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We have just heard news of the death of the wonderful Irish soprano Heather Harper, as reported in The Guardian. She was 88.

Harper appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of notable occasions, as listed below (all appearances are subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

April 3, 4, and 5, 1969
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Georg Solti, conductor
Helen Watts, contralto
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 11 and 12, 1969
HAYDN The Creation
Georg Solti, conductor
Stuart Burrows, tenor
Giorgio Tozzi, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

August 30, 31 & September 1, 1971 (recording sessions at the Sofiensaal in Vienna)
MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Georg Solti, conductor
Lucia Popp, soprano
Arleen Augér, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts, contralto
René Kollo, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, bass-baritone
Martti Talvela, bass
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Norbert Balatsch, chorus master
Singverein Chorus
Helmut Froschauer, chorus master
Vienna Boys’ Choir
David Harvey produced the recording, and Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson were the engineers for London Records. The recording won the 1972 Grammy Award for Album of the Year—Classical, Best Choral Performance—Classical (other than opera), and Best Engineered Recording—Classical from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Mahler's Symphony no. 8 in E-flat Major, recorded in Vienna in 1971

Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 in E-flat Major, recorded in Vienna in 1971

March 30, 31, and April 1, 1972
HANDEL Jephtha
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Helen Watts, contralto
Richard Lewis, tenor
Robert Johnson, tenor
Barry McDaniel, baritone
Boris Carmeli, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

October 12, 13, and 14, 1972
VIVALDI Gloria
ROSSINI Stabat mater
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano
Veriano Luchetti, tenor
Raffaele Arié, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

March 7, 8, and 9, 1974
TIPPETT Symphony No. 3
Sir Michael Tippett, conductor

April 12 and 13, 1974
BACH Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Helen Watts, contralto
Jerry Jennings, tenor
Mallory Walker, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass
Philip Booth, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

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To honor Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gave a gala concert of the highest order on October 9, 1987.

Governor James R. Thompson opened the concert with welcoming remarks, and after the intermission, Mayor Harold Washington presented Sir Georg with the City of Chicago’s Medal of Merit. The concert program was as follows:

CORIGLIANO Campane di Ravello (world premiere)
Kenneth Jean, conductor

J. STRAUSS Overture to Die Fledermaus
Plácido Domingo, conductor

MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Sir Georg Solti, conductor and piano
Murray Perahia, piano

STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa perform a scene from Verdi’s Otello (Jim Steere photo)

VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
David Huneryager, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

The commemorative program contained letters and testimonials from numerous public officials, conductors, musicians, and industry professionals, including: Ronald Reagan, James R. Thompson, Harold Washington, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Carlo Maria Giulini, Rafael Kubelík, John Corigliano, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rudolf Serkin, Henry Fogel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christa Ludwig, Birgit Nilsson, Witold Lutosławski, Sir Charles Mackerras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Klaus Tennstedt, David Del Tredici, Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Slatkin, Werner Klemperer, José van Dam, Elliott Carter, Karel Husa, Isaac Stern, Morton Gould, Hans Werner Henze, Itzhak Perlman, Anja Silja, Erich Leinsdorf, Josef Suk, Plácido Domingo, Michael Tippett, Kiri Te Kanawa, Murray Perahia, Leontyne Price, András Schiff, Kenneth Jean, Andrzej Panufnik, Dame Janet Baker, Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Minton, Herbert Blomstedt, Mira Zakai, Margaret Hillis, Gunther Herbig, Ray Minshull, Ann Murray, Philip Langridge, Raymond Leppard, Vladimir Ashkenazy, George Rochberg, Gwynne Howell, Ardis Krainik, Michael Morgan, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Henry Mancini, and Barbara Hendricks.

Solti and Perahia as soloists in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (Jim Steere photo)

The concert was covered widely in the press, in the Chicago Tribune (here, here, and here) and Sun-Times (here and here), as well as Time, Newsweek, the Post-Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many others.

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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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Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Sir Michael Tippett‘s Fourth Symphony on October 6, 1977. A longtime friend of Sir Georg, the composer was in Chicago for the rehearsals and performances.

Tippett conceived the symphony in a single movement, and the instrumentation was one of the largest he had used to date. From Arrand Parsons‘s program note:

“Always original and inventive, Tippett has realized a special formal design for the Symphony which follows its own musical course. In brief summary, the work as a whole is built from three tempos, each with its own thematic idea. These three tempos are introduced in succession as the first division of the work; they then are repeated, not literally, and to each one a new thematic element is added, thus creating the second division. Tempo I introduces the third division and the music moves into a long and florid oboe solo, continued by the English horn, to make the equivalent of the slow movement of the Symphony. The ideas are then developed for division four, and there is a grand pause. Tempo III is elaborated into the equivalent of the scherzo (division five), with fragmented thematic elements ‘light, flying,’ and there evolves an elaborate fugal section which leads into another grand climax. After this, for division six, there is a recapitulation of the tempos, again varied, and a calm and tranquil passage diminishes to ‘nothing.’ This is the overall view of the events of the Symphony with its structurally placed climaxes.”

Solti and Sir Michael Tippett discuss a detail in the score - Orchestra Hall, October 1977


Solti and the Orchestra recorded Tippett’s Fourth Symphony on October 29, 1979, at Medinah Temple. For London Records, the recording was produced by James Mallinson and James Lock was the engineer.

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Theodore Thomas

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