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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who died earlier today, July 6, 2020, in Rome following complications from a fall last week. He was ninety-one.

Ennio Morricone (Tammie Arroyo photo)

Riccardo Muti, writing from Paestum, expressed that Morricone was “a maestro for whom I had friendship and admiration. I conducted his Voices from the Silence which received a very emotional response from the audience. An extraordinary musician not only for film music but also for classical compositions. Ennio Morricone will be missed as a man and as an artist.” (Last evening, Maestro Muti led a Roads of Friendship concert—dedicated to the city of Palmyra in Syria—at the Archaeological Park of Paestum, in the province of Salerno in Campania, Italy.)

Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Morricone’s Voices from the Silence on February 6, 7, and 8, 2014. Ora Jones was the narrator and Duain Wolfe prepared the Chorus.

“It was Riccardo Muti who suggested Morricone compose a work that paid tribute to 9/11 which Muti would premiere at the Ravenna Festival,” wrote Phillip Huscher, the CSO’s program annotator. “The Ravenna Festival began its series, Roads of Friendship, in 1997, by taking concerts to crisis points around Europe and beyond, including Sarajevo, Beirut, Jerusalem, and Istanbul. Voci dal silencio (Voices from the silence) now added another city, New York—one that had only recently been thought of as a crisis point—to the list. Four years after the Ravenna premiere, Voices from the Silence was performed at the United Nations, with Morricone on the podium.

Riccardo Muti and Ennio Morricone acknowledge applause following the CSO’s first performance of Voices from the Silence on February 6, 2014 (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Voices from the Silence is a cantata for chorus, narrator, prerecorded sounds, and orchestra. Morricone said he composed the score in response to ‘the terrorist attacks of September 11 and all the massacres of humanity all over the world.’ At the head of the score, Morricone writes: ‘Against terrorism, against racism, and all forms of ethnic persecution. For equality among all people.’ For his text, Morricone turned to a poem by the South African writer Richard Rive, who was born and raised in Cape Town’s District Six, a lively multiracial community that was condemned as a slum in 1966, bulldozed, and rezoned exclusively for whites. ‘I always feel when I am here in District Six that I am standing over a vast cemetery of people who have been moved away against their will,’ he said in 1988. ‘The legacy of District Six is to show what avarice and political bigotry can do.’ The following year, Rive was found murdered in his house near Cape Town. He had been stabbed several times and beaten in the face. A solitary man without family, Rive lives on in his highly charged writings about oppression.” (The program book is available here.)

Morricone’s music has been performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several other occasions, as follows:

July 15, 1990, Ravinia Festival
MORRICONE Main Theme from The Untouchables
Erich Kunzel, conductor

February 25, 2005, Orchestra Hall
MORRICONE Main Theme from The Untouchables
Richard Kaufman, conductor

February 25, 2011, Orchestra Hall
MORRICONE/Mancini Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission
Richard Kaufman, conductor

June 26, 2014, Morton Arboretum
MORRICONE Main Theme from The Untouchables
Richard Kaufman, conductor

July 29, 2017, Ravinia Festival
MORRICONE/Williams Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso
James Conlon, conductor
Itzhak Perlman, violin

Tributes have been posted at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and The New York Times, along with the composer’s website and countless other news outlets.

 

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of American cellist and teacher Lynn Harrell, who died on Monday. He was seventy-six.

Lynn Harrell (Christian Steiner photo)

“Lynn Harrell collaborated with me as a soloist in Philadelphia,” commented Riccardo Muti from his home in Italy. “He was an extraordinary musician and a man of great humanity. We will miss him!”

For fifty years, Harrell was a frequent and favorite guest with the Chicago Symphony, appearing with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and in Orchestra Hall. A complete list of his appearances is below.

July 17, 1966, Ravinia Festival
MILHAUD Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 136
Lukas Foss, conductor

June 30, 1973, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
James Levine, conductor

July 20, 1974, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMANN Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129
James Levine, conductor

July 12, 1975, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Symphony-Concerto in E Minor, Op. 125
James Levine, conductor

April 8, 9, and 11, 1976, Orchestra Hall
BOCCHERINI Concerto for Violoncello in B-flat Major
TCHAIKOVSKY Pezzo capriccioso, Op. 62
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor

July 3, 1976, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 (Triple)
Robert Mann, violin
André-Michel Schub, piano
James Levine, conductor

July 28, 1977, Ravinia Festival
HAYDN Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major, H. VIIb:2
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Itzhak Perlman, violin
James Conlon, conductor

July 7, 1979, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Milton Preves, viola
James Levine, conductor

July 24, 1980, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
James Conlon, conductor

Lynn Harrell (Christian Steiner photo)

July 3, 1981, Ravinia Festival
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33
James Levine, conductor

November 26 and 27, 1982, Orchestra Hall
ELGAR Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85
Varujan Kojian, conductor

July 1, 1983, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Elmar Oliveira, violin
James Levine, conductor

July 20, 1985, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMANN Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129
Adam Fischer, conductor

September 26, 27, and 28, 1985, Orchestra Hall
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

June 28, 1986, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Shlomo Mintz, violin
James Levine, conductor

June 29, 1986, Ravinia Festival
VILLA-LOBOS Bachiana Brasileira No. 5
Kathleen Battle, soprano
James Levine, conductor

June 22 1991, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Don Quixote, Op. 35
Charles Pikler, viola
James Levine, conductor

July 31, 1993, Ravinia Festival
BLOCH Schelomo (Hebraic Rhapsody)
HAYDN Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, H. VIIb:1
Carlo Rizzi, conductor

March 5, 6, 7, and 11, 1998, Orchestra Hall
DUTILLEUX Tout un monde lointain . . .
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

September 17, 1999, Orchestra Hall
BEETHOVEN Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 (Triple)
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
William Eddins, piano and conductor

September 18, 1999, Orchestra Hall
SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33
Pinchas Zukerman, conductor

March 28, 29, 30, and April 2, 2002, Orchestra Hall
LUTOSŁAWSKI Cello Concerto
William Eddins, conductor

June 20, 2003, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Marin Alsop, conductor

August 8, 2004, Ravinia Festival
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
James Conlon, conductor

January 26, 27, and 28, 2006, Orchestra Hall
ELGAR Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85
Mark Elder, conductor

July 21, 2007, Ravinia Festival
BLOCH Schelomo (Hebraic Rhapsody)
BOCCHERINI/Grützmacher Cello Concerto in B-flat Major, G. 482
Andrew Litton, conductor

August 21, 2016, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme in A Major, Op. 33
Itzhak Perlman, conductor

Numerous tributes have appeared online, on NPR, Gramophone, and The Dallas Morning News, among many others.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, who died on Sunday at his home in Krakow following a long illness. He was eighty-six.

Krzysztof Penderecki (Adam Kumiszcza photo)

“The death of Krzysztof Penderecki is a great loss for the music world,” wrote Riccardo Muti today from his home in Ravenna. “In the late 1970s with the Philharmonia Orchestra, I conducted his Symphony no. 1—a piece of extreme modernity—in London and in other European cities. In 2007, I was fortunate to meet him in person in Ravenna while he was conducting the Luigi Cherubini Orchestra in a concert dedicated entirely to his music. Later in 2016, he returned to conduct the ensemble at the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, where he led some of his compositions and Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Penderecki was a great musician—open to the contemporary music world—who was passionate to work with the young generation. He was an extraordinary human being and a person of great kindness. His passing is a great mourning to the music world.”

Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s most recent performances of the composer’s music—The Awakening of Jacob—to open the 127th season of subscription concerts on September 23 and 26, 2017.

In 2000, the composer himself was in Chicago to lead the Orchestra and Chorus in performances of his Seven Gates of Jerusalem, a work commissioned for the 3,000th anniversary of Jerusalem and premiered there in 1997. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote, that the forces required to perform the work “are much larger than in any of Penderecki’s previous works. The symphony calls for five vocal soloists and a speaker, three choruses, a large onstage orchestra (including four percussion groups) and a smaller ensemble of woodwinds and brass stationed at the rear of the hall.” The complete program was as follows:

March 16, 17, and 18, 2000
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D 485
PENDERECKI Seven Gates of Jerusalem
Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor
Bozena Harasimowicz-Haas, soprano
Izabella Klosíinska, soprano
Jadwiga Rappé, alto
Jorma Silvasti, tenor
Romauld Tesarowicz, bass
Alberto Mizrahi, speaker
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

“An air of hammering declamation permeated Seven Gates,” wrote Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The chorus announced its presence with stern, massed song in the work’s opening bars. Several of the movements had a steady, pacing rhythm that moved forward with the implacable force of an invading army. There were a few moments of respite. . . . The fifth movement, the exultant ‘Laude, Ierusalem Dominum (Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem)’ came closest to breaking away from big, somber gestures. Rhythms were more animated, percussion and individual instruments galloped and surged with nervous energy.”

The Orchestra performed music by Penderecki on a number of other occasions, as follows (all performances in Orchestra Hall):

Krzysztof Penderecki (Bruno Fidrych photo)

December 30, 1970; January 1 and 2, 1971
PENDERECKI Polymorphia
Aldo Ceccato, conductor

December 6 and 7, 1973
PENDERECKI Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra
Michael Gielen, conductor
Wanda Wilkomirska, violin

November 21, 22, and 23, 2002
PENDERECKI Symphony No. 4
Lorin Maazel, conductor

March 17, 19, and 22, 2011
PENDERECKI Concerto grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Katinka Kleijn, cello
Kenneth Olsen, cello
John Sharp, cello

Numerous tributes have been posted online at the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among several others.

Christoph Eschenbach (Eric Brissaud photo)

Wishing a very happy eightieth birthday to German pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach!

Eschenbach’s association with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began over fifty years ago, when he was piano soloist in the U.S. premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s Second Piano Concerto under the baton of the composer on January 30, 31, and February 1, 1969, in Orchestra Hall. “For all its integrated construction, the concerto depends greatly upon the soloist. So much, in fact, that it is difficult to imagine the work succeeding if Christoph Eschenbach were not at the keyboard,” wrote Thomas Willis in the Chicago Tribune. “The harder the passages, the more he seems to relish their challenge . . . he can drive a climax to its emotional peak and the next moment be spinning delicate filigree requiring the greatest control and concentration.”

At the Ravinia Festival, Eschenbach made his debut as piano soloist on July 25, 1973, in Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Riccardo Muti—in his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—on the podium. As a conductor, Eschenbach first led the Orchestra at Ravinia on August 3, 1978, in an all-Beethoven program: the Second Piano Concerto (conducting from the keyboard) and the Third Symphony.

In Orchestra Hall, he first led the Orchestra (as a last-minute replacement for Klaus Tennstedt) in Mahler’s Sixth Symphony on December 20, 21, and 22, 1990. “His credentials as a Mahlerian are impressive,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “He has the force of imagination and perception to fuse the sprawling rhetoric of Mahler’s most tragic symphony into a statement at once structurally coherent and emotionally compelling. . . . In Eschenbach’s hands, the finale was a true culmination, breathing an air of desperate defiance from first to last. He balanced light and shade, serenity and strife, with a white-hot intensity and concentration not heard here since Georg Solti’s Mahler Sixth years ago.”

1969 publicity flyer for Christoph Eschenbach

To coincide with the Ravinia Festival’s sixtieth season, along with an $11.5 million renovation of the pavilion and grounds, executive director Zarin Mehta announced in September 1994 that Eschenbach would be the festival’s third music director beginning in the summer of 1995.

For his first concert in that capacity on June 29, 1995, Eschenbach led the Orchestra in Rouse’s Phaethon, Bruch’s First Violin Concerto with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Regarding Mahler’s symphony, von Rhein wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “It was a highly individual interpretation, to be sure, but Eschenbach has the command, the control, to make our band share his convictions and carry out his ideas all the way.” In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma added, “The audience was on its feet seconds after the Mahler ended, cheering and applauding, sending up waves of still louder cheers as Eschenbach motioned to CSO principals and soloists, especially brass and woodwinds, to take their bows.”

Eschenbach served the Ravinia Festival through the 2003 summer season. He gave his final concerts as music director with the Orchestra on August 10, leading Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 12 (from the keyboard), Bernstein’s Symphony no. 2 (The Age of Anxiety) with pianist Christopher Taylor, and Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Lang Lang.

Most recently, he led the Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on February 22, 23, 24, and 27, 2018, leading Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz, Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto with David Fray, and Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Fourth Symphony.

To celebrate his eightieth birthday, Eschenbach returns to the Ravinia Festival in the summer of 2020, to lead the Orchestra in three concerts:

August 7, 2020
KHACHATURIAN Flute Concerto
Stathis Karapanos, flute
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

August 8, 2020
THEODORAKIS (arr. Wastor and Karapanos) Zorbas Suite
Stathis Karapanos, flute
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Erin Wall, soprano
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Paul Appleby, tenor
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

August 9, 2020
KORNGOLD Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
William Hagen, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Happy, happy birthday!

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

In the early part of its history, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was in the pit for an astonishing number of opera performances, first with singers from the Metropolitan Opera on tour at the Auditorium Theatre (from 1891 through 1899) and again with Ravinia Park Opera in Highland Park (from 1912 until 1931). This included fifty performances of Pietro Mascagni‘s Cavalleria rusticana featuring some of the greatest singers of the era in the role of Santuzza.

Jane Abercrombie

Wisconsin native Jane Abercrombie (1878–1961, three performances in 1912) was a member of the Lyceum and Aborn opera companies and the prima donna of the first season of Ravinia Park Opera. Over the course of a month in the summer of 1912, she sang the leading soprano roles in multiple performances of La bohème, Cavalleria rusticana, Les contes d’Hoffman, Faust, Lucia di Lammermoor, Madama Butterfly, Martha, Rigoletto, Thaïs, Tosca, and La traviata.

Marguerite Bériza

Marguerite Bériza (1880–1970, four performances between 1916 and 1917) trained at the Paris Conservatory and made her professional debut at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1900 as a mezzo-soprano, performing mostly comprimario roles. She created the role of Geoffroy in the world premiere of Rabaud’s La fille de Roland in 1904, and two years later, she was Kate Pinkerton in the French premiere of Madama Butterfly; she also sang the role of Suzuki in later performances. In 1910, Bériza created the role of Pénélope in the world premiere of Terrasse’s Le mariage de Télémaque. By 1912, she was performing soprano roles, and she made her U.S. debut with the Boston Opera Company in 1914 as Musetta (with Maggie Teyte as Mimì) in La bohème. In 1915, Bériza made her Broadway debut in Atteridge’s Maid in America and her Chicago Grand Opera Company debut, singing the title role in Février’s Monna Vanna. 

Emma Calvé

French soprano Emma Calvé (1858–1942, five performances between 1894 and 1899) was a student of Mathilde Marchesi and made her debut as Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels in 1881. Following debuts at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and La Scala in Milan, she was selected by Mascagni to create the role of Suzel in the composer’s L’amico Fritz on October 31, 1891, at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. Calvé first performed at Covent Garden the following year before making her debut with the Metropolitan Opera on November 29, 1893, as Santuzza. “Calvé is a dramatic soprano of the first rank. It is long since New York opera goers have had the pleasure of seeing and hearing an artist of such splendid emotional force,” wrote William James Henderson in The New York Times. “She is at all times eloquent and powerfully influenced; and she knows how to put emotional meaning into her singing, never hesitating to sacrifice mere sensuous beauty of tone to true dramatic significance. Her success was immediate, pronounced, and thoroughly deserved.” She was later hailed for her interpretation of Bizet’s Carmen and performed the role over 150 times with the Metropolitan.

Emma Eames

American soprano Emma Eames (1865–1952, one performance in 1891) studied with Clara Munger in Boston and Mathilde Marchesi in Paris before making her professional debut on March 13, 1889, in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at the Palais Garnier. Eames made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera on tour in Chicago on November 9, 1891, as Elsa in Lohengrin; her performance of Santuzza with the Met on December 4 also marked the company’s first performance of the opera. She also regularly performed at Covent Garden, in Madrid, and with the Monte Carlo Opera in Monaco. Eames was noted for her interpretations of the leading soprano roles in Aida, Un ballo in maschera, Cavalleria rusticana, Don Giovanni, Faust, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Le nozze di Figaro, Otello, Tosca, Il trovatore, Die Walküre, Werther, and Die Zauberflöte.

Florence Easton

A student of Agnes Larkcom at London’s Royal Academy of Music and Elliott Haslam in Paris, English soprano Florence Easton (1882–1955, five performances between 1919 and 1924) made her professional debut as the Shepherd in Tannhäuser with the Moody-Manners company in Newcastle upon Tyne, and she later was a member of the Berlin Royal and Hamburg opera companies. She made her U.S. debut with the Chicago Grand Opera Company in 1915 as Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Siegfried; of her performance, Eric DeLamarter in the Chicago Tribune wrote, “with the superb tone, the enunciation, and the style . . . Fresh and most satisfying as to timbre in the scene of the awakening, the voice fell on the ear like a benediction after the three-hour fusillade of declamation,” With the Metropolitan Opera, Easton made her debut as Santuzza on December 7, 1917, and she was chosen by Puccini to create the role of Lauretta—who sings “O mio babbino caro”—in his Gianni Schicchi on December 14, 1918, also at the Metropolitan.

Lois Ewell

Lois Ewell (1885–?, two performances in 1913) was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Before turning her sights to opera, she enjoyed a successful career on Broadway, performing leading roles in Victor Herbert’s Dream City and The Magic Night (a burlesque of Wagner’s Lohengrin), George M. Cohan’s Forty-five Minutes from Broadway, and Lehár’s The Merry Widow. In addition to Santuzza during her single summer with Ravinia Park Opera, Ewell also performed the lead soprano roles in Aida, Lohengrin, Madama Butterfly, Pagliacci, Thaïs (she “does this sort of part very well, according to the Chicago Tribune. “She has abundant temperament for the plentiful theatrical trickery of the part.”), and Il trovatore. She later was a company member with the Century Opera Company in New York, where she performed the title roles in Aida and Tosca.

Bettina Freeman

Bettina Freeman (1889–?, four performances in 1915) was born and raised in Boston, and she made her professional debut as Siébel in Gounod’s Faust with the Boston Opera Company. After moving to New York, she joined the Quinlan Opera Company and later the San Carlo Opera Company. At Ravinia Park in 1915, she also sang the title roles in Aida, Madama Butterfly, Thaïs, Tosca, and Il trovatore. Regarding her performance as Tosca that summer, Musical America reported, “Miss Freeman’s singing of the aria, ‘Vissi d’arte,” and in the duet of the last act was highly artistic. The aria, which called forth outbursts of applause, was delivered with dramatic fervor and style.”

Alice Gentle

Alice Gentle (1885–1958, six performances between 1919 and 1926) began her career performing in the chorus at Oscar Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera Company beginning in 1908. She frequently said that, “Mr. Hammerstein ‘discovered’ her and was ‘both my artistic father and my mascot'” (according to her New York Times obituary), and he began casting her in secondary roles during her second season with the company.  At the Metropolitan, she made several appearances during the 1918-19 season, most notably as Frugola in the world premiere of Puccini’s Il tabarro. Later a film actress, Gentle appeared in The Song of the Flame, Golden Dawn, and A Scene from Carmen.

Claudia Muzio

Italian soprano Claudia Muzio (1889–1936, three performances in 1918) studied in Turin with Annetta Casaloni and in Milan with Elettra Callery-Viviani. She made her professional debut in Manon on January 15, 1910, in Arezzo, and debuts at La Scala, the Paris Opera, and Covent Garden quickly followed. Muzio first sang in the United States at the Metropolitan Opera on December 4, 1916, in Tosca, alongside Enrico Caruso as Cavaradossi. During her one summer with the Ravinia Park Opera, she also performed the lead soprano roles in Aida, L’amore dei tre re, La bohème, Faust, Madama Butterfly, Manon, Pagliacci, Il segreto di Susanna, Tosca, and Il trovatore. On October 15, 1932, she performed the title role in Tosca to inaugurate San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House (the first act was broadcast and can be heard here).

Frances Peralta (left) and Florence Easton

Born in England, Frances Peralta (1883–1933, one performance each in 1921 and 1922) and her family moved to California when she was a child. She received her early training in San Francisco and later performed with the Boston and Saint Louis opera companies, in New York’s Globe Theatre, and with the Chicago Opera Association.  Peralta made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera on December 25, 1920, as Elena in Mefistofele and over the next ten years, she was a regular company member, performing the leading soprano roles in Aida, Andrea Chénier, Cavalleria rusticana, Così fan tutte, Don Carlo, La forza del destino, La gioconda, Guillaume Tell, Tannhäuser, Tosca, and Il trovatore, among others.

Rosa Raisa

Rosa Raisa (1893–1963, two performances in 1925) was born in Poland and in order to escape anti-Semitic persecution, she fled to Naples at the age of fourteen. There she studied at the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella with Barbara Marchisio and made her debut in Verdi’s Oberto in Parma on September 6, 1913. Marchisio soon introduced her to Cleofonte Campanini, conductor of the Chicago Grand Opera Company, and he engaged her to make her debut as Aida in Chicago on November 29, 1913. She enjoyed continued success in Rome, London, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, São Paulo, and Milan, where she created the title role in Puccini’s Turandot under Arturo Toscanini’s baton at La Scala on April 25, 1926. She sang the title role in Aida for the opening of the Civic Opera House in Chicago on November 4, 1929. In 1959, Raisa sat down with Studs Terkel, reflecting on her career and successes in Chicago; the interview can be heard here.

Elisabeth Rethberg

German-American soprano Elisabeth Rethberg (1894–1976, twelve performances between 1927 and 1931) studied at the Dresden Conservatory and made her professional debut as Arsena in Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Der Zigeunerbaron at the Dresden Court Opera in 1915. She made her U.S. debut at the Metropolitan Opera on November 22, 1922, in the title role in Verdi’s Aida. In The New York Times, Richard Aldrich praised “her high, clear, liquid tones of a singular brightness floating above Verdi’s orchestration with unforced ease.” Rethberg’s association with the company continued for twenty years, and she was featured on four Met opening nights. In 1928, Richard Strauss invited Rethberg to create the title role in his Die ägyptische Helena in Dresden.

Ivy Scott

Ivy Scott (1886–1947, one performance in 1914) was born in Java and made her stage debut at the age of five in Sydney Australia. She came to the U.S. in 1910 and appeared at Ravinia Park in the lead soprano roles in Aida, Madama Butterfly, and Il trovatore. On the radio, Scott was the original Mrs. Hudson in NBC’s Sherlock Holmes series, performed on The Goldbergs, and also hosted her own radio show. On Broadway, she appeared regularly between 1932 and 1946, in Music in the Air, Revenge with Music, Three Waltzes, Too Many Girls, Liberty Jones, Sunny River, and Song of Norway. 

On February 6, 7, and 8, 2020, Anita Rachvelishvili sings the role of Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Riccardo Muti conducts. An abbreviated version of this article also appears in the program book for these performances.

Title page of Beethoven’s Third Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

Regarding the Third Symphony, “Beethoven, now fully emancipated from the preceding era, may be said for the first time to stand forth and show his lion’s paw!” wrote Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “In my judgment, the Eroica is only a perfectly legitimate step forward, a logical sequence in his normal development. . . . His soul now began to long to express that which had never before been said in music—anticipating centuries; hence this symphony, the first dawn of modern music, written in a definite mood, giving expression to the soul through color and contrast rather than attempting to illustrate a specific program.”

1954 recording (RCA)

“The Eroica is perhaps the first great symphony to have captured the romantic imagination,” according to CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Beethoven’s vast and powerful first movement and the funeral march that follows must have sounded like nothing else in all music. Never before had symphonic music aspired to these dimensions. . . . Beethoven’s Allegro con brio was longer—and bigger, in every sense—than any other symphonic movement at the time (the first movement of Mozart’s Prague Symphony comes the closest). It’s also a question of proportion, and Beethoven’s central development section, abounding in some truly monumental statements, is enormous.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Third Symphony during the first season, on January 12, 1892, at The Odeon in Cincinnati and later that week in Chicago on January 15 and 16 at the Auditorium Theatre.

1973–74 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on December 4, 1954. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The Third Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 5, 6, and 9, 1973, and May 18, 1974. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The Third Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on May 6 and 8, 1989. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

Title page of Beethoven’s First Symphony (Fritz Reiner collection)

In Beethoven’s First Symphony, “the composer tries his wings,” according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director. In Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies, Thomas continues: “It is sometimes said that the First Symphony is Haydn and Mozart rather than Beethoven, but that is not correct. It is Beethoven, pure and simple, but Beethoven carrying on the art of his day as it had been transmitted to him by his predecessors. He knew no other style of symphonic writing because, until his own later development, there was no other. . . . One might say that Haydn and Mozart were the cradle in which the art of Beethoven was rocked, and in the First Symphony, his art was still in this cradle. . . . [The First Symphony] is a noble work and is of especial interest as the connecting link between the art of the classic and that of the romantic period.”

1961 recording (RCA)

CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher agrees. “As the first symphony by the greatest symphonist who ever lived, one might expect clues of the daring and novelty to come; since it was written at the turn of the century and premiered in Vienna, the great musical capital, in 1800, one might assume that it is with this work that Beethoven opened a new era in music. But, in fact, this symphony belongs to the eighteenth, not the nineteenth, century; it honors the tradition of Mozart, dead less than a decade, and Haydn, who had given Beethoven enough lessons to know that his student would soon set out on his own.”

Thomas first led the Orchestra in Beethoven’s First Symphony during the third season, on May 4 and 5, 1894, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording of the work in Orchestra Hall on May 8, 1961. For RCA, Richard Mohr was the producer and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer.

Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus first recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies between May 1972 and September 1974 for London Records. The recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with three overtures: Egmont, Coriolan, and Leonore no. 3); that set won the 1975 Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The First Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 14, 15, and 18, 1974 (along with the Second Symphony). Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1989-90 recording (London)

Between September 1986 and January 1990, Solti and the Orchestra and Chorus recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies a second time, again for London Records; and again, the recordings were ultimately released as a set (along with two overtures: Egmont and Leonore no. 3). The First Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 14 and 16, 1989, and January 27, 1990 (along with the Second Symphony). Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture and Symphonies nos. 1 and 3 on September 26, 27, and 28, 2019.

Advertisement for Verdi’s Aida with the Metropolitan Opera and the (uncredited) Chicago Orchestra on December 10, 1891 (image courtesy of the Newberry Library)

Less than a month after its inaugural concerts in October 1891, the Chicago Orchestra was in the pit at the Auditorium Theatre for performances with the Metropolitan Opera Company (under the auspices of Abbey, Schoeffel, and Grau).

The singers who appeared were among the most famous of the day, including sopranos Emma Albani, Lilli Lehmann, and Marie Van Zandt and mezzo-sopranos Sofia Scalchi and Giulia Ravogli. During the residency, other prominent singers made their U.S. debuts, including soprano Emma Eames; tenor Jean de Reszke; baritones Edoardo Camera, Antonio Magini-Coletti, and Jean Martapoura; and basses Édouard de Reszke and Jules Vinche. Conducting duties were shared by Auguste Vianesi and Louis Saar, the Orchestra’s first guest conductors.

Opening with Wagner’s Lohengrin on November 9, the residency continued through December 12 and included a staggering number of operas: Bellini’s Norma and La sonnambula; Flotow’s Martha; Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice; Gounod’s Faust and Romeo and Juliet; Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana; Meyerbeer’s Dinorah and Les Huguenots; Mozart’s Don Giovanni; Thomas’s Mignon; as well as Verdi’s Rigoletto and act 1 of La traviata.

The residency also included a single performance of Verdi’s Aida on December 10 with Lehmann in the title role, de Reszke as Radamès, Ravogli as Amneris, Magini-Coletti as Amonasro, Enrico Serbolini as Ramfis, Lodovico Viviani as the King, and M. Grossi as the Messenger. The Metropolitan Opera Chorus was prepared by its director, Carlo Corsi, and Louis Saar conducted.

Lilli Lehmann

“Jean de Reszke and Lilli Lehmann bade farewell to Chicago last evening by appearing together in Verdi’s Aida,” wrote the reviewer in the Chicago Tribune. “It was a performance which for superb solo work, excellence of ensemble, and splendor of scenic and spectacular effects has not been equaled in this city—a performance which marked the highest point on the standard of excellence yet reached by the Abbey-Grau company.”

German soprano Lilli Lehmann—under the guidance of Richard Wagner—created the roles of Woglinde (in Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung), Helmwige, and the Forest Bird in the first Ring cycle during the inaugural Bayreuth Festival in 1876. She made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Carmen on November 25, 1885; five days later, she sang Brünnhilde in Die Walküre and the following year Isolde in the American premiere of Tristan and Isolde. Lehmann regularly performed at the Salzburg Festival—also serving as its artistic director—and her operatic repertoire ultimately included 170 roles in 114 operas. A notable teacher, her students included Geraldine Farrar and Olive Fremstad.

“Mme. Lehmann found in Aida a role which permitted a display of her splendid histrionic gifts, and the music to which was more nearly suited to her vocal powers than has been any she has sung this engagement,” continued the Chicago Tribune reviewer. “Her success was, therefore assured and splendidly she achieved it. Her acting of the slave princess was forceful, intense, at all times free from all exaggeration or extravagance. As for her vocal work, it commands unqualified and almost unlimited praise. The ‘Ritorna vincitor’ was given with marvelous appreciation of its sad, troubled character, and the ‘Numi, pietà’ was beautiful in the purity and simplicity of its interpretation. In the long duet with Amneris in act 2, Mme. Lehmann’s singing and acting possessed great power, and in the climax at the end of the act, her voice stood out with telling effect. It was in the third act that the finest vocal work was done. Anything more satisfactory than her singing of the ‘O patria mia’ and the heavy dramatic music which follows cannot be imagined. The ‘Vedi? . . . di morte l’angelo,’ in the last scene of the opera, was exquisite in its delicacy and poetry.”

Jean de Reszke

Born in Poland, Jean de Reszke began his career as a baritone in 1874, debuting in Venice as Alfonso in Donizetti’s La favorita. By 1879, he had made the switch to tenor when he sang the title role in Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable in Madrid. De Reszke was soon a regular at the Paris Opera and at London’s Covent Garden, performing the major French, Wagner, and Verdi roles; the title role in Massenet’s Le Cid—premiered in Paris in 1885—was written for him. His American debut was the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera’s residency with the Chicago Orchestra in the title role of Wagner’s Lohengrin on November 9, 1891. After his debut the following month with the company in New York—as Gounod’s Romeo on December 14—he was a regular with the Metropolitan until his retirement from the stage in 1904, settling in Poland to breed racehorses and Paris to teach singing. His students included Bidu Sayão and Maggie Teyte.

“Jean de Reszke’s triumph as Radamès was a triumph of voice and vocal art. Not that the dramatic side of the character was not developed. It was developed with the same consummate skill which has made his dramatic treatment of every role in which he has seen truly remarkable. But Radamès makes far greater demand upon a tenor’s vocal powers than upon his histrionic. Much of the music is purely lyrical in character, while other portions are strongly dramatic. A singer to do it justice must, therefore, combine the qualities of a tenore de grazia and a tenore robusto—a combination but rarely found. Jean de Reszke is such, however, and his singing of the music of Radamès is not alone satisfactory but an artistic treat of the highest kind. The famed ‘Celeste Aida’ was sung with a smoothness, clearness, and tonal beauty which were the perfection of pure vocal art, while the impassioned music of the third act was delivered with a vigor and intensity and a display of thrilling high notes which showed how dramatic singing may become and yet never cease to be singing nor degenerate into shouting.”

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

Riccardo Muti leads soloists Krassimira Stoyanova, Anita Rachvelishvili, Francesco Meli, Kiril Manolov, Ildar Abdrazakov, Eric Owens, Issachah Savage, Kimberly Gunderson, and Tasha Koontz, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (prepared by Duain Wolfe) in Verdi’s Aida on June 21, 23, and 25, 2019.

Bernard Rands (Ted Gordon photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy, happy birthday!

Ruggiero Ricci in Prague in 1958 (CTK/Alamy photo)

On July 24, 2018, we celebrate the centennial of the birth of the remarkable American violinist Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012), a frequent soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

A student of Louis Persinger, Ricci played his first solo recital at Carnegie Hall at the age of eleven and was a noted interpreter of Paganini. A celebrated teacher himself, Ricci also taught at the universities of Michigan and Indiana, the Juilliard School, and Salzburg Mozarteum.

Between 1951 and 1972, Ricci appeared with the Orchestra on numerous occasions in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in Milwaukee, and a complete list of his appearances is below (all concerts in Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted):

November 8 and 9, 1951
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

August 5, 1954, Ravinia Festival
PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6
Georg Solti, conductor

August 7, 1954, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Vioin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Paul Tortelier, cello
Georg Solti, conductor

July 5, 1962, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, Op. 47
STRAVINSKY Violin Concerto in D
Walter Hendl, conductor

Ruggiero Ricci in 1965 (Getty Images)

December 19 and 20, 1963
GINASTERA Violin Concerto, Op. 30
Walter Hendl, conductor

December 21, 1963
PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6
Walter Hendl, conductor

June 30, 1964, Ravinia Festival
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 2, 1964, Ravinia Festival
LALO Symphonie espagnole in D Minor, Op. 21
André Previn, conductor

February 27, 1971
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

January 6 and 7, 1972
January 10, 1972 (Pabst Theater, Milwaukee)
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
John Pritchard, conductor

On July 18, 2018, Riccardo Muti led the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini in a concert at the Ravenna Festival, in tribute to Ricci’s centennial. The program included Rossini’s Overture to Il viaggio a Reims, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and Paganini’s Violin Concerto no. 4 in D minor, featuring Wilfried Hedenborg—a violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic for almost three decades and a student of Ricci’s at the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1989—as soloist.

 

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