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Phyllis Curtin

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the extraordinary American soprano Phyllis Curtin, a frequent guest artist who performed under three music directors—Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti—between 1957 and 1972. Curtin died on June 5, 2016, at her home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She was 94.

Curtin made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in 1957, and she most recently appeared at Orchestra Hall in 1972. A complete list of her appearances with the Orchestra is below (subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

July 7, 1957 (Ravinia Festival)
FOSS The Song of Songs
Lukas Foss, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano

Reiner B9

April 27 and 28, 1961
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Florence Kopleff, contralto
John McCollum, tenor
Donald Gramm, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was recorded by RCA on May 1 and 2, 1961, in Orchestra Hall. The recording recently was re-released as part of a sixty-three-disc set featuring Reiner’s complete discography with the Orchestra.

April 26 and 27, 1962
HANDEL Israel in Egypt
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Carol Smith, mezzo-soprano
Richard Lewis, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 9, 1964 (Ravinia Festival)
MOZART Voi che sapete from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
MOZART Alleluia from Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
J. STRAUSS, Jr. Czárdás and Mein Herr Marquis from Die Fledermaus
KORNGOLD Glück das mir verblieb from Die tote Stadt
LEHÁR Dein is mein ganzes Herz from Das Land des Lächelns
SIECZYNSKI Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume
Andre Kostelanetz, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano

April 22, 23, and 24, 1965
HAYDN The Seasons
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Charles Bressler, tenor
Ara Berberian, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

January 6, 7, and 8, 1966
PERGOLESI Stabat Mater
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Betty Allen, mezzo-soprano
STRAVINSKY Les noces
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Betty Allen, mezzo-soprano
André Montal, tenor
Peter Harrower, bass-baritone
Mary Sauer, Laurence Davis, Louis M. Kohnop, and Eloise Niwa, pianos
Donald Koss, Gordon Peters, James J. Ross, Sam Denov, Albert Payson, and Norbert Szymanski, percussion
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 1, 2, and 3, 1966
MARTINON The Rose of Sharon (U.S. premiere)
Jean Martinon, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Joseph Brewer, tenor
Harold Robinson, baritone
Mary Sauer and Harriet Wingreen, pianos
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

May 14 and 15, 1970
JANÁČEK Glagolitic Mass
Charles Mackerras, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Joan Caplan, mezzo-soprano
John Alexander, tenor
Ara Berberian, bass
Mary Sauer, organ
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

January 20, 21, and 22, 1972
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 14, Op. 135
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Raffaele Arié, bass

June 27, 1972 (Ravinia Festival)
BRITTEN War Requiem, Op. 66
István Kertész, György Fischer, and Margaret Hillis, conductors
Phyllis Curtin, soprano
Robert Tear, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Northwestern University Chorus and Northwestern University Concert Choir
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

November 30 and December 1, 1972
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Phyllis Curtin, soprano (substituting for contralto Josephine Veasey)
Stuart Burrows, tenor
Robert Savoie, baritone
Roger Soyer, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

Sam Denov, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s percussion section from 1954 until 1985, passed away on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Des Plaines, Illinois. He was 91.Sam Denov

Born in Chicago in 1923, Sam Denov attended Lane Technical High School and, following service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he spent a year in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before joining the San Antonio Symphony in 1947. Three years later he joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra where he remained for two seasons before returning to Chicago to operate his own high-fidelity equipment business. In 1954, he was invited by music director Fritz Reiner to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s percussion section. Denov also later attended Roosevelt University, earning a bachelor’s degree in labor studies.

A tireless activist for musicians’ rights, Denov was a major force in the founding of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, serving at various times as chairman, vice-chairman, and editor of the ICSOM newsletter Senza Sordino. Following his retirement from the Orchestra in 1985, he became a labor relations consultant, representing clients before the National Labor Relations Board. At the ICSOM annual conference in 2009, the delegates passed a resolution by unanimous consent honoring Denov for “his many contributions as an early leader in the orchestra field” and expressing “ICSOM’s respect and admiration as an ICSOM founder.” At the 2012 conference, he addressed the group’s fiftieth anniversary along with several of his CSO colleagues.

Widely known among percussionists, Denov authored three books: The Art of Playing Cymbals: A Complete Guide and Text for the Artistic Percussionist (1966), Symphonic Paradox: The Misadventures of a Wayward Musician (2002), and Boom and Crash Musician: A Percussive Memoir (2012). He also contributed numerous articles to professional journals.

Sam and Lorraine Denov at the CSO Alumni Association reunion in November 2012 (Dan Rest photo)

Sam and Lorraine Denov at the CSO Alumni Association reunion in November 2012 (Dan Rest photo)

In his retirement, Denov was an active member of the CSO Alumni Association, serving as its first president from 1993 until 1996, as a board member, and as secretary-editor.

Denov is survived by his beloved wife Lorraine, his son Ernie, and several nieces, nephews, step-children, and step-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife Charlotte and his son Tyrone Walls. A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at the Brookdale Plaza (800 South River Road, Des Plaines, Illinois) on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 11:00 a.m.

In 2012, the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) held its fiftieth anniversary meeting in Chicago. To commemorate the event, a documentary was produced (by Tim Redman) and is now available.

Several former Chicago Symphony Orchestra members are prominently featured in the film, including Sam Denov (percussion), Tom Hall (violin), Walfrid Kujala (flute and piccolo), Richard Lottridge (bassoon and contrabassoon), and Rudolph Nashan (trumpet), offering first-hand accounts of working conditions in the orchestral field fifty years ago.

The video is available here:

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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#125Moments: 108 First Radio Broadcast. Inaugurating its new thousand-watt transmitter, WMAQ uses seven microphones to pick up the first Chicago Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast on December 10, 1925. At Orchestra Hall, Frederick Stock conducts. #CSO125th #RosenthalArchives #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #throwback

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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