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by Linda Wolfe

Frederick Stock (George Nelidoff photo)

My parents were Frederick and Lorraine Wolfe. My father was the eldest of two sons of Vera and Alfred Wolfe, my grandparents. Vera was the only daughter of Frederick and Elisabeth Stock, my great-grandparents.

I have often been asked if I heard a lot of Frederick Stock stories growing up in Colorado, but unfortunately not. Stock was a formal photo on the wall with intensely piercing eyes. After my father died on March 13, 1989, I found a bundle of photographs and a packet of letters from Stock to my grandmother, his daughter Vera. The letters were full of cartoon characters and love. I was intrigued and wondered if Chicago knew that side of Stock.

A short time later, I was listening to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic on the radio. Henry Fogel, then executive director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was in town hosting their radiothon fundraiser. I reached out to him, and he said the CSO was preparing for its centennial season (1990–91), and they had been searching for my grandmother to invite her to Chicago for the festivities. I let him know that, unfortunately, she had died in January 1975. So, instead, Henry invited me to attend several events to celebrate the conclusion of the CSO’s centennial.

I traveled to Chicago for the first time with my oldest son, and we had the privilege of representing the Stock family. It was a whirlwind of activities, from attending the gala dinner with Theodore Thomas’s grandson and his wife, seeing three CSO music directors—Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti, and Rafael Kubelik—conducting on the same concert, having lunch with Lady Solti, attending the rededication of the Spirit of Music statue (the Theodore Thomas memorial, at the corner of Balbo and Michigan), seeing Stock’s full-size painting in the stairwell that leads up to the ballroom, and standing on the stage to see Orchestra Hall as Stock saw it. I was practically speechless.

Elisabeth and Frederick Stock in May 1896 (Linda Wolfe collection)

I discovered that a biography about Stock had not been written, so I began a project to gather as much information as I could. The Glessner journals were an incredible source of information, as Stock wrote hundreds of letters to them. While Stock was music director, he and his wife Elisabeth were guests at the Glessner home on an almost weekly basis, joining them for holidays and special events. Frederick and Elisabeth also often spent time at the Glessner farm, The Rocks, in New Hampshire.

It has been a wonderful experience doing research and I am honored to present another side of Stock, his family story.

Frederick Wilhelm August Stock was born on November 11, 1872, in Jülich, Germany, a small fortress town about thirty miles west of Cologne. He was the second son of Frederick Wilhelm Carl Stock, a Kapellmeister in the Prussian Army and Maria Lein. Frederick’s mother died on June 9, 1874, apparently never recovering from complications during his birth. His father remarried in 1887 to Johanna Maria Louise Bister and they had three more children—Maria, Louise, and Wilhelm.

In 1887, at the age of fourteen, Frederick won a scholarship to the Cologne Conservatory. His teachers included conductor Franz Wüllner and composer Englebert Humperdink, and one of his fellow students was Wilhelm Mengleberg, the famous Dutch conductor. While a student, he also became a member of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.

In 1895, Theodore Thomas—the CSO’s founding music director—was in Germany, and twenty-two-year-old Frederick auditioned for him in Cologne, playing Bruch’s First Violin Concerto. Thomas told Stock if he made his way to America, he would have a position in the Chicago Orchestra. On September 22, 1895, Stock sailed from Hamburg to New York on the ship Prussia, and on that same voyage was Elisabeth Musculus, who would become his wife in May 1896. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Stock was given the position of assistant principal viola.

Vera and Elisabeth Stock (Linda Wolfe collection)

In Chicago on May 8, 1902, Frederick and Elisabeth welcomed a daughter, Vera Fredericka Stock. She would be their only child.

According to ocean liner passenger lists, Frederick returned to Europe at least twenty-five times. He met with the musical leaders of the European scene, reviewed new scores, and visited family. Most often Elisabeth accompanied him on his travels, and Vera also joined them several times.

In late September 1912, Frederick traveled on the Lusitania from Liverpool to New York. In a letter to the Glessners, he wrote “This is the finest boat I ever travelled on, very comfortable indeed. A trip on a boat like this spoils one for anything else, because it is the most delightful thing imaginable.”  And in a letter dated September 15, 1920, “One of the novelties I brought from London is called The Planets composed by Gustav (von) Holst . . . Don’t be afraid of all those novelties. I shall stick them into the programs at places where you won’t find them, but they will be there just the same.”

On April 8, 1924, in what was described as the “social event of the year,” Vera married Alfred Morris Wolfe, and Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue was filled to capacity. Soprano Claire Dux, a frequent CSO soloist, sang Stock’s “A Love Letter” with Eric DeLamarter at the organ. The reception was held nearby at the Drake Hotel.

On January 18, 1928, Frederick and Elisabeth’s first grandson, Frederick Stock Wolfe (my father), was born. On June 28, 1929, their second grandchild was born, Alfred “Murph” Morris Wolfe, Jr.

In 1927, the Stocks started building a vacation home in Door County, Wisconsin, overlooking Sister Bay. It was designed by Chicago architect, William Bernhard, who the Stocks undoubtedly met at the Glessner home. This beloved home was a welcome retreat from life in Chicago where the Stock family would spend summers and holidays.

The CSO’s 1942-43 season began with Stock’s usual robustness and enthusiasm, but on October 20, he died suddenly of a heart attack at home at 1325 North Astor Street. During the intermission of the New York Philharmonic’s broadcast on November, 1, Deems Taylor spoke the following: “Let us not again let men like this go, without telling them that we love them. They would appreciate our love. We use many words on Hitler and like creatures, but never the least word to men who have made us better human beings, who have given us a bulwark against cruelty, bigotry, and stupidity. We have all, all good and bewildered people, died a little with Mr. Stock.”

Plaque in Jülich, Germany, dedicated in June 1994

Vera’s husband Alfred Wolfe was originally from Colorado Springs, and after Frederick’s death, they moved Elisabeth and the grandchildren to Colorado. Elisabeth died on August 15, 1951, and Vera and Murph brought her ashes to Chicago. She was interred in the crypt with her beloved husband in the mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery.

In June 1994, Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were on tour in Europe, and several musicians traveled to Jülich to attend a plaque unveiling at the Citadel, commemorating Stock’s birth. The mayor of Julich and I unveiled the plaque, which read:

In memory of the conductor and composer
Friedrich Wilhelm August Stock
November 11, 1872 (Jülich) – October 20, 1942 (Chicago)
The son of a Prussian military band master stationed in the citadel, he studied at the Cologne Conservatory (1891) and then joined the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne as a violinist.
In 1895 he was hired as a violist at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 1905 he became music director and, over the next 37 years, led the CSO to international fame.
The City of Jülich

Linda Wolfe is the great-granddaughter of Frederick Stock.

This article also appears here.

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December 8, 1893

December 8, 1893

The Art Institute of Chicago opened its new building—completed in time for the second year of the World’s Columbian Exposition—on December 8, 1893, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. For the opening reception, Theodore Thomas and the Orchestra performed Schubert’s Three Marches (from the Six Grand Marches, D. 819, orchestrated by Thomas), the second movement of Beethoven’s Second Symphony, Dvořák’s Second Slavonic Rhapsody, Goldmark’s Serenade from The Rustic Wedding, the Elegy and Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for String Orchestra, and Wagner’s Forest Murmurs from Siegfried.

The Spirit of Music in its original location on Michigan Avenue

The Spirit of Music in its original location on Michigan Avenue

The Art Institute’s south garden was the first site of The Spirit of Music, a memorial to Thomas, originally dedicated on April 24, 1924. It was designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and sculpted by Albin Polasek. Subsequently moved on multiple occasions and even temporarily presumed to be lost, the memorial ultimately was moved to Grant Park at the intersection of Michigan and Balbo avenues and rededicated on October 18, 1991, at the conclusion of the Orchestra’s centennial celebration.

Directly behind the statue is a carved frieze including images of musicians. In its center is an inscription with text culled from a telegram sent from Ignace Paderewski to Rose Fay Thomas on January 5, 1905, the day following her husband’s death. Upon hearing the news, Paderewski had written: “Scarcely any man in any land has done so much for the musical education of the people as did Theodore Thomas in this country. The nobility of his ideals with the magnitude of his achievement will assure him everlasting glory.”

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here and here.

The image of Theodore Thomas that appears opposite the title page of Charles Edward Russell's The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas

The image of Theodore Thomas that appears opposite the title page of Charles Edward Russell’s The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas

Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director Theodore Thomas on the occasion of his 180th birthday!

“Grateful Chicago has erected upon its beautiful lake front a monument to his memory. New Hampshire has named one of its mountains in his honor. Neither monument nor mountain seems more permanent than the effect of his life, for that will go on when there shall be no more trace of his name and little of the age in which he lived. If I say that no other man of his period exerted upon mankind an influence so great and lasting, I shall be looked upon as lunatic, although that is what I honestly believe. Is it so mad a thought? Statesmen come and fill the world’s horizon and din the world’s ears and so pass with their rub-a-dubs. The conspicuous men of one generation are the scoffing of the next and forgotten by the next. Is there a reputation of Theodore Thomas’s time that careful men would insure for two hundred years? His own is already perishing; but the thinkings of a people go on forever. There are thousands of homes in America where music is a pervasive influence because of this man’s endeavors. The ramifications of such an influence will never stop.

Image of Felsengarten, Thomas's summer home, and Mount Theodore Thomas in Bethlehem, New Hampshire

Image of Felsengarten, Thomas’s summer home, on Mount Theodore Thomas in Bethlehem, New Hampshire (from Thomas’s Memoirs, edited by Rose Fay Thomas)

“A work so stupendous required a most unusual combination of endowments and qualities. Their mingling in this man seems outside of chance. So far as we can see now, with less of any of his attributes, less of iron will, less of the sense of a high summons, less of what was called his autocratic spirit, less of his human sympathies, even less of his sensitiveness, he could never have done it. An artist, he lived in the world of men; all human, he lived in the world of art. Forty-three years of ceaseless and often desperate struggle passed between the time he first raised a baton over a concert orchestra and the time when he laid it down forever. If any man ever sounded out this life and what life means and what life can give of labor sorrow, pain, trouble, and the supernal joys of achievement, it was Theodore Thomas.”

—excerpt from The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas by Charles Edward Russell, 1927.

It seems like summer has finally arrived in Chicago, and today was one of those spectacular days that almost makes the winter seem worth it.

So, I took a walk down Michigan Avenue to one of my favorite places, the Theodore Thomas memorial in Grant Park: The Spirit of Music, crafted by sculptor Albin Polasek.

The statue was originally erected in 1924 in the south garden of the Art Institute, directly across the street from Orchestra Hall. Subsequently, it was moved a couple of times and was even presumed to be lost for a while. In its current location (in the park’s music garden), the monument was rededicated during the end of the CSO’s centennial celebration in October 1991.

Directly behind the statue, there is a carved frieze with images of musicians. In the very center is an inscription with text culled from a telegram sent to Rose Fay Thomas by Ignace Paderewski on January 5, 1905. Paderewski, a dear friend and frequent collaborator, had just heard the news of Thomas’s passing and wrote:

“The entire musical world joins you and family in deepest sorrow over your terrible bereavement. The passing away of your illustrious husband is an irreparable loss to our art for scarcely any man in any land has done so much for the musical education of the people as did Theodore Thomas in this country. The purity of his character, firmness of his principles, nobility of his ideals, together with the magnitude of his achievements will assure him everlasting glory in the history of artistic culture. Personally I deplore from the bottom of my soul the loss of one of my very dearest and most beloved friends. To you madame who have been devoted companion of the great departed, to you who have given him so much happiness we send both the homage of our profound affliction and mournful sympathy.”

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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