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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.

Step into Your Place, David Allen & Sons, England, 1915

The recruitment poster at left, from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library collections, shows men in civilian attire falling into formation, joining ranks of soldiers marching into the distance.

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Walter Guetter and Wendell Hoss

Bassoon Walter Guetter (1895–1937) was hired by Frederick Stock in 1915, after auditioning at Willow Grove Park, where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra regularly performed summer concerts. He was promoted to principal bassoon during his second season and temporarily left the Orchestra in 1918 to serve in the U.S. Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. After the war, Guetter returned to the principal chair through 1922 until he was invited by Leopold Stokowski to join the Philadelphia Orchestra, also as principal bassoon.

Wendell Hoss (1892–1980) joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s horn section in June 1917 for the Ravinia Park and subsequent downtown seasons, and he joined the U.S. Navy the following summer, serving at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. After his year in the Navy, Hoss played in the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra before returning to Chicago for one season as principal horn in 1922–23. He later taught at the Eastman School of Music, performed in the Disney recording studios, and was a co-founder of the International Horn Society.

Otto, Edward, and Henri Hyna

Czechoslovakia native Otto Hyna (1886–1951) emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and later served in the National Guard as a member of the First Wisconsin Regiment of Field Artillery in 1917. Following his military service, he was principal bass of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1921 until 1923. Hyna joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s bass section in 1930, where he remained until 1950. Otto’s brothers Edward and Henri also were members of the Orchestra’s string section. Edward (1897–1958) served as a violinist from 1929 until 1943, and Henri (1901–1955) also was a violinist from 1928 until 1932.

For the final concert of the 1917–18 season, Frederick Stock opened the concert with America and closed with his Festival March and The Star-Spangled Banner. A new stage decoration recognized musicians serving the U.S. military. The article is here.

Frederick Stock led the Orchestra in a concert at Fort Sheridan on October 21, 1917. According to the Chicago Tribune, Company 21 celebrated after the concert with a dinner that included: “Turkey à la Cook (in honor of company commander Captain Louis H. Cook), oyster dressing à la Smith (in honor of company instructor Captain Horace Smith), first platoon gravy, Murphys [potatoes] à la pick and shovel, shrapnel peas, dugout olives, bayonet celery, grenade cranberry sauce, trench coffee, [and] periscope pie . . .” The article is here.

During the 1919–20 season, Frederick Stock inaugurated three major initiatives to cultivate future generations of musicians and concertgoers: a regular series of Children’s Concerts, Youth Auditions, and the Civic Music Student Orchestra.

Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1920

One of the goals of the Civic Orchestra was “to reduce the dependence of this country upon European sources of supply for trained orchestral musicians” as well as to function as a reserve of talent from which to draw into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The article is here.

First Civic Orchestra Program, March 29, 1920

Five hundred young musicians auditioned in January 1920, eighty-six were accepted, and the first rehearsal was held in Orchestra Hall on January 27.

Stock and the Civic Orchestra in March 1920

The ensemble made its debut on March 29, 1920, and the roster included future Chicago Symphony Orchestra members (including John Weicher, who became concertmaster in 1937). Frederick Stock, Eric DeLamarter, and George Dasch (also a member of the Orchestra’s violin and viola sections from 1898 until 1923) shared conducting duties, leading works by Halvorsen’s Triumphal Entry of the Boyards, Godard’s Adagio pathétique, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, Grieg’s Suite no. 1 from Peer Gynt, Keller’s Souvenir and Valse, and one of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches.

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A Time for Reflection—A Message of Peace—a companion exhibit curated by the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library—will be on display in Symphony Center’s first-floor rotunda from October 2 through November 18, and the content also will be presented on CSO Sounds & Stories and the From the Archives blog.

This article also appears here. For event listings, please visit cso.org/armistice.

This exhibit is presented with the generous support of COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Founder and Chair, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, through the Pritzker Military Foundation.

Additional thanks to Shawn Sheehy and Jenna Harmon, along with the Arts Club of Chicago, Newberry Library, Poetry Foundation, and Ravinia Festival Association.

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Fantasia 2000

Between 1993 and 1996, James Levine conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in recording sessions at Medinah Temple for Fantasia 2000, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s classic Fantasia from 1940. Levine led extended excerpts from Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no. 2 with Yefim Bronfman, Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals with pianists Gail Niwa and Philip Sabransky (both children of CSO members), Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches with soprano Kathleen Battle and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and Stravinsky’s The Firebird.

The movie was released on New Year’s Day 2000, and Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert described the IMAX version “not just as a film, but as an event.” He continued, “Movies like this renew my faith that the future of the cinema lies not in the compromises of digital projection, but by leaping over the limitations of digital into the next generation of film technology.”

This article also appears here.

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