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4/7/11 7:04:15 PM -- Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti takes a bow with the CSO, Chicago Symphony Chorus, and vocal soloists (L-R) soprano Krassimira Stoyanova (Desdemona), tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko (Otello), baritone Carlo Guelfi (Iago), and tenor Juan Francisco Gatell (Cassio).  © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2011

Riccardo Muti takes a bow with the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists Krassimira Stoyanova, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Carlo Guelfi, and Juan Francisco Gatell at Orchestra Hall on April 7, 2011 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

On April 7, 9, and 12, 2011, Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and the Chicago Children’s Choir in Verdi’s Otello at Orchestra Hall. Principal soloists were tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role, soprano Krassimira Stoyanova as Desdemona, and baritone Carlo Guelfi as Iago.

In the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote, “Seldom has Verdi’s penultimate masterpiece sounded so orchestral; Muti made Otello sound like the dramatic symphony Verdi never wrote. Muti brought out instrumental details almost every other conductor glosses over or ignores. Everything that makes this Verdi’s supreme lyric tragedy was there for the ear to marvel at, writ larger than life. The intensity never let up, nor did the steady current of lyricism that informs the drama.” Andrew Patner in the Chicago Sun-Times added that the Chorus “offered oceans of sound” and the “Orchestra—and Verdi and Muti’s enormous attention to its multiple roles in this masterwork—told the story.”

Otello CD

Regarding the performance in Carnegie Hall on April 15, “The Orchestra played with crackling precision; the impressive and sizeable Chicago Symphony Chorus sang with unforced yet robust sound and clear enunciation of the text,” said Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. “It was a privilege . . . to hear this work performed in concert by this superb orchestra.” Recorded live during the concert performances in Chicago, the opera was released in September 2013 on CSO Resound. George Hall in BBC Music Magazine wrote, “Verdi’s Otello as conducted by Riccardo Muti benefits from tip-top precision from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra players. They reach a level of pristine excellence that any opera house orchestra—no matter how eminent— would struggle to equal.” In Gramophone, David Patrick Stearns said, “Here is one of the great Verdi conductors of our time, who is now doing some of the best work of his life, recording the composer’s greatest opera. . . . [The Orchestra is] 100 per cent devoted to him (its famous brass section particularly) and a world-class lineup of singers to which the conductor gives a surprisingly free rein.”

The recording received the International Opera Award for Best Complete Opera in April 2014 in London.

This article also appears here.

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Martinon RCA set

RCA Red Seal Records (now a division of Sony Masterworks) recently released the complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings—some available for the first time on CD—led by our seventh music director Jean Martinon. (The set has not yet been released in the United States but is available from several European and Japanese distributors.)

“It’s always a very delicate and perilous business for a conductor to take over a renowned orchestra that has just passed through a glorious and legendary era under a charismatic predecessor,” writes Christoph Schlüren in the accompanying booklet, referring to Martinon succeeding Fritz Reiner. “Martinon was not blessed by fate in Chicago. The problem was not that the orchestra failed to appreciate him, nor that the ensemble’s outstanding level dropped under his leadership. The surviving recordings are no less brilliant than Reiner’s. . . . In any event, the standard view that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra did not really get going until Martinon gave way to Georg Solti is true only with regard to its commercial success and resultant worldwide fame, not to the perfection of its playing.”

Clark Brody, Williard Elliot, Donald Peck, Dale Clevenger, Jean Martinon, Ray Still, Adolph  Herseth, Donald Koss, Jay Friedman -

CSO principals Clark Brody (clarinet), Williard Elliot (bassoon), Donald Peck (flute), Dale Clevenger (horn), Martinon, Ray Still (oboe), Adolph Herseth (trumpet), Donald Koss (timpani), and Jay Friedman (trombone) backstage in February 1966 before a performance of Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra

The set includes a number of works, most notably Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra (featuring several CSO principal players); Mennin’s Symphony no. 7; Varèse’s Arcana; and Weber’s Clarinet Concertos nos. 1 and 2 with Benny Goodman. Additionally, two very special works are heard: an arrangement of Paganini’s Moto perpetuo as arranged by the CSO’s second music director Frederick Stock (according to Schlüren, “wittily peppered with fragments from the finale of [Beethoven’s] Eroica“) as well as Martinon’s own Symphony no. 4 (Altitudes), commissioned for the Orchestra’s seventy-fifth season. And similar to the previously issued Reiner set, the booklet includes numerous images from the collections of the Rosenthal Archives.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s commercial recording legacy began ninety-nine years ago on Monday, May 1, 1916, shortly after the close of the twenty-fifth season. Those first recording sessions were led by our second music director Frederick Stock for the Columbia Graphophone Company at an undocumented location in Chicago. Four works were recorded that first day: Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre, and Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies (Heart Wounds and The Last Spring).

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first recording: Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Stupendous recordings by entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra. By far the greatest achievement of the day . . .,” raved an October 1916 Columbia Records brochure. “The first offerings are two masterfully played compositions. The deepest glories vibrant in such a familiar composition as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March are unguessed until interpreted by such an orchestra as this. From the first trumpet fanfare to the great central crescendo is very joy and glory articulate! The resistless rhythm is filled with pulsing emotion and each instrument of the mighty orchestra throbs with life.

“Only a love of divine harmony is needed to appreciate the unrivaled beauties of the coupling, Grieg’s tone-sketch Spring. All the dream imagery of Grieg’s Norwegian soul seems to live in the exquisite modulations of this gem. There can be no pleasure beyond enjoying such music as the Chicago Symphony here brings to every music-loving home.”

The next day (Tuesday, May 2), Stock and the Orchestra recorded the following: Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah, Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty, Järnefelt’s Praeludium, and Stock’s arrangement of François Schubert‘s The Bee.

They returned to the studio the following week on Monday, May 8 for one more day of recording in 1916: Dvořák’s Largo from the New World Symphony, Bizet’s Entr’acte to Act 4 of Carmen and the Farandole from L’arlésienne, and Wagner’s Procession of the Knights of the Holy Grail from Act 1 of Parsifal and the Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus onstage in March 1959, with Margaret Hillis, Fritz Reiner, and Walter Hendl.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus onstage in March 1959, with Margaret Hillis, Fritz Reiner, and Walter Hendl (Oscar Chicago photo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first performed Sergei Prokofiev‘s cantata Alexander Nevsky at Orchestra Hall on March 5, 6, and 10, 1959. Fritz Reiner conducted and Rosalind Elias was the mezzo-soprano soloist. The original program note is here.

Following the first performance, Dan Tucker in the American reported that Prokofiev’s score “may well be the finest movie music ever written. That does not mean it’s great music: you can’t write great music for a film because it would distract the audience’s attention and ruin the film. Prokofiev did a wonderful job, though, in writing music to heighten the moods of somber grandeur or heroic fervor. If it isn’t ‘great’ in itself, it is admirably suited to a great subject. There is a splendor about the mere sound of massed chorus and orchestra that this core exploits to the full.” The complete review is here.

In the Chicago Tribune, even though Claudia Cassidy lamented the absence of the film, she praised the work of the Chorus (only in its second season), “at its best in the enthusiasm of attack, a fresh, accurate, all-out attack which might actually have been defending Mother Russia.” The complete review is here.

And in the Daily News, Donal Henahan added: “The fever and excitement latent in this muscular music originally part of the score for the Sergei Eisenstein movie, was brought out by Reiner gradually with a slow-fuse sort of detonation. The climactic ‘Battle on the Ice’ was approached with expansive calm and deliberation, and thus aroused the audience’s martial blood properly. A conductor who tries to pile climax after climax into this work can never achieve the hair-raising thrust that Reiner drew from Margaret Hillis‘s Chicago Symphony Chorus [singing in English] at such a moment. No one can write a march like Prokofiev, and it was grand to hear this one played with power but without hysterics. The chorus, although called on for less heroic vocal effort that in some other works it has sung, produced a pleasing sound in all voices and a more homogeneous tone than at any time since Miss Hillis began her missionary work in Chicago.” The complete review is here.

Alexander Nevsky

The subsequent recording—the first collaboration with the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus—was made on March 7, 1959, at Orchestra Hall. Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer. It recently was re-released as part of a comprehensive box set of Fritz Reiner’s complete recordings with the CSO on RCA.

There will be a free screening of Eisenstein’s film on Tuesday, January 20. Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Prokofiev’s cantata on January 22, 23, and 24 at Orchestra Hall and on February 1 at Carnegie Hall.

Boulez & Grammy awards - December 1995

Did you know that Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez is the third all-time Grammy Awards champ? He received his first two Grammy Awards in February 1968, the same evening The Beatles won Album of the Year for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

Sir Georg Solti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director, won thirty-one Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences—more than any other recording artist. Alison Krauss and Quincy Jones tie for the number two slot with twenty-seven awards each, and Boulez is number three, with twenty-six Grammy Awards, including eight with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Following is a complete list of Pierre Boulez’s Grammy Awards† to date:

1967
Album of the Year—Classical (1)
Best Opera Recording (2)
BERG Wozzeck
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Walter Berry, Ingeborg Lasser, Isabel Strauss, Fritz Uhl, Carl Doench
Paris National Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
CBS
(For Album of the Year—Classical, there was a tie that year. Boulez’s recording of Berg’s Wozzeck tied with Leonard Bernstein‘s recording of Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 with the London Symphony Orchestra, also for CBS. Soloists included Erna Spoorenberg, Gwyneth Jones, Gwenyth Annear, Anna Reynolds, Norma Procter, John Mitchinson, Vladimir Ruzdiak, and Donald McIntyre; and the choruses were the Leeds Festival Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Orpington Junior Singers, Highgate School Boys’ Choir, and the Finchley Children’s Music Group. John McClure was the producer.)

Debussy Philharmonia

1968
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (3)
DEBUSSY Jeux, La mer, Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
Pierre Boulez, conductor
New Philharmonia Orchestra
CBS

1969
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (4)
DEBUSSY Images for Orchestra
Pierre Boulez, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra
CBS

1970
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (5)
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring
Pierre Boulez, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra
CBS

Bartok New York

1973
Album of the Year—Classical (6)
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (7)
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra
Pierre Boulez, conductor
New York Philharmonic
Thomas Z. Shepard, producer
CBS

1975
Best Classical Performance—Orchestra (8)
RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé
Pierre Boulez, conductor
New York Philharmonic
Camerata Singers
Abraham Kaplan, director
CBS

Berg Lulu

1980
Best Classical Album (9)
Best Opera Recording (10)
BERG Lulu
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Teresa Stratas, Yvonne Minton, Hanna Schwarz, Franz Mazura, Kenneth Riegel, Toni Blankenheim, Robert Tear, Helmut Pampuch
Paris Opera Orchestra
Gunther Breest and Michael Horwath, producers
Deutsche Grammophon

1982
Best Opera Recording (11)
WAGNER Der Ring des Nibelungen
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Donald McIntyre, Gwyneth Jones, Heinz Zednik, Hermann Becht, Jeannine Altmeyer, Manfred Jung, Matti Salminen, Ortrun Wenkel, Peter Hofmann, and Siegfried Jerusalem
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus
Andrew Kazdin, producer
Philips

Boulez Prince

1993
Best Classical Album (12)
Best Orchestral Performance* (13)
Best Performance of a Choral Work** (14)
BARTÓK The Wooden Prince* and Cantata profana**
Pierre Boulez, conductor
John Aler, tenor
John Tomlinson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Karl-August Naegler, producer
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Bartok Concerto

1994
Best Classical Album (15)
Best Orchestral Performance (16)
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra and Four Orchestral Pieces
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Karl-August Naegler, producer
Deutsche Grammophon

1995
Best Classical Album (17)
Best Orchestral Performance* (18)
DEBUSSY La mer*, Nocturnes, Jeux, and First Rhapsody for Clarinet
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Franklin Cohen, clarinet
Women of The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus
Gareth Morell, director
Karl-August Naegler, producer
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Explosante

1996
Best Small Ensemble Performance (with or without a conductor) (19)
BOULEZ . . . explosante-fixe . . .
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Ensemble InterContemporain
Deutsche Grammophon

1997
Best Orchestral Performance (20)
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique and Tristia
Pierre Boulez, conductor
The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus
Gareth Morell, director
The Cleveland Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Bluebeard

1998
Best Orchestral Performance* (21)
Best Opera Recording** (22)
MAHLER Symphony No. 9*
BARTÓK Bluebeard’s Castle**
Jessye Norman, soprano
László Polgár, bass
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Repons

1999
Best Classical Contemporary Composition (23)
BOULEZ Répons
Pierre Boulez, composer
Deutsche Grammophon

2001
Best Orchestral Performance (24)
VARÈSE Amériques, Arcana, Déserts, and Ionisation
Pierre Boulez, composer
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon

Mahler 3 Vienna

2003
Best Orchestral Performance (25)
MAHLER Symphony No. 3
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Women’s Chorus of the Wiener Singverein
Johannes Prinz, director
Vienna Boys’ Choir
Gerald Wirth, director
Vienna Philharmonic
Deutsche Grammophon

2005
Best Small Ensemble Performance (with our without a conductor) (26)
BOULEZ Le marteau sans maître, Dérive 1, Dérive 2
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Hilary Summers, contralto
Ensemble InterContemporain
Deutsche Grammophon

A database of former Grammy Award winners can be found here; category titles have changed over the years. For opera recordings, only principal soloists are listed.

Numerous upcoming programs celebrate Pierre Boulez, including Beyond the Score: A Pierre Dream on November 14 and 16, 2014, and Boulez’s Piano Works on March 15, 2015, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich.

19 Boulez

Since 1991, Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez has amassed and extraordinary discography with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, including landmark twentieth-century masterpieces by Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and Edgard Varèse, as well as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. And in 2005 as part of the CSO’s From the Archives series, a two-disc tribute of radio broadcast performances was released. A complete list of those recordings is below:

BACH/Schoenberg Prelude and Fugue in E flat Major, BWV 552 (Saint Anne)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1991
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

Boulez Bluebeard

BARTÓK Bluebeard’s Castle
Jessye Norman, soprano
László Polgár, bass
Nicholas Simon, narrator
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1993
Deutsche Grammophon
1998 Grammy Award for Best Opera

BARTÓK Cantata profana
John Aler, tenor
John Tomlinson, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1991
Deutsche Grammophon
1993 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album, Best Engineered Recording–Classical, Best Performance of a Choral Work

Boulez Bartok Concerto

BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1992
Deutsche Grammophon
1994 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance

BARTÓK Concerto for Piano No. 1
Krystian Zimerman, piano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 2001
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Shaham

BARTÓK Concerto for Violin No. 2
Gil Shaham, violin
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1998
Deutsche Grammophon

BARTÓK Dance Suite
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1992
Deutsche Grammophon

BARTÓK Two Pictures for Orchestra, Op. 10
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1992
Deutsche Grammophon

BARTÓK Divertimento for String Orchestra
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1993
Deutsche Grammophon

BARTÓK Four Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 12
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1992
Deutsche Grammophon
1994 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance

BARTÓK Hungarian Sketches
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1993
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Mandarin

BARTÓK The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1994
Deutsche Grammophon

BARTÓK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1994
Deutsche Grammophon

BARTÓK Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra No. 1
Gil Shaham, violin
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1998
Deutsche Grammophon

BARTÓK Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra No. 2
Gil Shaham, violin
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1998
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Prince

BARTÓK The Wooden Prince
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1991
Deutsche Grammophon
1993 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album, Best Engineered Recording–Classical, and Best Orchestral Performance

BERG Lulu Suite
Christine Schäfer, soprano
Recorded in Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, April 2000
EuroArts

BOULEZ Fanfare for the 80th Birthday of Sir Georg Solti
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1992
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

BOULEZ Livre pour cordes
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1999
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

DEBUSSY First Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra
Larry Combs, clarinet
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1994
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 15: Soloists of the Orchestra II)

Boulez EuroArts

DEBUSSY Le jet d’eau
Christine Schäfer, soprano
Recorded in Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, April 2000
EuroArts

DEBUSSY Symphonic Fragments from Le martyre de Saint Sébastien
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1995
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

DEBUSSY Three Ballads by François Villon
Christine Schäfer, soprano
Recorded in Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, April 2000
EuroArts

JANÁČEK Glagolitic Mass
Elzbieta Szmytka, soprano
Nancy Maultsby, mezzo-soprano
Stuart Neill, tenor
Nathan Berg, bass-baritone
David Schrader, organ
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 2000
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

MAHLER Three Rückert-Lieder (Liebst du um Schönheit, Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft, and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen)
José van Dam, bass-baritone
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1996
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, May 1998
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Mahler 9

MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major
Recorded in Medinah Temple, December 1995
Deutsche Grammophon
1998 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance

MAHLER Totenfeier
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1996
Deutsche Grammophon

MESSIAEN L’ascension
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1996
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

Boulez Pelleas

SCHOENBERG Pelleas und Melisande
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1991
Erato

SCHOENBERG Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1991
Erato

SCRIABIN Piano Concerto in F-sharp Minor, Op. 20
Anatol Ugorski, piano
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1996
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Prometheus

SCRIABIN Prometheus, Op. 60
Anatol Ugorski, piano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1996
Deutsche Grammophon

SCRIABIN Symphony No. 4, Op. 54 (The Poem of Ecstasy)
Recorded in Medinah Temple, November 1995
Deutsche Grammophon

Boulez Zarathustra

STRAUSS Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1996
Deutsche Grammophon

STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1995
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 19: A Tribute to Pierre Boulez)

STRAVINSKY The Firebird
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1992
Deutsche Grammophon

STRAVINSKY The Firebird
Recorded in Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, April 2000
EuroArts

Boulez Firebird

STRAVINSKY Fireworks, Op. 4
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1992
Deutsche Grammophon

STRAVINSKY Four Studies
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 1992
Deutsche Grammophon

STRAVINSKY Four Studies
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February and March 2009
CSO Resound

Boulez Pulcinella

STRAVINSKY Pulcinella
Roxana Constantinescu, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, March 2009
CSO Resound

STRAVINSKY Symphony in Three Movements
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, February and March 2009
CSO Resound

STRAVINSKY Symphony of Psalms
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, November 2000
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 22: Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration)

Boulez Thomas

THOMAS . . . words of the sea . . .
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1996
ARTCD

VARÈSE Amériques
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1995
Deutsche Grammophon
2001 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance

VARÈSE Arcana
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1996
Deutsche Grammophon
2001 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance

Boulez Varèse

VARÈSE Déserts
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1996
Deutsche Grammophon
2001 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance

VARÈSE Ionisation
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, December 1995
Deutsche Grammophon
2001 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance

The Orchestra also has recorded compositions by Boulez, released both commercially and as part of the From the Archives series:

BOULEZ Messagesquisse for Seven Cellos
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
John Sharp, Stephen Balderston, Philip Blum, Loren Brown, Richard Hirschl, Jonathan Pegis, and Gary Stucka, cellos
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, September 1994
CSO (From the Archives, vol. 21: Soloists of the Orchestra III)

Boulez Notations Barenboim

BOULEZ Notations for Orchestra I-IV
Recorded in Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, April 2001
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
EuroArts

BOULEZ Notations for Orchestra VII
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, January 2000
Teldec

Numerous upcoming programs celebrate Pierre Boulez, including Beyond the Score: A Pierre Dream on November 14 and 16, 2014, and Boulez’s Piano Works on March 15, 2015, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich.

Reiner memorial insert front cover

Reiner memorial insert front cover

Just before the opening of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s seventieth season, our sixth music director Fritz Reiner suffered a heart attack on October 7, 1960. He canceled his remaining appearances for the calendar year to recuperate and was able to return to the CSO podium in March 1961 to lead the season’s final five weeks of concerts. However, his health continued to decline and he was forced to curtail many of his conducting duties, and it was announced on April 20, 1962, that he would become “musical adviser” for the 1962-63 season. Two weeks later on May 3, The Orchestral Association announced that Jean Martinon would become the Orchestra’s seventh music director beginning with the 1963-64 season.

As musical adviser, Reiner was scheduled to conduct seven weeks of subscription concerts in December 1962 and February, March, and April 1963. On April 18, 19, and 20, he led Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide, Brahms’s Second Symphony, and Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Van Cliburn as soloist (the Beethoven was recorded by RCA on April 22 and 23; see here and here for more information). Reiner was scheduled to close the season on May 2 and 3 with an extensive all-Wagner program (featuring several excerpts from Tristan and Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die Walküre, and Götterdämmerung); however, the CSO press office announced on Monday, April 29 that “on the advice of his physician, Fritz Reiner must withdraw from this week’s concerts.”

Reiner retreated over the summer and arrived in New York in October to begin rehearsals for a new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung at the Metropolitan Opera, scheduled to open on November 14. However, he fell ill with bronchitis on November 11 and withdrew from the production, being replaced by Joseph Rosenstock. Reiner’s condition gradually worsened and he succumbed to pneumonia on November 15, 1963, at the age of 74 (his Chicago Tribune obituary, written by Claudia Cassidy, is here).

On Saturday evening, November 16, Martinon led the Orchestra in Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave Overture, his own Second Violin Concerto with Henryk Szerying, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. According to the Sunday, November 17 Chicago Tribune: “Orchestra Hall, filled for a golden decade with the music conducted by Dr. Fritz Reiner, was silent for a minute Saturday night as the audience and musicians bowed heads in tribute to his memory.” Merrill Shepard, the new president of the Association, had signaled the moment of silence.

Program page for November 21 and 22, 1963, announcing scheduled memorial for Fritz Reiner the following week

Program page for November 21 and 22, 1963, announcing scheduled memorial for Fritz Reiner the following week

Funeral services were given on November 18 in New York. Attendees included Reiner’s former student at the Curtis Institute and music director of the New York Philharmonic Leonard Bernstein, tenor Lauritz Melchior, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera Rudolf Bing, impresario Sol Hurok, and Van Cliburn. William Schuman, composer and then-president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, delivered the eulogy, calling Reiner, an “artist who set an example for all his colleagues.”

Martinon had programmed the Thanksgiving week concerts (on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, November 28 and 29) to include Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Mozart’s Requiem (Margaret Hillis and the Chicago Symphony Chorus had been rehearsing the two works since early September). Reiner’s seventy-fifth birthday—December 19, 1963—was to have been celebrated with him leading the Orchestra in four weeks of subscription concerts in late December and early January. It was only appropriate to designate the Stravinsky and Mozart concerts as memorials to Reiner, and the program page for the November 21 and 22 concerts included an announcement. A four-page program insert was prepared to be used for the following week’s concerts and included tributes from Martinon and Shepard, a chronology of Reiner’s career, and a list of his previous orchestral affiliations.

On Thursday evening November 21, Martinon led Bach’s First Brandenburg Concerto, Henze’s Third Symphony, and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with Byron Janis. The program was scheduled to be repeated the following afternoon, Friday, November 22, 1963.

Stay tuned for part 2 . . .

Reiner memorial insert, pages two and three

Reiner memorial insert, pages two and three

Reiner memorial insert back cover

Reiner memorial insert back cover

Reiner CSO CD set

RCA Red Seal Records (now a division of Sony Masterworks) has just released—for the first time as a set—the complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings led by our sixth music director, the legendary Fritz Reiner. The sixty-three discs are beautifully presented in replicas of the original album jackets (front and back), spanning the recording of Richard Strauss’s Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome and Also sprach Zarathustra, recorded in March 1954, through Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 4 with Van Cliburn, recorded in April 1963.

The beautifully packaged set includes a detailed booklet with repertoire and recording details, along with an excellent article by Kenneth Morgan (author of Fritz Reiner: Maestro and Martinet).

The set also includes Reiner’s last recording (made in September 1963, barely two months before his death): Haydn’s Symphonies nos. 95 and 101. The ensemble is billed as “Fritz Reiner and his Symphony Orchestra,” which included musicians from “the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Symphony of the Air (formerly NBC Symphony), and others.”

As we count down the days to Giuseppe Verdi‘s 200th birthday and our performance and simulcast of his Requiem led by Riccardo Muti, here are all of the recordings of the work by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Our eighth music director, Sir Georg Solti, was the first to commercially record Verdi’s Requiem. The work was recorded in Medinah Temple on June 1 and 2, 1977.

Solti

1977 – Sir Georg Solti

The soloists were Leontyne Price, soprano; Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; Veriano Luchetti, tenor; and José van Dam, bass-baritone. The Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis.

Thomas Z. Shepard produced the recording, and Paul Goodman was the engineer for RCA (this was one of the few records Solti made independent of London/Decca). The recording won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Barenboim

1993 – Daniel Barenboim

Ninth music director Daniel Barenboim led recording sessions for Verdi’s Requiem on September 20 and 21, 1993, in Orchestra Hall.

Soloists included Alessandra Marc, soprano; Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano; Plácido Domingo, tenor; and Ferruccio Furlanetto, bass. The Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis.

Martin Sauer produced the recording; Jean Chatauret was the sound engineer, assisted by Christopher Willis; and Martine Guers was the editor for Erato.

In his first concerts at the CSO’s music director designate, Riccardo Muti led performances of Verdi’s Requiem at Orchestra Hall on January 15, 16, and 17, 2009. The performances were recorded live for CSO Resound.

Muti

2009 – Riccardo Muti

The soloists were Barbara Frittoli, soprano; Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano; Mario Zeffiri, tenor; and Ildar Abdrazakov, bass. The Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Duain Wolfe.

Christopher Adler produced the recording, and Christopher Willis was the recording engineer. David Frost and Tom Lazarus did the mixing, and Frost and Silas Brown performed the stereo mastering. The recording won 2010 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

But wait, there’s more . . .

Fritz Reiner, the CSO’s sixth music director, led performances of the Requiem at Orchestra Hall on April 3 and 4, 1958. Soloists included Leonie Rysanek, soprano; Regina Resnik, mezzo-soprano; David Lloyd, tenor; and Giorgio Tozzi, bass. The Chicago Symphony Chorus—in their second subscription concert appearances—was prepared by Margaret Hillis.

The March 4 performance was recorded for radio broadcast and since then, it has surfaced on a variety of unauthorized releases. An Italian release on Melodram in 1986 even mistakenly labeled the LP jacket as “Orchestra e Coro: Chicago Lyric Opera.” Most recently, we have seen it on a CD release from Archipel. Unfortunately, the sound quality on both is not great, even though it does provide an interesting snapshot of Reiner’s interpretation of the work, not to mention the sound of a very young Chicago Symphony Chorus.

As we prepare for Riccardo Muti‘s interpretation of Verdi’s Macbeth, we’re reminded that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has quite the performance history with the opera, both in whole and in part.

The CSO first performed music from Verdi’s Macbeth at the Ravinia Festival on July 21, 1977, under the baton of James Levine, the Festival’s music director. The first half of the program included selections from several Verdi operas (I vespri siciliani, Aida, La traviata, and Simon Boccanegra), but the second half was dedicated solely to Macbeth. Soprano Marisa Galvany (a last-minute replacement for an indisposed Martina Arroyo) and baritone Cornell MacNeil performed several selections, including the scena and duet from act 1, scene 2; “Pietà, rispetto, amore”; “Una macchia è qui tuttora”; and “Ove son io?”

Ravinia Festival, June 26, 1981

Ravinia Festival, June 26, 1981

Opening the Ravinia Festival’s forty-sixth season, the CSO gave its first complete performance of Verdi’s Macbeth on June 26, 1981. James Levine conducted, and the complete cast was as follows:

Macbeth Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Banquo John Cheek, bass-baritone
Lady Macbeth Renata Scotto, soprano
Servant/Herald Rush Tully, bass-baritone
Macduff Giuliano Ciannella, tenor
Malcolm Timothy Jenkins, tenor
Lady-in-Waiting Gene Marie Callahan, soprano
Assassin/Warrior Duane Clenton Carter, baritone
Bloody Child Sharon Graham, mezzo-soprano
Crowned Child Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Physician Terry Cook, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Winfield, associate director

On one of our previous From the Archives CD collections, we released the scene that begins “Una macchia, è qui tuttora” from act 4 (with Scotto, Callahan, and Cook). The set—A Tribute to James Levine—was released in 2004 and was volume 18 in the series.

Verdi Choruses album cover

At Orchestra Hall, the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Margaret Hillis and guest chorus master Terry Edwards) performed numerous choruses from Verdi’s operas and the Requiem, including two from Macbeth: “Tre volte miagola” and “Patria oppressa!” on November 2, 3, and 4, 1989. Sir Georg Solti led the first two concerts, and Kenneth Jean led the November 4 performance.

With Solti conducting, the choruses were recorded by London Records. Michael Haas was the producer, James Lock was the engineer, and Deborah Rogers was the tape editor.

Also at the Ravinia Festival, bass-baritone James Morris performed “Studia il passo, o mio figlio!” on July 12, 1997, with Donald Runnicles conducting; on August 8, 1997, Christoph Eschenbach conducted the ballet music; and on August 3, 2002, Eschenbach again led the ballet music as well as “Pietà, rispetto, amore” with baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

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Theodore Thomas

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