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Frederica von Stade (Robert Millard photo)

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to the wonderful American mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade!

Von Stade has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions, at the Ravinia Festival and in Carnegie Hall, as follows.

May 1 and 2, 1981, Carnegie Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust
Kenneth Riegel, tenor (May 1)
Peyo Garazzi, tenor (May 2)
José van Dam, baritone
Malcolm King, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Solti also led performances of Berlioz’s work at Orchestra Hall in Chicago on April 23 and 25, 1981, prior to the Carnegie Hall performances. Unfortunately, Frederica von Stade had to cancel due to illness. She was replaced by Chicago Symphony Chorus member Mary Beth Stephen on April 23 and Claudine Carlson on April 25.

Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust was recorded by London in Medinah Temple on May 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1981. James Mallinson was the producer, and James Lock and Simon Eadon were sound engineers. The recording won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera) from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Berlioz album cover

July 9, 1988, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Romeo and Juliet
Philip Creech, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Levine, conductor

July 14, 1996, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Ch’io mi scordi di te? . . . Non temer, amato bene (with Claude Frank, piano)
MAHLER Songs from Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

August 14, 1999, Ravinia Festival
MOZART “Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio” from La clemenza di Tito,
LEHÁR “Vilja” and “Lippen schweigen” (with John Aler, tenor) from The Merry Widow
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

July 8, 2000, Ravinia Festival
Selections from:
COPLAND Old American Songs
KERN Show Boat
OFFENBACH The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
MOZART Don Giovanni
RODGERS Oklahoma! and South Pacific
SONDHEIM A Little Night Music
with Samuel Ramey, bass
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

August 5 and 7, 2010, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Così fan tutte
Ana María Martínez, soprano
Ruxandra Donose, mezzo-soprano
Saimir Pirgu, tenor
Rodion Pogossov, baritone
Richard Stilwell, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
James Conlon, conductor

Happy, happy birthday!

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.

Sir Peter Jonas (Wilfried Hösl photo for English National Opera)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Sir Peter Jonas, the legendary British arts administrator and opera company director, who died yesterday in Munich following a long illness. He was seventy-three. Jonas was personal assistant to Sir Georg Solti from 1974 until 1977, and he served as the first artistic administrator of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1978 until 1985.

“Peter Jonas led a Helden life,” commented Lady Valerie Solti from her home in London. “He was a very special, amazing, and highly talented man—very disciplined, very dedicated, highly intellectual, and quick witted—as was shown by his incredible career. Peter was a legend and a luminary in the world of international opera, and no one had a more thorough knowledge of the repertoire and who should be performing it. There was an extraordinary brilliance about him, as an administrator and as a human being, and despite his health challenges, Peter kept going, never complained, and never gave up.”

Born in England on October 14, 1946, Jonas received his education at Worth School in Sussex, University of Paris, University of Sussex, the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the Royal College of Music in London, and the Eastman School of Music. From 1966 until 1968 he worked with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and in 1974 he was associated with the Chautauqua Opera before becoming personal assistant to Solti later that same year.

In October 1977, John Edwards, general manager of The Orchestral Association, announced that Jonas had been appointed artistic administrator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, effective January 1, 1978. According to a press release, “The position for which there is precedent among a number of symphony organizations in the United States and Europe is a new one for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra . . . [and Jonas] will assist the general manager and music director in programming, selection of artists, and other details of the subscription and non-subscription concerts of the orchestra in Chicago [including] arrangements for recordings and TV and for future American and overseas tour programs.”

Lucia Popp and Peter Jonas in the 1970s (Clive Barda photo)

Jonas served in this capacity until May 1985, when he became managing director of the English National Opera, succeeding Lord Harewood. From 1993 until 2006, he was intendant of the Bavarian State Opera, and he also was a patron to The Solti Foundation.

According to Martha Gilmer, who succeeded Jonas in Chicago, “Peter was, to use Berlioz’s words, a ‘firebrand.’ . . . Peter was my mentor and friend. His incredible programming vision, and his connection with the great artists all over the world enhanced the years that he was at the CSO, and of course continued with his leadership of the English National Opera and the Bavarian State Opera. His close relationship with Claudio Abbado resulted in amazing performances of Berg’s Wozzeck in a semi-staged version that I will never forget. He was responsible for bringing Carlos Kleiber to Chicago twice in amazing performances. In addition to symphonic repertoire, the Orchestra regularly performed concert opera including Solti’s performances of Verdi’s Falstaff, which also went to Carnegie Hall, and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron.

“Peter battled cancer for all of his life. The first time I met him he shook my hand and in a characteristically Peter way said, ‘Nice to meet you, but I’m not going to be in this world for much longer.’ That was in 1977. I worked for him from 1979 until he left to run the English National Opera in 1985. He was a force of nature, loving the fight on behalf of the sustenance and the triumph of the arts. He embraced life and hiked Europe from North to South and East to West. His years in Chicago were pivotal to the Orchestra’s history, including his work with Daniel Barenboim (who would succeed Solti as music director), as well as Erich Leinsdorf, Klaus Tennstedt, and many others.” (Gilmer served the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association for thirty-five years, first as an intern in 1976 and ultimately as vice president of artistic planning and audience development. Currently, she is chief executive officer of the San Diego Symphony.)

“I know I’m speaking with Solti’s voice when I say that we were enormously proud and blessed to have known Peter and to have had his presence in our lives,” continued Lady Solti. “Another bright, brilliant light has gone out, but the memory of that light remains.”

Numerous tributes have been posted at The New York Times, The Guardian, Operawire, and Der Spiegel, among many others.

On March 12, 2020, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra celebrates the centennial of orchestral and chamber musician, soloist with countless ensembles, and lifelong teacher and coach Ray Still (1920–2014), a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s oboe section for forty years, serving as principal for thirty-nine years.

Ray Still - 1950s

Born on March 12, 1920, in Elwood, Indiana, Still began playing clarinet as a teenager. During the Great Depression, his family moved to California, where he was able to regularly hear performances of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a volunteer usher. After hearing the masterful technique and elegant phrasing of Henri de Busscher—principal oboe in Los Angeles from 1920 until 1948—Still switched to the oboe.

Still graduated from Los Angeles High School and at the age of nineteen joined the Kansas City Philharmonic as second oboe in 1939, where he was a member until 1941 (and also where he met and married Mary Powell Brock in 1940). For the next two years, he studied electrical engineering, served in the reserve US Army Signal Corps, and worked nights at the Douglas Aircraft factory. During the height of World War II, Still joined the US Army in September 1943 and served until June of 1946.

Immediately following his honorable discharge from the Army, Still enrolled at the Juilliard School where he studied with Robert Bloom. The following year in 1947, he began a two-year tenure as principal oboe with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of William Steinberg. Beginning in 1949, Still was principal oboe of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for four years.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

Fritz Reiner and the newest members of the Orchestra in the fall of 1953. From left to right: Nathan Snader, violin; Juan Cuneo, violin; Joseph Golan, violin; Alan Fuchs, horn; Ray Still, oboe; Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola; and János Starker, cello.

In the fall of 1953, Still auditioned for Fritz Reiner, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recently named music director. Reiner invited him to be the Orchestra’s second-chair oboe and the following year promoted him to the principal position. Still would serve the Orchestra in that capacity—under music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—until his retirement in 1993.

Still appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as soloist on countless occasions, including the Orchestra’s first performances of works for solo oboe by Albinoni, Bach, Barber, Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Telemann. His extensive discography includes Bach’s Wedding Cantata on RCA with Kathleen Battle as soloist and James Levine conducting, and Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C minor on Deutsche Grammophon with Claudio Abbado conducting.

Still performed with numerous other ensembles including the Juilliard, Vermeer, and Fine Arts string quartets; he recorded with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Lynn Harrell; and regularly appeared at many music festivals, including those at Aspen, Stratford, and Marlboro, among others.

A tireless educator, Still taught at the Peabody Institute from 1949 until 1953, Roosevelt University from 1954 until 1957, and at Northwestern University for forty-three years until 2003. Throughout his tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he coached members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. At the invitation of Seiji Ozawa, he spent the summers of 1968 and 1970 as a visiting member of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo, where he held coaching sessions for the wind section, conducted chamber music classes, and lectured at Toho University.

Ray Still - 1970s

Following his retirement from Northwestern, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland—where he continued to give master classes and lessons—with his beloved wife Mary and son James to live near his daughter Susan. In 2013, he moved to Saxtons River and later Woodstock, Vermont, where he lived near Susan, his granddaughter Madeline, and her two daughters. Still died in Woodstock, on March 12, 2014, surrounded by family. He was 94 and was survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Mimi and Kent Dixon of Springfield, Ohio; his son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Sally Still of Big Timber, Montana; his daughter and son-in-law, Susan Still and Peter Bergstrom of Saxtons River, Vermont; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death in 2012 by Mary, his wife of almost 72 years, and his son James Still.

When interviewed for an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1988, Still was asked why he thought the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was the world’s greatest. His reply: “It’s like a great baseball team. We have a blend of youth and experience, and they work very well together. A lot of orchestras have this. The thing that makes the Chicago Symphony Orchestra very unusual is the tremendous—I hate to use the word—discipline. There is a certain pride, and I think it goes back to the days of Theodore Thomas, the founder. There is something about the tradition of this Orchestra and the level the main body of musicians has come to expect of itself. There’s just a longer line of tradition.”

The Still family has recently updated www.raystill.com, which now includes a new edition of his book Playing the Oboe, along with a gallery of photos and a complete discography.

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

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.

Walfrid Kujala in 1997 (William Burlingham photo)

Wishing Walfrid Kujala—a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s flute and piccolo section from 1954 until 2001—a very happy ninety-fifth birthday!

A native of Warren, Ohio, Kujala grew up in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he started flute lessons when he was in the seventh grade. (His father, a bassoonist, steered him to the flute in order to “save him” from the headaches of reed making.) While attending high school in Huntington, West Virginia, he studied with Parker Taylor, principal flute of the Huntington Symphony Orchestra, and  played second flute with the ensemble from 1939 until 1942.

Kujala attended the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Joseph Mariano, principal flute of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. His college career was interrupted by two and a half years of military service in the U.S. Army, serving in the 86th Infantry Division Band from 1943 until 1946. During his tour of duty in the Philippines, after the end of hostilities, Kujala was briefly a member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. From Eastman, he received his bachelor of music degree in 1948 and a master’s degree in 1950, and he was a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under Erich Leinsdorf from 1948 until 1954. Kujala also served on Eastman’s faculty from 1950 until 1954.

In 1954, sixth music director Fritz Reiner hired Kujala as assistant principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and in 1957, he became principal piccolo, serving in that capacity until 2001. He also performed as principal flute of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra from 1955 until 1960.

As a soloist, Kujala has appeared under Reiner, Sir Georg Solti, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Janigro, and Lawrence Foster. He also has soloed at the Stratford and Victoria Festivals in Canada, as well as recitals, chamber music concerts, and master classes across the United States.

Kujala, Gunther Schuller, and Sir Georg Solti following the world premiere performance of Schuller’s Flute Concerto on October 13, 1988 (Jim Steere photo)

Kujala joined the faculty at Northwestern University in 1962 and taught there for fifty years, retiring in 2012. In honor of his sixtieth birthday, his students and colleagues commissioned a flute concerto from Gunther Schuller, and Kujala was soloist in the world premiere with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Solti on October 13, 1988. On August 19, 1990, he was soloist in the U.S. premiere of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Concerto for Flute under Kurt Redel, at the National Flute Association convention in Minneapolis. The Chicago Flute Club’s biennial international piccolo competition is named in his honor.

The author of the textbook The Flutist’s Progress, Kujala also regularly contributes articles and editorial to several publications, including The Instrumentalist, Flute Talk, Music Journal, and Woodwind World. He is a founding board member and founding secretary of the National Flute Association, where he also served as president, vice president, and board chairman. Kujala and his wife Sherry make their home in Evanston.

Happy, happy birthday!

Title page of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Theodore Thomas collection)

“We have now reached what is called Beethoven’s second creative period, the zenith of his career,” wrote Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director in Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies. “He has outlived other influences and is mature in every respect; his powers and individuality are fully developed; he has had some experience of the world, has solved difficult problems, and feels himself a master. Hence in this period he produces works which are as nearly perfect as anything human can be, breathing the spirit of the nineteenth century and endowing music with a meaning deeper and more fruitful than it ever had before.”

The Fifth Symphony “has come to represent greatness in music,” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. “One can’t easily think of another single composition that, in its expressive range and structural power, better represents what music is all about.”

Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on the inaugural concerts on October 16 and 17, 1891, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1959 and 1968 recordings (RCA)

Sixth music director Fritz Reiner recorded the Fifth Symphony with the Orchestra for RCA on May 4, 1959, in Orchestra Hall. Richard Mohr was the producer and Joseph F. Wells was the recording engineer. Also for RCA, Seiji Ozawa recorded the symphony with the ensemble on August 9, 1968, in Orchestra Hall. Peter Dellheim was the producer and Bernard Keville was the recording engineer.

1973 recording (London)

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 Fifth Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on November 5 and 6, 1973. Ray Minshull was the recording producer, and Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock were the balance engineers.

1986 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 Fifth Symphony was recorded in Medinah Temple on October 6 and 7, 1986. Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

During the tour to Japan in 1990, Solti led the Orchestra in the Fifth Symphony, and the April 15 performance at Suntory Hall in Tokyo was video recorded for release on laser disc. For CBS Sony, Shūji Fujii was the video director.

Fantasia 2000 soundtrack

The Orchestra also recorded an abbreviated version of the first movement from the symphony on April 25, 1994, for the Fantasia 2000 soundtrack. For Disney, James Levine conducted, Jay David Saks was the producer, and it was recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphonies nos. 2 and 5 on February 20, 21, 22, and 23, 2020.

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

In Beethoven’s Second Symphony, “we find the mature master,” according to Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director. In Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies, Thomas writes, “He uses no extraordinary means in regard to instruments, for what he has to say still lies within the scope of the old means, but he stands at the height of his time and expresses that which is mature. . . . Here I must call attention to one of Beethoven’s earliest and most startling musical innovations—one from which he did not depart in after years—his use of dynamic effects, sudden changes from loud to soft and vice versa. No composer has made use of forte, piano, forzando, etc. as constantly as he. . . . Beethoven wrote for a standard of virtuosity far beyond that which exited among the orchestral players of his time, and which is still very difficult for even the most advanced instrumentalists of today [but he] will live for the cultivated for centuries after the masses have lost all understanding of his works.”

“Although Beethoven’s hearing would deteriorate considerably in later years, 1802 marked the moment of crisis: the Heiligenstadt Testament includes Beethoven’s admission that his malady was permanent and incurable. He didn’t fail to see the horrible irony of ‘an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than in others,’” writes CSOA scholar-in-residence and program annotator Phillip Huscher. Despite this admission, the composer’s Second Symphony is “one of his most energetic, cheerful, and outgoing works [and] shows no signs of Beethoven’s obvious despair.”

Theodore Thomas first led the Chicago Orchestra in Beethoven’s Second Symphony on December 1 and 2, 1893, at the Auditorium Theatre.

1974 recording (London)

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 Second Symphony was recorded at Medinah Temple on May 13, 14, 15, and 18, 1974 (along with the First 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 Second Symphony was recorded in Orchestra Hall on November 14 and 16, 1989, and January 27, 1990 (along with the First Symphony). Michael Haas was the recording producer and Stanley Goodall was the balance engineer.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphonies nos. 2 and 5 on February 20, 21, 22, and 23, 2020.

Wishing Donald Peck—a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1957 until 1999 and principal flute for over forty years—a very happy ninetieth birthday!

Donald Peck in 1994 (Jim Steere photo)

Peck received his early musical training in Seattle, where he played in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. As a teenager, he performed with his first teacher, Frank Horsfall, in the Seattle Symphony. He was a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied with William Kincaid. Peck performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and spent three years in the U.S. Marine Band. He was principal flute of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra for two years before Fritz Reiner invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1957 as assistant principal flute. The following year, Reiner promoted Peck to principal flute, a chair he would hold for over forty years until his retirement in 1999.

Peck first appeared as soloist with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in August 1959, in Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, and on subscription concerts in Orchestra Hall in November 1960, in Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite, both with Walter Hendl conducting. During his tenure, he appeared as soloist on more than 120 concerts directed by twenty-five conductors—including music directors Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and on tour.

On April 18, 1985, Solti led the Orchestra in the world premiere of Morton Gould’s Flute Concerto, commissioned for Peck. In a preview article in the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein described his playing as, “Lustrous and penetrating, tender and lyrical, charming and sensual, its hues would put a chameleon to shame. It is one of the most distinctive voices in the orchestral choir, blending well with any ensemble even as it serves a key role within the woodwind section. . . . as principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck has carried out that role with a combination of technical skill and musical understanding that has earned him widespread admiration. Within the fraternity of the flute he is considered to be without peer. No less a judge than Julius Baker, the longtime principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic [and principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1951 until 1953], pronounces Peck ‘the greatest flutist I’ve ever heard.'”

Donald Peck in 1966 (Dorothy Siegel Druzinsky photo)

Also for Peck, William Ferris wrote his Flute Sonata and Lee Hoiby dedicated his Pastorale Dances for Flute and Orchestra. He regularly performed as a guest artist with other orchestras, including appearances at the Pablo Casals Festival with concerts in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and in Carnegie Hall. In Australia, Peck recorded Mozart’s flute concertos for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and he regularly appeared at the Carmel Bach Festival in California, the Victoria International Festival in Canada, the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, and the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, along with numerous other orchestras from coast to coast.

As principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Peck performed on over three hundred recordings under twenty-two conductors for twelve labels. In his retirement, he has recorded works for flute and piano with Melody Lord for the Boston label.

Peck has served on the faculties of DePaul and Roosevelt universities, where he taught flute and woodwind ensemble. A frequent lecturer and guest teacher, he has given master classes at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, at the Rotterdam Conservatory in Holland, for the Osaka Flute Club in Japan, at the Sydney Flute Association in Australia, and at over thirty universities and music groups throughout the United States and Canada. For many years, Peck played a flute—fashioned in platinum-iridium—handmade for him by Powell Flutes of Boston.

In 1997, the National Flute Association honored Peck with a lifetime achievement award. Indiana University Press published Peck’s memoir, The Right Place, The Right Time! Tales of Chicago Symphony Days in 2007, and the Chicago Flute Club’s biennial international flute competition is named in his honor.

Near the end of his tenure as principal flute, Peck spoke again with von Rhein for the Chicago Tribune. “The flute has the potential for more color and brilliance [and] the woodwind section can be most exquisite, like glittering jewels. . . . I have been a very lucky person, having performed with wonderful musicians and done so much. What more could I want?”

Happy, happy birthday!

Wishing a very happy seventy-fifth birthday to legendary American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas! A frequent and favorite visitor to the podium for nearly fifty years, he has led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, on tour to Australia, and in the recording studio.

Michael Tilson Thomas (Art Streiber photo)

Tilson Thomas made his debut with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival, leading two programs:

July 12, 1970, Ravinia Festival
J.C. BACH Sinfonia for Double Orchestra in E-flat Major
HAYDN Symphony No. 60 in C Major
VARÈSE Intégrales
STRAVINSKY Suite from Pulcinella

August 1, 1970, Ravinia Festival
BACH Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
John Browning, piano
RUGGLES Sun-Treader
WAGNER Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, Siegfried’s Death and Funeral March, and Brünnhilde’s Immolation from Götterdämmerung

In Orchestra Hall, he made his debut with the Orchestra as follows:

May 21, 22, and 24, 1981, Orchestra Hall
BACH/Schoenberg Chorale Preludes (Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele and Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist)
IVES Symphony No. 2
STRAVINSKY The Firebird

Tilson Thomas and Solti at a press conference in Perth

Tilson Thomas also joined Sir Georg Solti and the Orchestra for the ensemble’s first tour to Australia in 1988. He led one program on four occasions as follows:

March 5, 1988, Perth Concert Hall, Perth
March 10, 1988, Adelaide Festival Center, Adelaide
March 15, 1988, Melbourne Concert Hall, Melbourne
March 18, 1988, Sydney Opera House, Sydney
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
IVES Symphony No. 3 (The Camp Meeting)
RACHMANINOV Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27

Most recently, he led the Orchestra just last year:

December 13, 14, and 15, 2018, Orchestra Hall
STRAVINSKY Concerto in D for String Orchestra
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
Nicola Benedetti, violin
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique)

For CBS and Sony, Tilson Thomas also recorded a number of works (all in Medinah Temple) by Charles Ives with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus:

IVES Central Park in the Dark
Recorded May 12, 1986

IVES New England Holidays Symphony
Fred Spector, Jew’s harp
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded May 10 and 12, 1986

IVES Symphony No. 1 in D Minor
Recorded April 15 and 17, 1989

IVES Symphony No. 4
Mary Sauer, piano
Members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Recorded April 15 and 17, 1989

IVES The Unanswered Question (original version)
IVES The Unanswered Question (revised versoin)
Adolph Herseth, trumpet
Recorded May 10, 1986

Happy, happy birthday!

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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

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