You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Walter Damrosch’ tag.

December 3 and 4, 1909

December 3 and 4, 1909

Sergei Rachmaninov made his first appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on December 3 and 4, 1909, conducting his Isle of the Dead and performing as soloist in his Second Piano Concerto with Frederick Stock conducting.

“Mr. Rachmaninov appeared in three different roles on yesterday’s program as a creative musician (a composer, as a conductor, and as a pianist), in all three capacities he displayed unusual preeminence and gifts of a transcendent order,” wrote the critic in the Chicago Examiner. “At the conductor’s desk, [he] is a striking personality [and] the members of the Orchestra responded readily to his minutest directions.” In the concerto, “Rachmaninov made no less an artistic impression. He is endowed with a comprehensive technique, his scale passages and chord playing are clean and rapid, his tone is rich and musical, and in his concerto he displayed remarkable gifts . . . after a half dozen recalls [he] responded with his celebrated C-sharp minor prelude.”

According to Phillip Huscher, “Although Chicago didn’t get to hear it, by then Rachmaninov had written a third piano concerto, tailor-made for his first North American tour in late 1909. Rachmaninov introduced the work in New York on November 28, with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony. He played it there again in January, with Gustav Mahler conducting the New York Philharmonic.”

For the first time with Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he performed his Third Piano Concerto on January 23 and 24, 1920. Despite a nasty Chicago storm, Orchestra Hall was packed for the Friday matinee. “The concert of yesterday afternoon was an event,” wrote Karleton Hackett in the Evening Post. “I do not care what the verdict of twenty years from now may be regarding this concerto, for I have just listened to a performance of it that stirred me deeply. . . . It was a work of a man who understands the capacity of the instrument and can write for it in the fresh, vigorous idiom of our day such music as brings out its peculiar power and charm. What is quite as much to the point, he himself can play the instrument with a mastery that makes every phrase a delight. Rachmaninov has supreme virtuosity. There is nothing he cannot do at the keyboard, from the most exquisite delicacy of ornamentation to the downright stroke of elemental power. . . . The music was so vigorous, expressing so spontaneously the emotion of our own time that it seemed as though it were being struck out in the white heat of the creative impulse of the moment.”

Chicago American, January 15, 1932

In January 1932, the composer was again in Chicago for three concerts with Stock and the Orchestra. After a performance of the second concerto on January 12, Herman Devries in the American reported, “It was not Chicago . . . it was not Orchestra Hall . . . it was not Rachmaninov . . . to me it seemed Olympus, and we were all gods. Thus does music glorify when it is itself glorious. It is not the first time that I have waxed passionately enthusiastic over the genius of Rachmaninov. After hearing Horowitz [in recital] on Sunday [January 10], we thought that the season’s thrills were nearly complete.”

Later that week on January 14 and 15, Rachmaninov was soloist in his third concerto. “The most exciting event in the history of Orchestra Hall occurred last night,” wrote Glenn Dillard Gunn in the Herald & Examiner. “With one impulse, the audience rose and shouted its approval. Many eyes were wet and many throats were hoarse before the demonstration ended. For once on their feet, the listeners remained to cheering after the Orchestra had trumpeted and thundered its fanfare and long after the composer-pianist had brought Dr. Stock to the footlights to share his honors. Never have I witnessed such a tribute . . . and never, it is my sincere conviction, has such response been so richly deserved.”

Chicago Sun, February 12, 1943

Chicago Sun, February 12, 1943

Rachmaninov’s final appearances with the Orchestra were on February 11 and 12, 1943, in Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto and his own Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, under the baton of associate conductor Hans Lange. “Sergei Rachmaninov evoked a series of ovations when he appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall last night,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune. “His entrance won standing tribute from orchestra and capacity audience, his Beethoven stirred a storm of grateful applause, and his own Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini ended the concert in a kind of avalanche of cumulative excitement.”

The following week, Rachmaninov traveled to Louisville and Knoxville for solo recitals on February 15 and 17, in what would be his final public performances. He died in Beverly Hills, California on March 28, 1943.

Portions of this article are included in the February 14-17, 2019, program book and also previously appeared here.

Advertisements

Heroes of the Marne 117th Infantry Regiment, Georges Scott, France, 1915

The poster at left, from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library collections, shows French soldiers who fought in the First Battle of the Marne between September 6 and 12, 1914.

____________________________________________________

In the years leading up to the United States entering World War I, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave a number of premieres, featured prominent guest soloists, and made its first commercial recording. Additionally, Orchestra Hall hosted an extraordinary variety of events, several of which are illustrated below (all events in Orchestra Hall unless otherwise noted).

Albert Spalding (Moffett Chicago photo) and Arnold Schoenberg (Egon Schiele, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

On December 8, 1911, Albert Spalding is soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Sir Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Frederick Stock conducts.

Albert Capellani’s film Les misérables (parts 1 and 2)—starring Henry Krauss as Jean Valjean and billed as “the greatest motion picture ever made”—is screened from August 21 through October 10, 1913.

Frederick Stock leads the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra on October 31, 1913. (On February 8 and 9, 1934, the composer returns to Chicago to lead the work as guest conductor.)

Helen Keller (Library of Congress)

On February 5, 1914, the North End Woman’s Club presents Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller in a demonstration of the technique used by Sullivan to teach Keller—blind and deaf since she was nineteen months old—how to speak.

William Henry Hackney presents a Colored Composers’ Concert featuring music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Harry Burleigh, J. Rosamond Johnson, Will Marion Cook, and R. Nathaniel Dett on June 3, 1914. The Chicago Defender article (from June 6, 1914) describing the concert is here.

The Orchestra gives the U.S. premiere of Gigues from Claude Debussy’s Images for Orchestra on November 13, 1914. Frederick Stock conducts.

Apollo Club’s Messiah and Edith Lees with Havelock Ellis (Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science)

The Apollo Club of Chicago presents its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah at the Auditorium Theatre on December 27 and 28, 1914. Harrison M. Wild leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Edith Lees, author and the openly lesbian wife of Havelock Ellis, gives a lecture on February 4, 1915, advocating for the general acceptance of “deviants” (i.e. homosexuals). Offering Oscar Wilde and Michelangelo as examples of what the “abnormal” could accomplish, this is one of the earliest public calls for the acceptance of gay people.

On March 5, 1915, Frederick Stock leads the Orchestra in the U.S. premiere of Alexander Scriabin’s Prometheus.

Stock’s Festival Prologue

Celebrating the opening of the Orchestra’s twenty-fifth season on October 15, 1915, Frederick Stock leads the world premiere of his Festival Prologue, which he had written while in California for the Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Stock considered the work “an expression of his esteem not only for that noble band of artists which for a quarter of a century has uplifted and upheld the musical culture of our city, but also for those who have permitted themselves to be thus uplifted and upheld—the music-loving people of Chicago.”

Amy Beach and Percy Grainger (Library of Congress)

On February 4 and 5, 1916, Amy Beach is soloist in her Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor. Frederick Stock conducts.

Percy Grainger is soloist in the world premiere of John Alden Carpenter’s Concertino for Piano and Orchestra on March 10, 1916. Frederick Stock conducts.

Otterström’s American Negro Suite

On December 15, 1916, Frederick Stock leads the Orchestra in the world premiere of Thorwald Otterström’s American Negro Suite, incorporating melodies from Slave Songs of the United States—the first and most influential collection of African American music and spirituals, published in 1867.

Bengali poet and the first non-European recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sir Rabindranath Tagore reads from his own works on December 19, 1916.

On May 1, 1916, Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra record for the first time (in an unidentified Chicago location): Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Columbia Graphophone Company.

Violinist Maud Powell and pianist Arthur Loesser (half-brother of Broadway composer Frank Loesser) appear in recital on February 18, 1917.

On March 25, 1917, Walter Damrosch leads the New York Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Efrem Zimbalist and Brünnhilde’s Immolation from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with Julia Claussen.

____________________________________________________

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.

125_blog_banner

____________________________________________________

November 20, 1905

November 20, 1905

Frederick Stock and the Orchestra first performed at the Ravinia Park Theater (now the Martin Theatre) on November 20, 1905, in a program that included Wagner’s Huldigungsmarsch, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, Saint-Saëns’s Phaeton, Massenet’s Scène religieuse from Les Erinnyes, and Liszt’s Les préludes.

Ravinia Park had opened the previous summer to great fanfare. “The first patrons to enter Ravinia’s gates arrived on August 15, 1904, to enjoy the entertainment offered by an amusement park that boasted a dazzling electric fountain, a baseball field with a grandstand, a merry-go-round, a theater with a pipe organ, a casino for dining and dancing, and soon a concert pavilion,” wrote executive director Edward Gordon in 1985, in the foreword to Ravinia: The Festival at Its Half Century.

Frederick Stock and the Orchestra on the steps in front of the Ravinia Theatre in November 1905

Frederick Stock and the Orchestra at Ravinia Park in November 1905

The first orchestra to perform at the new park was the New York Symphony Orchestra* under Walter Damrosch on June 17, 1905. “Not since the Summer Night Concerts of blissful memory given in the old Exposition building by the local seeker for summer pleasures been offered musical entertainment so satisfying in quality and so delightful in environment,” wrote the reviewer in the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra appeared at Ravinia Park semiregularly—frequently performing as part of the popular seasons of grand opera that began in 1912—through August 1931, after which the park was closed for most of the Great Depression. In August 1936, the Orchestra helped to inaugurate the first season of the Ravinia Festival, and it has been in residence every summer since.

*Founded as the New York Symphony Society by Walter Damrosch’s father Leopold in 1878, the orchestra merged with the Philharmonic Society of New York in 1928.

This article also appears here.

Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Orchestra (as we were then called) gave the U.S. premiere of Edward Elgar‘s In the South (Alassio) at the Auditorium Theatre on November 4, 1904.

According to the program note, the work was “‘conceived on a glorious spring day in the Valley of Andorra,’ and that it is ‘meant to suggest the Joy of Living in a balmy climate, under sunny skies, and amid surroundings in which the beauties of nature vie in interest with the remains and recollections of the great past of an enchanting country.'”

The reviewer in the Chicago Tribune was not quite impressed with the premiere of Elgar’s overture: “The novelty of the afternoon was the concert overture ‘In the South’ by Edward Elgar, which on this occasion had its first performance on this side of the Atlantic. Mr. [Walter] Damrosch is to give it its initial hearing in New York tomorrow night, but yesterday marked its premiere in this country. It is a work of unusual magnitude for a composition in the overture form, and the estimate here placed on it after a single hearing can of course be but impressional and subject to future revision. Twenty minutes are required for the performance of the overture and there are many things in the score which may prove clearer and more significant when more familiar. Yesterday the impression received was that the music has nothing in particular to do with Italy or the south. . . . It was not as successful cacophony as Richard Strauss when at his most daring produces, but it will suffice. . . . The performance by Mr. Thomas and the orchestra was a splendid one, each man giving of his best powers, musical, temperamental, and technical.” The complete review is here.

Advance advertisement for Elgar's April 1907 conducting appearances

Advance advertisement for Elgar’s April 1907 conducting appearances

Less than three years later, Elgar himself fared much better, appearing with the Orchestra on a program of compositions all by living composers. The first half featured Vincent d’Indy‘s Wallenstein’s Camp, Alexander Glazunov‘s Spring from The Seasons, Frederick Converse‘s The Mystic Trumpeter, and Richard Strauss’s Love Scene from Feuersnot, all led by Frederick Stock. After intermission, Elgar took to the podium to lead his In the South (Alassio), Enigma Variations, and the first Pomp and Circumstance March.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the composer was greeted with “applause which compelled him to turn twice and bow his acknowledgements. . . . When the last number was ended the orchestra sounded a fanfare, and the audience remained applauding until Sir Edward had returned a second time to the center of the stage and bowed. It was an unusually spontaneous and hearty tribute to a man who has come to loom large in the musical world of today and in whom American music lovers take a kind of quasi-national pride. . . . Rarely has a musical lion impressed as so modest as did he yesterday.” The complete review is here.

Vasily Petrenko leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s In the South (Alassio) on January 8, 9, and 10, 2015.

The title page of Frederick Stock's post-1917 arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, the version currently used by the Orchestra.

The title page of Frederick Stock’s post-1917 arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, the version currently used by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

On September 14, 2014, we celebrate the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America. For many of us, most of the story is familiar, but did you know that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, like many American orchestras, played a role in promoting the song’s popularity?

The first flute part—slightly different from the score pictured above—indicates a minor rhythmic modification

The first flute part of Stock’s arrangement—slightly different from the score pictured above—indicates a minor rhythmic modification

In the midst of the War of 1812, thirty-five-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key witnessed the brutal twenty-five-hour attack on Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay by the British Navy that continued through the night of September 13, 1814. Early the next morning, Key’s sight of the U.S. flag—then fifteen stars and fifteen stripes—still flying over the fort inspired him to write the four-verse lyric Defence of Fort McHenry.

During the U.S. involvement in World War II (1941–1945), the forty-eight-star flag was a permanent fixture on the Orchestra Hall stage.

During the U.S. involvement in World War II (1941–1945), the forty-eight-star flag was a permanent fixture on the Orchestra Hall stage.

Contrary to many accounts, Key certainly had The Anacreontic Song (the song of a popular gentleman’s club in London), composed by John Stafford Smith, in mind when he wrote his lyric. After he completed it on September 16, it was printed as a broadside and initially distributed to the soldiers who had defended Fort McHenry. The first documented performance was a month later at the Baltimore Theatre.

Sir Georg Solti’s 1986 account of the National Anthem featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus

Sir Georg Solti’s 1986 account of the National Anthem featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus

Frederick Stock recorded his 1917 version with the CSO for the Columbia Graphophone Company

Frederick Stock recorded his 1917 version with the CSO for the Columbia Graphophone Company

During the nineteenth century, the song’s popularity grew and it was widely performed at public celebrations and as accompaniment to the raising of the flag. On the eve of U.S. involvement in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 ordered the song to be played at military and other notable events. Wilson also directed the U.S. Bureau of Education to compile an official version; the bureau tasked five musicians—Walter Damrosch, Will Earhart, Arnold J. Gantvoort, Oscar Sonneck, and John Philip Sousa—to develop and agree upon a standardized edition. (An appraisal of one of the standardization manuscripts, featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, can be seen here.) Damrosch conducted the premiere of that version with the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall on December 5, 1917.

Frederick Stock—the CSO's second music director from 1905 until 1942—on the podium in Orchestra Hall in the 1930s.

Frederick Stock—the CSO’s second music director from 1905 until 1942—on the podium in Orchestra Hall in the 1930s

Almost simultaneously, Frederick Stock—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s second music director from 1905 until 1942—made his own orchestration of the Banner along with America (My Country ’Tis of Thee) and recorded both of them with the Orchestra for the Columbia Graphophone Company on May 28, 1917. And keeping with the emerging popular custom (as evidenced in newspaper accounts and end-of-season indexes), the Orchestra performed the song at the beginning of all concerts during U.S. involvement in World War I, even though the song was rarely listed on program pages—a practice that continues today.

Although the tradition had become firmly established, President Herbert Hoover made it official on March 3, 1931, and signed into law that The Star-Spangled Banner was to be the national anthem of the United States of America. And during the U.S. involvement in the Second World War, Stock and later his successor Désiré Defauw continued the practice of performing The Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of every concert.

Program page from the first concert of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown CSO concerts following the end of World War II—at which music director Désiré Defauw conducted the national anthems of the Allied countries: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Program page from the first concert of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown CSO concerts following the end of World War II—at which music director Désiré Defauw conducted the national anthems of the Allied nations: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Currently, The Star-Spangled Banner generally is performed at the beginning of the first concert of both the Orchestra Hall and Ravinia Festival seasons in addition to Symphony Ball and Ravinia’s annual gala. One notable exception: Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were in Lucerne, Switzerland, on September 11, 2001, scheduled to perform Mahler’s Seventh Symphony that evening, only a few brief hours after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. At the beginning of the concert, Barenboim addressed the audience and announced that the Orchestra would begin the concert with the American National Anthem, “for tonight we are all of us Americans.”

Following the recording in 1917, Stock modified his orchestration, perhaps to conform to the standardized version. Stock’s version, with minor modifications, was later recorded by Fritz Reiner (the Orchestra’s sixth music director from 1953 until 1962) in 1957 by RCA; it was recently reissued as part of a comprehensive 63-CD set. The Banner was recorded a third time in 1986 for London Records, with Sir Georg Solti (our music director from 1969 until 1991) leading the Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Margaret Hillis. (that same release included Bear Down, Chicago Bears and Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever). Stock’s orchestration—the one preferred by music director Riccardo Muti—is the version still used today.

__________

In the community, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also have performed The Star-Spangled Banner for Chicago sports teams. The brass section, led by associate conductor Kenneth Jean, helped open the Chicago Bears’s sixty-eighth season on September 14, 1987, performing the National Anthem at Soldier Field. And CSO violas—performing Max Raimi’s arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner—opened a Chicago White Sox game on August 25, 1998, at (new) Comiskey Park. On both occasions, the Chicago teams went on to victory: the Bears beat the New York Giants 34–19, and the Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 6–4.

caption

Kenneth Jean and members of the CSO brass at Soldier Field on September 14, 1987

caption

CSO violas at Comiskey Park on August 25, 1998

__________

A slightly abbreviated version of this article appears in the September/October CSO program book.

Thanks to Mark Clague, Ph.D.—associate professor at the University of Michigan (and a former member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago)—for his guidance, and a tremendous amount of information can be found online at the Star Spangled Music Foundation’s website. Also thanks to CSO librarians Peter Conover, Carole Keller, and Mark Swanson, and Rosenthal Archives intern William Berthouex.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

csoarchives twitter feed

chicagosymphony twitter feed

disclaimer

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

visitors

  • 336,341 hits
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: