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Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first trip to the Soviet Union and Hungary in November 1990, also including a single stop in Vienna.

Program page for the November 24 concert in Moscow

November 21, 1990 – Bolshoi Hall of the Philharmonie, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Soviet Union
Saturday, November 24, 1990 – Great Hall of the Conservatory, Moscow, Soviet Union
Friday, November 30, 1990 – Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, Austria
BARTÓK Dance Suite
MAHLER Symphony No. 5

November 22, 1990 – Bolshoi Hall of the Philharmonie, Leningrad, Soviet Union
Monday, November 26, 1990 – Great Hall of the Conservatory, Moscow, Soviet Union
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8

Wednesday, November 28, 1990 – Congress Centre, Budapest, Hungary
BARTÓK Dance Suite
BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 3
András Schiff, piano
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra

Solti, along with members of the Orchestra and staff, poses in front of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square

Two recordings were made during the tour, both for London Records. The performance of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony was recorded live in Leningrad on November 22 (London’s first recording venture in the Soviet Union); Michael Haas was the producer, James Lock and Colin Moorfoot were the engineers, and Sally Drew was the tape editor. Mahler’s Fifth Symphony was recorded live in Vienna on November 30, Michael Haas was the producer, Stan Goodall was the engineer, and Matthew Hutchinson was the tape editor.

The concerts in Leningrad and Moscow were part of a cultural exchange that brought the Leningrad Philharmonic to Chicago for two weeks of subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, with Music Director Yuri Temirkanov and Associate Conductor Mariss Jansons sharing the podium:

November 13, 15, and 18, 1990
Yuri Temirkanov, conductor
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Viktor Tretyakov, violin
TCHAIKOVSKY Manfred Symphony, Op. 58

November 16 and 17, 1990
Mariss Jansons, conductor
PROKOFIEV Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
Dmitri Alexeev, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

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For the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s centennial season in 1990-91—also Sir Georg Solti’s final season as music director—fourteen works were commissioned, including Sir Michael Tippett‘s Byzantium.

The work was commissioned jointly by the CSO and Carnegie Hall (also celebrating its centennial that season), and was underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. A. Watson Armour III in memory of Mrs. Armour‘s sister Anne Wood Mitchell.

Solti conducted performances at Orchestra Hall on April 11 and 13, and again at Carnegie Hall on April 15 and 18, 1991. Soprano Faye Robinson was the soloist.

The composer contributed to the program note: “My own attraction to [Yeats’s poem], as a vehicle for composition, was twofold: firstly, the crystalline intensity of the poem itself offered a challenge in setting its verbal imagery to music; secondly, I identified completely with its emphasis on the notion of artifact, enshrining values that can be set against the impermanence of the everyday world and the complexities of the human beating heart.” The text for Byzantium can be found here.

Solti, Sir Michael Tippett, and Faye Robinson receive applause following the April 15, 1991, performance in Carnegie Hall

The work was recorded live during the Carnegie Hall performances for London Records. Michael Haas was the producer, John Pellowe was the engineer, and Sally Drew was the tape editor.

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