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In 1891, Theodore Thomas founded the Chicago Orchestra and served as its first music director for nearly fourteen years. But in 1864, he also founded an eponymous ensemble—the Theodore Thomas Orchestra—and for nearly three decades, they traveled around the United States, giving concerts from coast to coast.

Schedule for the Theodore Thomas Orchestra’s 1872-73 tour (* indicates concerts with Rubinstein and Wieniawski)

One of Thomas’s orchestra’s most extensive tours—with stops in Connecticut; Illinois; Indiana; Kentucky; Maine; Maryland; Michigan; Missouri; New York; Ohio; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Washington, D.C.; and Wisconsin—was given between September 1872 and April 1873, culminating in a series of concerts in New York’s Steinway Hall. And for the last leg of the tour, Thomas was joined by pianist Anton Rubinstein and violinist Henryk Wieniawski.

“These great artists were the leading exponents of their respective instruments,” wrote Rose Fay Thomas in her husband’s Memoirs, “and Thomas knew that the houses would be sold out wherever they played. Consequently, he was able to make the programs without any consideration for the box office, and he was not slow to take advantage of it . . . It was the first time in his life that Thomas had permitted himself to make a series of programs exactly in accordance with his artistic standards . . . and this two weeks of great performance, in association with two of the most renowned executant musicians who ever came to America, was an inspiration to him such as he had never before enjoyed.”

Henryk Wieniawski

Shortly before ending the tour in New York, three concerts were given in Chicago. The programs were as follows:

March 17, 1873, Michigan Avenue Baptist Church
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
RUBINSTEIN Piano Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 70
Anton Rubinstein, piano
MENDELSSOHN First Movement from Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Henryk Wieniawski, violin
LISZT Les préludes
HANDEL Air and Variations from Suite No. 5 in E Major (The Harmonious Blacksmith), MOZART Rondo, BACH Gigue, and SCARLATTI Sonate
Anton Rubinstein, piano
ERNST Fantasie brillante, Op. 11 (Otello)
Henryk Wieniawski, violin
WEBER Overture to Der Freischütz

March 18, 1873, Union Park Congregational Church
CHERUBINI Overture to Les deux journées
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Anton Rubinstein, piano
BERLIOZ Part 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 17
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Henryk Wieniawski, violin
SCHUMANN Carnaval, Op. 9
Anton Rubinstein, piano
WAGNER Huldigungsmarsch

Anton Rubinstein

“Those who had the good fortune to hear [Rubinstein in the Emperor concerto] will long remember it, not only as one of the grandest of Beethoven’s compositions, but as the most superb musical performance ever heard in this city,” wrote the critic in the Chicago Tribune. “Wieniawski created a perfect furore by his masterly playing of his own violin concerto, which culminated in a very emphatic encore, to which replied with Paganini’s Carnival of Venice, which was such a marvel of technique that it called out even the loudest applause of the orchestra itself. . . . As a whole, the concert was the best ever given in this city.”

March 19, 1873, Aiken’s Theatre
SCHUMANN Overture to Genoveva, Op. 81
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Anton Rubinstein, piano
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Henryk Wieniawski, violin
BEETHOVEN Finale from The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43
WAGNER Overture to Rienzi
MENDELSSOHN Songs Without Words and CHOPIN Nocturne and Ballad
Anton Rubinstein, piano
WIENIAWSKI Legende, Op. 17 and Airs russes, Op. 6
Henryk Wieniawski, violin
LISZT Hungarian March

In a letter to William Steinway of Steinway & Sons (who had sponsored the tour), Wieniawski wrote, “I shall take away with me from America one unexpected reminiscence. Little did I dream to find here the greatest and finest orchestra in the wide world. I have been in Munich, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and all the great European art centers, but never in my life have I found an orchestra and a conductor so in sympathy with one anther, or who followed me as the most gifted accompanist can follow a singer on the piano.”

Portions of this article previously appeared here.

Ray Chen is soloist in Wieniawski’s First Violin Concerto on December 5, 6, 7, and 10, 2019. John Storgårds conducts.

March 31, April 1, 2, and 3, 1873, concerts at Steinway Hall in New York

March 31 and April 1, 1873

April 2 and 3, 1873

A first edition piano/vocal score

A first edition piano/vocal score of Verdi’s Requiem from the Theodore Thomas Collection

To the best of our knowledge, Theodore Thomas, our founder and first music director, never conducted Verdi’s Requiem with the Chicago Orchestra (as we were known from 1891 until 1905). Prior to 1891, there is documentation indicating that Thomas first led the Requiem on May 1, 1884, with his Theodore Thomas Orchestra and the Oratorio Society of Baltimore, given at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore, Maryland, among other performances.

According to Thomas’s catalog, he had two full scores for the Requiem in his collection. One manuscript score (in an unknown hand) was deposited at the Newberry Library by Thomas’s widow Rose Fay in 1905; the second score is presumed lost. Here in the Rosenthal Archives we have a complete set of parts, some printed with manuscript inserts and some completely in manuscript, along with a first edition piano/vocal score, shown here, that was later recovered from materials left at Thomas’s summer home in New Hampshire.

Cover for a viola part

Cover for a viola part including Maurice Strakosch’s signature

All of the orchestral parts bear the signature of Maurice Strakosch. A pianist and impresario of Bohemian descent, Strakosch purchased “an orchestral score and performance material” from Casa Ricordi in November 1874 (according to the notes in the University of Chicago Press and Casa Ricordi critical edition of the Requiem).

Strakosch studied with Simon Sechter at the Vienna Conservatory, toured Europe as a pianist, and came to New York City in 1848. He played concerts there under the management of Max Maretzek, but by 1856 he was active mainly as an impresario. Strakosch became associated with tenor Salvatore Patti and his daughters (Adelina, Amalia, and Carlotta) in New York and eventually married Amalia. He also coached Adelina from her concert debut at the age of eight in 1851 and also later managed her career. From 1852 until 1854 he toured the United States with Amalia, Adelina, Ole Bull, and a teenaged Theodore Thomas. Strakosch was connected with several other musicians and impresarios and eventually managed his own company from 1856, which merged with that of Bernard Ullman‘s in 1857 to form the Ullman-Strakosch Opera Company (for which Thomas was concertmaster and occasionally an assistant conductor), later merging with the New York Academy of Music.

manuscript insert for the revised Liber scriptus

manuscript insert for the revised Liber scriptus in the first violin part

But back to the set of orchestral parts. According to the University of Chicago/Casa Ricordi documentation, the set of manuscript parts in the Rosenthal Archives: “were clearly prepared before 1875, as they include the original ‘Liber scriptus’ (1874). Most also have as a later insert (of uncertain date) the definitive ‘Liber scriptus’ (1875): these inserted pages are written on paper produced by the New York firm of Carl Fischer. As noted in the introduction to the score, on 9 November 1874 Ricordi informed Verdi that performing materials had been sold to one of the Strakosch brothers. . . . How they found their way into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra collection has not been determined, although it is possible that they belonged to the musical library of Theodore Thomas. . . . From players’ annotations, however, it is apparent that these parts were used for performances even after Ricordi issued printed parts in 1913.”

First trumpet part for the beginning of the Tuba mirum

First trumpet part for the beginning of the Tuba mirum

All four bassoon parts for the  first part of the Libera me

All four bassoon parts for the first part of the Libera me

Cello and bass part for the conclusion of the Sanctus

Cello and bass part for the conclusion of the Sanctus

Detail from the third trombone part

Detail from the third trombone part

Presumably, this set of parts was used for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first documented performance of the Requiem given at Northwestern University Gymnasium on June 4, 1910, as part of the annual North Shore Festival, as well as numerous subsequent performances. There are also several indications that these parts were used for the first performance at the Ravinia Festival in 1951 as well as the first subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall in 1952. One of those indications, shown in this image at right, confirms this: when details for this set of parts was being entered into our database, the cataloguer indicated: “squashed bug removed from 3rd trombone part, noted as killed at Ravinia, 1951.”

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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The CSO and Maestro Muti perform a program featuring Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) at the historic Teatro di San Carlo for a capacity audience. Taking the podium to announce the evening’s encore—Giordano’s Intermezzo from Fedora—Muti noted “although, I’m 100% Italian, I’m 200% Southern Italian.” After the concert, Maestro Muti and his wife hosted the musicians of the Orchestra and distinguished guests for a post-concert dinner featuring traditional Neapolitan cuisine. On Sunday morning before the concert, Maestro Muti and three CSO musicians—Jennifer Gunn, piccolo; Charles Vernon, trombone; and Gene Pokorny, tuba—share an informal performance with young men and women at a juvenile justice center in nearby Nisida. The program was presented by the Negaunee Music Institute with assistance from the administrative staff of the Teatro di San Carlo. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto
Musicians and staff travel from Paris to Naples. Called Napoli in Italian, its name is derived from the Greek word Neapolis meaning "new city.” The city is the birthplace of Riccardo Muti, as well as the birthplace of pizza! This tour stop includes the CSO’s first return to the world renowned Teatro di San Carlo with Maestro Muti since 2012. That appearance marked its first European tour appearance in Naples. 📸@toddrphoto
Riccardo Muti and the CSO spend less than 24 hours in Paris for a concert at the Philharmonie de Paris with a program featuring works by Wagner, Hindemith and Dvořák. The last time they performed in this hall was during their most recent tour to Europe in January 2017. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto

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