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CSOA archivist Frank Villella and pianist Kirill Gerstein in the Rosenthal Archives vault

Kirill Gerstein, our guest pianist this week, in town to perform Sergei Prokofiev‘s Second Piano Concerto, visited the Rosenthal Archives for a tour and to view several items in our collections.

In addition to seeing several Prokofiev-related photographs and vintage program books, Gerstein also was very interested in materials relating to composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni, who was a frequent soloist with the CSO between 1892 and 1915. He also spent some time carefully perusing an early edition of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto used by Theodore Thomas for the Orchestra’s inaugural concerts in October 1891; Hungarian pianist Rafael Joseffy was the soloist for those first concerts.


(The Archives is a popular place for performers of Prokofiev’s music: guest conductor Stéphane Denève visited in November 2011 when he was in Chicago to lead the Orchestra in a Suite from The Love for Three Oranges and the Second Violin Concerto with Leonidas Kavakos, and both conductor Sakari Oramo and pianist Yuja Wang visited in May 2013, when they performed the Third Piano Concerto.)

Prokofiev was soloist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of the Second Piano Concerto on February 28 and March 1, 1930. Assistant Conductor Eric DeLamarter conducted. After intermission the composer returned to conduct his ballet Le pas d’acier. On March 24, 1930, Prokofiev and his wife—soprano Lina Llubera—gave a recital at Orchestra Hall under the auspices of the Chicago Society for Cultural Relations with Russia.

Prokofiev is soloist in his Second Piano Concerto, Eric DeLamarter conducts. February 28 and March 1, 1930

February 28 and March 1, 1930

Prokofiev recital with his wife as soloist

March 24, 1930

Program book biography from February and March 1930 appearances

The composer’s program book biography from the February and March 1930 appearances

The back cover of the 1930 program book also contained two Prokofiev-related advertisements. The inside cover announced the upcoming release of the Boston Symphony Orchestra‘s recording of the Classical Symphony (Symphony no. 1) conducted by Serge Koussevitzky on Victor. The outside cover contained a endorsed advertisement for Lyon & Healy as a distributor of Steinway pianos: “When he composes or plays—Prokofieff uses Steinway.”

Victor advertisement Steinway advertisement

We get a lot of visitors here in the Archives. Patrons, students, biographers, genealogists, media, musicians, and teachers, all looking for information on a variety of subjects. But it’s not often that we have the pleasure of hosting one of our guest conductors.

Stéphane Denève, who made an impressive podium debut last week (see here, here, and here), had expressed an interest in the history of the CSO, and one of my colleagues suggested a visit to the Archives. So yesterday on his day off, he came by and spent a couple of hours looking at Theodore Thomas scores (he was particularly interested in Thomas’s bowing markings) and a scrapbook of images of the Orchestra onstage between 1905 and 1964 (to see the changes in seating arrangements and varying use of onstage risers).

Maestro Denève was also happy to share a few stories about some of his early jobs: assisting Sir Georg Solti at the Orchestre de Paris (Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle in 1995) and the Paris National Opera (Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 1996), as well as with Seiji Ozawa (who led the CSO as music director of the Ravinia Festival in the 1960s) at the Saito Kinen Festival (Poulenc’s Les dialogues des Carmélites in 1998).

Who’s next?

the vault

Theodore Thomas


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

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