . . I have been a very lucky person, having performed with wonderful musicians and done so much. What more could I want?”

Donald Peck warming up backstage, on tour with the CSO in the 1990s (Jim Steere photo)

Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date, and memorial gifts may be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

This article also appears here.

Radu Lupu (Mary Roberts for Decca)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the remarkable Romanian pianist Radu Lupu. He died in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 17, 2022, following a long illness. He was seventy-six.

A frequent performer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for nearly fifty years, Lupu appeared with the ensemble in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, in Carnegie Hall, and on tour to Bucharest, Romania and Berlin, Germany.

“I was deeply affected when I heard about the passing of Radu Lupu, one of the greatest pianists of our time,” Riccardo Muti wrote from his home in Ravenna. “I had great respect for him as an artist, and we always looked forward to making music together. It was with Lupu that I led memorable performances of Beethoven’s five piano concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, and I will always treasure that experience. I am so grateful for his most recent visit with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2017 for even more Beethoven. He was a wonderful and sensitive person and I considered him a dear friend.”

Lupu made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in October 1972, under the baton of Carlo Maria Giulini. “Six years ago, a young Romanian pianist named Radu Lupu won the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Competition and then returned quietly to his studies. Last night, twenty-seven now and bearded, he made a historic local debut in Beethoven’s Third Concerto,” wrote Roger Dettmer in the Chicago Tribune. “Reports of his achievement should include a mention of phenomenal technical command, a range of tonal color and dynamics evidently unlimited, and a control of nuances as well as the big moments that awed. . . . As no other pianist in memory, not even Rachmaninov, he became a spirit trumpet through whom we heard the composer speak.”

A complete list of his performances is below:

Radu Lupu and Riccardo Muti backstage at Orchestra Hall on April 29, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

October 5 and 6, 1972, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

August 1, 1973, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Lawrence Foster, conductor

August 3, 1973, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Lawrence Foster, conductor

April 18 and 19, 1974, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

August 6, 1977, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Edo de Waart, conductor

August 7, 1977, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467
Franz Allers, conductor

January 12, 13, and 14, 1978, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor

Radu Lupu performs Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti on April 27, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

March 26, 27, and 28, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Fantasy in C Minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (Choral Fantasy)
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

March 8, 9, and 10, 1984, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Leonard Slatkin, conductor

January 31, February 1, 2, and 5, 1991, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
Neeme Järvi, conductor

February 10, 11, 12, and 15, 1994, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

January 31, 1996, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 448
Daniel Barenboim, piano
MOZART Concerto for Three Pianos in F Major, K. 242
Elena Bashkirova, piano
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano
MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano

January 30, 31, February 1, and 4, 1997, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Radu Lupu and Riccardo Muti following a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on April 27, 2017 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

September 19, 1998, Sala Mare a Palatului, Bucharest, Romania
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

January 12, 14, 15, and 16, 1999, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

February 10, 11, 12, and 15, 2000, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
David Zinman, conductor

April 22, 2000, Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

February 21, 22, and 23, 2002, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor

October 3, 2002, Carnegie Hall, New York
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

February 13, 14, and 16, 2003, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Radu Lupu (Zdenek Chrapek photo)

February 16, 17, and 18, 2006, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Daniel Barenboim, conductor and piano

February 25, 26, 27, and March 2, 2010, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor

January 10, 11, 12, and 15, 2013, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Edo de Waart, conductor

April 27, 28, and 29, 2017, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Riccardo Muti, conductor

Following the April 27, 2017, performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Lupu’s often quiet but brilliantly expressive articulation compels listening by means of understatement, and yet there is an undeniable grandeur about it. And in tandem with the orchestra, he brought a dreamy tranquility to the slow passages of this familiar work that was metabolism-altering. The pianist’s emotional connection and eye contact with both Muti and the CSO musicians was both visible and audible at every moment.”

Lupu also gave a number of recitals in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

February 10, 1988 (with Murray Perahia)
January 21, 1990
February 13, 1994 (with Daniel Barenboim)
January 31, 1996 (with Daniel Barenboim)
February 11, 1996 (with Daniel Barenboim)
February 9, 1997 (with Daniel Barenboim)
January 21, 1998
November 24, 2000 (with Daniel Barenboim)
January 27, 2002
January 15, 2004 (with the Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim)
February 19, 2006 (with Daniel Barenboim)
February 10, 2008
January 31, 2010

This article also appears here.

Erica Morini (Ledger photo, Vienna)

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate and remember the remarkable Austrian violinist Erica Morini, who, over the course of nearly forty-five years, was a frequent and favorite soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in recital in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in WGN‘s television studios.

Born in 1904, Morini was a seasoned performer by 1924, when her father purchased a $10,000 Stradivarius violin—made in 1727 and named for the Russian cellist Karl Davydov—for her. It soon became her instrument of choice and prized possession for the remainder of her career. Shortly before her death in October 1995, the instrument—along with artwork, correspondence, and annotated scores—was stolen from her apartment in New York City. The unsolved crime remains one of the FBI’s “Top Ten Art Crimes.”

Morini and her violin are the subject of a new documentary, Stolen: The Unsolved Theft of a $3,000,000 Violin. Several members of the CSOA family were interviewed for the film, including Robert Chen, concertmaster; Kenneth Olsen, assistant principal cello; Hilary Hahn, violinist and CSO Artist-in-Residence; Rachel Barton Pine, Chicago-based violinist; and Frank Villella, director of the Rosenthal Archives. (If you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, please contact nyartcrime@fbi.gov.)

On November 18, 1921, seventeen-year-old Erica Morini made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Vieuxtemps’s First Violin Concerto with second music director Frederick Stock on the podium. “Good violinists, as all concert attendants know, are common enough these days, and most of them are young,” wrote Edward Moore in the Chicago Tribune. “Miss Morini, however, has a few things in her artistic makeup that take her widely out of even their class. It is not once in twenty times that one hears a violinist with the fiery vitality of this young girl. . . . She gave rise to more violinistic fireworks at higher speed and got more of them correct than any one who has been on the stage since the day that Jascha Heifetz took away the breath of the same audience a few years ago.”

One month later, Morini gave her debut recital in Orchestra Hall. In the Chicago Evening Post, Karleton Hackett wrote, “there was no doubt of the remarkable powers as well as the charm of this young artist. The tone was lovely in quality, the technique of extraordinary accuracy, and everything was done with gratifying ease. . . . Miss Morini has something to say with her violin and the power to say it.”

Morini’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, re-released on LP in 1957, featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. (RCA Victor)

Morini later earned the distinction of being not only the first violinist but also the first woman to commercially record as a soloist with the Orchestra. On December 12, 1945, she recorded Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto under the baton of third music director Désiré Defauw in Orchestra Hall. The initial RCA Victor release was as a 78 RPM record, and the subsequent 1957 LP re-release featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. For WGN, Morini was soloist with the Orchestra for a television broadcast recorded on December 10, 1961, performing Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto with George Szell conducting. The video was later released by Video Artists International.

A complete list of Morini’s performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is below.

November 18 and 19, 1921, Orchestra Hall
VIEUXTEMPS Violin Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 10
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 8 and 9, 1922, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
SARASATE Fantasy on Carmen for Violin and Orchestra
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 14 and 15, 1930, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 18 and 19, 1921

December 14, 1937, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 16 and 17, 1937, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Hans Lange, conductor

January 27, 1942, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
Frederick Stock, conductor

July 24, 1945, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Massimo Freccia, conductor

July 28, 1945, Ravinia Festival
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Massimo Freccia, conductor

December 3, 1945, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
December 6 and 7, 1945, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Hans Lange, conductor

December 11, 1945, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Désiré Defauw, conductor

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was initially released as a 78 RPM disc in 1946 by RCA Victor

December 10, 1946, Orchestra Hall
December 16, 1946, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Désiré Defauw, conductor

December 12 and 13, 1946, Orchestra Hall
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Désiré Defauw, conductor

November 22, 1949, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

November 24 and 25, 1949, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

July 3, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965

July 5, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Leonard Rose, cello
George Szell, conductor

December 7 and 8, 1961, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

December 10, 1961, WGN Studios
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

December 18, 1921

Erica Morini also gave three recitals in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

December 18, 1921
Emanuel Balaban, piano

January 14, 1923
Harry Kaufman, piano

April 3, 1949
Leon Pommers, piano

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John Williams leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on November 28, 2009 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Wishing a very happy 90th birthday to the incomparable John Williams! Composer, conductor, winner of five Academy Awards (and 52 nominations) and 25 Grammy awards (and 72 nominations), he has given us several of the most popular movie soundtracks in the history of cinema.

When Williams became the first composer to be awarded the American Film Institute‘s lifetime achievement award in 2016, his longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg said, “Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor do brooms in Quidditch matches, nor do men in red capes. There is no Forcedinosaurs do not walk the Earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.”

John Williams and Dale Clevenger following the second performance of Williams’s Concerto for Horn and Orchestra on December 2, 2003 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Erich Kunzel first led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Williams’ music — selections from Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope — at the Ravinia Festival on August 13, 1978. Williams himself first guest conducted the Orchestra at Ravinia on July 31, 1994, and at Orchestra Hall on November 28, 29 and December 2, 2003. During that first downtown residency on November 29, he led the Orchestra in the world premiere of his Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, dedicated to Principal Horn Dale Clevenger and commissioned by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Also, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has performed the complete soundtracks to accompany screenings of multiple movies scored by Williams, including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Home Alone, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and several films in the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises. Most recently, Williams led the Orchestra on April 26 27, 28, and 29, 2018, conducting excerpts from BFG, Hook, Jaws, Lincoln, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, and selections from movies in the Star Wars trilogies.

Under the baton of the composer, the Orchestra recorded a suite from Memoirs of a Geisha in August 2008, with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist. In May 2012, Williams led the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus in sessions for the soundtrack for Lincolnlater nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media and an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Happy, happy birthday!

This article also appears here, and portions previously appeared here.

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to the remarkable Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini!

Maurizio Pollini (© Mathias Bothor for Deutsche Grammophon)

A frequent and favorite guest artist in Chicago for more than fifty years, Pollini has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in recital on numerous occasions, in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in Milwaukee.

Following Pollini’s debut in Orchestra Hall in January 1971, Thomas Willis commented in the Chicago Tribune that he had “been literally pulled forward in my seat by [the] pianist’s bravura . . . last night when Maurizio Pollini charged the climactic repeated octaves in Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto. The speed and power of that single passage—no more than, say, fifteen seconds long—broke the piano’s sound barrier for me. Until I heard this virtuoso do it, I would never have believed that alternating octaves could be played so fast and so loud on any concert piano. . . . This one could be the star shaker.”

A complete list of Pollini’s appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to date is below.

July 5, 1969, Ravinia Festival
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

June 27, 1970, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

January 21, 22, and 23, 1971, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 2
Claudio Abbado, conductor

February 21, 22, and 23, 1974, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Claudio Abbado, conductor

February 10 and 11, 1977, Orchestra Hall
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 1
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in February 1977 for Deutsche Grammophon
1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance–Instrumental Soloist
1979
Gramophone Award for Concerto

February 17, 18, and 20, 1977, Orchestra Hall
February 21, 1977, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 2
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in February 1977 for Deutsche Grammophon
1979 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance–Instrumental Soloist
1979
Gramophone Award for Concerto

April 5, 6, and 7, 1979, Orchestra Hall
April 9, 1979, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Christoph von Dohnányi, conductor

March 19, 20, and 21, 1981, Orchestra Hall
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

March 3, 4, and 5, 1983, Orchestra Hall
SCHOENBERG Piano Concerto, Op. 42
Claudio Abbado, conductor

March 31, April 1, 2, and 5, 1988, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Claudio Abbado, conductor

October 23 and 24, 1997, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

April 21, 2000, Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83
Daniel Barenboim, conductor

April 25, 26, and 27, 2013, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467
Riccardo Muti, conductor

For his February 1982 recital debut in Orchestra Hall, Pollini gave a program of works by Schubert and Chopin. “Nor could you hope to hear every note, every chord, every structural detail of [Chopin’s] B minor sonata rendered with more breathtaking accuracy or digital strength,” commented John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy was “a meeting of mind and music that illuminated the inner workings [and placed] everything in his technical and musical arsenal at the music’s disposal. . . . His view understood, as Schubert did, the eloquence that can reside in lyrical simplicity.”

Dates for Pollini’s numerous recitals in Orchestra Hall—given under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents—are below.

Maurizio Pollini (Erich Auerbach)

February 28, 1982
March 11, 1984
April 1, 1987
March 27, 1988
March 18, 1990
March 15, 1992
March 21, 1993
October 12, 1997
October 25, 1998
October 7, 2000
May 5, 2002
October 31, 2004
May 14, 2006
May 6, 2007
October 12, 2008
April 11, 2010
October 26, 2014
October 4, 2015
May 28, 2017
April 22, 2018

Happy, happy birthday!

On August 26, 2021, Frank Villella, director of the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, sat down with Cheryl Frazes Hill and Don Horisberger — both longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, both as singers and members of the conducting staff — to talk about their colleague and mentor Margaret Hillis

The recording of the conversation is here:

A few edited highlights from the conversation are below.

Villella: could you describe the first time you heard the Chicago Symphony Chorus?

Frazes Hill: As a young child, I heard the Chorus at the Ravinia Festival, and I was always fascinated. But the first up-close-and-personal experience was when my high school English teacher, Richard Livingston, a longtime member of the Chorus, invited me to a rehearsal. I remember Hillis walking in, precisely on time. After the warmup, she gave the downbeat, and this incredible sound enveloped me. I was just in awe. It was a sound like no other, and it was a great thrill.

Margaret Hillis onstage in Orchestra Hall in 1978 (Terry’s Photography)

Horisberger: I first heard the Chorus when I was singing in it. I got to know Miss Hillis as a student at Northwestern, and she encouraged me to audition. So, my first experience was sitting in the midst of the Chorus with all of those voices around me but not hearing it as a whole somehow. The thing that I most remember is not being particularly overwhelmed until I got out on stage for the first orchestra rehearsal and thought, “that is Georg Solti, this is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.” He gave a downbeat, I breathed, and nothing happened for at least ten seconds. And I thought, “this is an illustrious start to my career.”

Villella: Let’s talk a little more about your interactions with Miss Hillis: her preparation process and how you would be involved, and how you assisted in rehearsals.

Horisberger: As most people came to experience, she was extremely organized. She knew from the very beginning what we were going to cover in each rehearsal. One of the things that I came to admire is that she really trusted her assistants, and she was incredibly supportive. 

Frazes Hill: There were exceptional times that she would meet with us, and I remember Stravinsky’s Les noces. She gave us not only marked scores but she also gave us her beat patterns, because there are various ways in which that piece can be conducted. She had worked that piece with Igor Stravinsky, so it was completely embedded in her arm a certain way.

Margaret Hillis and Doreen Rao (director of the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus) receive applause following the October 31, 1977, performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in Carnegie Hall (Robert M. Lightfoot III)

Villella: The Orchestra and Chorus performed Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in Carnegie Hall on October 31, 1977, when Margaret Hillis replaced an injured Sir Georg Solti on the podium. You were both there.

Frazes Hill: After the third performance in Chicago was canceled, Miss Hillis told management, “If I was needed, I will be ready.” At the dress rehearsal in New York, none of us knew who would be conducting that evening. And when she walked out onto the stage, it was pretty clear to all of us that this was going to be on her shoulders. She said, “Please don’t try to help me. Just do your job, and I’ll do mine, and we’ll keep the whole shooting match together.” Later, we were onstage for the performance and the gentleman from Carnegie Hall came out and made the announcement that Sir Georg Solti was injured, and the sold-out audience let out a corporate groan. When he announced that in his place would be the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, he couldn’t even finish her name before the place erupted. We were all so proud, so nervous, there were so many emotions, and we had to come out with a big “Veni!”

The New York Times, page 1; November 1, 1977

Horisberger: We were all on pins and needles, wondering what was going to happen in New York. I remember thinking, “I wonder what she’s going to do in this section,” because her approach was different than Solti’s, and I was impressed that she was being very careful. This was my first time with the Orchestra and Chorus in Carnegie, I was overwhelmed by the response, and the applause went on and on and on.

Frazes Hill: When the final moments were over, there was such a collective sigh of relief and joy. Carnegie Hall audiences are always so incredibly enthusiastic when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform, and there’s always enormous applause. But this was something different and we knew it was all for her. And that made it even greater.

The New York Times, page 46; November 1, 1977

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Chicago Symphony Orchestra Principal Trumpet Adolph “Bud” Herseth in the 1960s
Adolph Herseth in 1938 (Adolph Herseth collection, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association)
Avis Bottemiller and Adolph Herseth (center) in the 1930s in Bertha, Minnesota (Adolph Herseth collection, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association)
Adolph Herseth in the midst of the CSO’s brass section in 1988 (Jim Steere)
Adolph Herseth with Daniel Barenboim, the CSO’s ninth music director (Jim Steere)
Adolph Herseth in the 1980s (Jim Steere)
Adolph and Avis Herseth at the CSO Alumni Association reunion in the Club at Symphony Center on June 3, 2011 (Dan Rest)
Adolph Herseth and Doc Severinsen perform with the CSO in Orchestra Hall on June 7, 1988 (Jim Steere)
Adolph Herseth demonstrates his warm-up technique at the Ravinia Festival in the late 1970s
Adolph Herseth serving in the U.S. Navy in the 1940s
Adolph Herseth performs Taps at the gravesite of Sir Georg Solti in Budapest, Hungary on April 1, 2005 (Todd Rosenberg)
Adolph Herseth in the early 1990s (Jim Steere)
Adolph Herseth enjoying a round of golf in Lucerne, Switzerland in September 1978 (Adolph Herseth collection, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association)
Adolph Herseth’s first concert with the CSO was at the Ravinia Festival on June 29, 1948, under the baton of Eugene Ormandy.
Proof sheet from photo session featuring Adolph Herseth in the 1970s (Robert M. Lightfoot III)
CSO brass section musicians Adolph Herseth, Rudolph Nashan, Wayne Barrington, Arnold Jacobs, and Frank Crisafulli perform for Chicago schoolchildren in the 1960s
Newlyweds Avis and Adolph Herseth in 1943 (Adolph Herseth collection, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association)
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Assistant Conductor Tauno Hannikainen onstage in Orchestra Hall on October 14, 1948, at the beginning of Adolph Herseth’s first downtown season as principal trumpet
CSO trumpets Frank Holz, Renold Schilke, Gerald Huffman, and Adolph Herseth onstage at Orchestra Hall on October 14, 1948, at the beginning of Herseth’s first downtown season as principal trumpet
Gabriel’s Children, the concert celebrating Adolph Herseth’s fiftieth season as the CSO’s principal trumpet, on June 7, 1998
Adolph Herseth in the 1980s (Jim Steere)
The Herseth family’s 1953 Christmas card (Adolph Herseth collection, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
CSO brass section musicians Arnold Jacobs, Frank Crisafulli, Richard Oldberg, Vincent Cichowicz, and Adolph Herseth in the mid-1960s (Terry’s)
Karel Husa, Adolph Herseth, and Sir Georg Solti backstage following the world premiere of the composer’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra on February 11, 1988 (Jim Steere)
Adolph Herseth in the early 1980s (Robert M. Lightfoot III)
Associate Conductor Kenneth Jean leads the CSO brass section in The National Anthem at Soldier Field on September 14, 1987, for the Chicago Bears‘ home opening game
Leonard Bernstein and Adolph Herseth discuss a detail in Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony during a rehearsal break in Orchestra Hall in June 1988 (Jim Steere)
Adolph Herseth (far right) with fellow Luther College band members in 1940 (Adolph Herseth collection, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
MOZART Horn Concerto No. 3, Bassoon Concerto, and Oboe Concerto, and HAYDN Trumpet Concerto (Deutsche Grammophon, 1981–1984)
Valerie and Georg Solti greet Avis and Adolph Herseth in Orchestra Hall’s ballroom on March 18, 1969 (Terry’s)
Adolph Herseth and Sir Georg Solti rehearsing Husa’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in Perth, Australia in March 1988 (Jim Steere)
The school band in Bertha, Minnesota in 1929 (Adolph Herseth is pictured near the far right of the second row, second from the end) (Adolph Herseth collection, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association)
Clark Brody, Willard Elliot, Donald Peck, Dale Clevenger, Jean Martinon, Ray Still, Adolph Herseth, Donald Koss, and Jay Friedman backstage before a performance of Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra in February 1966 (Terry’s photo)

This article also appears here.

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