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May 27, 1999 (Dan Rest photo)

May 27, 1999 (Dan Rest photo)

On May 27, 1999, Mstislav Rostropovich and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched a three-week festival celebrating the music of Dmitri Shostakovich with a concert that included the First Symphony along with arias and interludes from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with soprano Olga Guriakowa.

Interviewed for the Orchestra’s program book, Rostropovich commented, “Shostakovich’s world is our world. For many decades my own life was inextricably part of that world, and has continued to be so, even now. To have lived at the same time as Shostakovich is a source of great joy. To have been invited in his creative life has been an immense responsibility. And to play his music has been the greatest happiness.”

shostakovich-festival

Over the course of the festival, Rostropovich conducted four more of the composer’s symphonies: nos. 10, 11, 12, and 13 with bass Sergei Aleksashkin and men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. He also included a suite from the incidental music to the film Hamlet, the First Piano Concerto with Constantin Lifschitz and principal trumpet Adolph Herseth, and the Violin Concerto with Maxim Vengerov. In addition, Rostropovich conducted the composer’s arrangement of Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Enrico Dindo and Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with contralto Larissa Diadkova. Finally, he performed as soloist in the First Cello Concerto—a work written especially for him—led by associate conductor William Eddins.

Rostropovich first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra on December 9, 10, and 11, 1965, in Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Georg Solti—in his Orchestra Hall debut—conducting. He first appeared as conductor with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on August 14, 1975, leading Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini; arias from Puccini’s operas with his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya; and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Rostropovich first conducted at Orchestra Hall on the Orchestra’s gala centennial concert on October 6, 1990, leading the last movement of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with András Schiff as soloist.

This article also appears here.

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Sir Georg Solti conducted his beloved Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the last time in March 1997. His performance on March 29 was his 999th time conducting the Orchestra.

The program included Mussorgsky’s Prelude to Khovanshchina, Shostakovich’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with bass Sergei Aleksashkin, and Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 15.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma wrote that Solti “is a latecomer to Shostakovich’s music and he is trying to make up for lost time. He has recorded three of the composer’s symphonies with the CSO in recent seasons and these performances are being taped for London Records. He resisted the composer’s music because of Shostakovich’s seeming cooperation with the Soviet regime but has changed his mind as details about the composer’s politics became known. As is usually the case with Solti, details were neatly in place Thursday night.”

And John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune wrote: “Solti’s response to the symphony was to lay everything out with the utmost clarity and precision and to assign each climax its proper weight, so that the listener was free to decide what it all means. At his jaunty tempo, the opening Allegretto was all forced jollity, just right, while the scherzo masked its sardonic intentions behind a poker face. If the funeral march was more brazenly loud than deeply disturbing, the finale was as equivocal as Shostakovich meant it to be.”

For the recording, Michael Woolcock was the producer, James Lock and Philip Siney were the balance engineers, Duncan Mitchell was the location engineer, and Simon Bertram and Matthew Hutchinson were the recording editors.

Solti’s program book biography, part 1 – March 1997

Solti’s program book biography, part 2 – March 1997

Wynne Delacoma’s review in the Chicago Sun-Times – March 21, 1997

John von Rhein’s review in the Chicago Tribune – March 22, 1997

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