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Erica Morini (Ledger photo, Vienna)

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate and remember the remarkable Austrian violinist Erica Morini, who, over the course of nearly forty-five years, was a frequent and favorite soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in recital in Orchestra Hall, at the Ravinia Festival, and in WGN‘s television studios.

Born in 1904, Morini was a seasoned performer by 1924, when her father purchased a $10,000 Stradivarius violin—made in 1727 and named for the Russian cellist Karl Davydov—for her. It soon became her instrument of choice and prized possession for the remainder of her career. Shortly before her death in October 1995, the instrument—along with artwork, correspondence, and annotated scores—was stolen from her apartment in New York City. The unsolved crime remains one of the FBI’s “Top Ten Art Crimes.”

Morini and her violin are the subject of a new documentary, Stolen: The Unsolved Theft of a $3,000,000 Violin. Several members of the CSOA family were interviewed for the film, including Robert Chen, concertmaster; Kenneth Olsen, assistant principal cello; Hilary Hahn, violinist and CSO Artist-in-Residence; Rachel Barton Pine, Chicago-based violinist; and Frank Villella, director of the Rosenthal Archives. (If you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, please contact nyartcrime@fbi.gov.)

On November 18, 1921, seventeen-year-old Erica Morini made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Vieuxtemps’s First Violin Concerto with second music director Frederick Stock on the podium. “Good violinists, as all concert attendants know, are common enough these days, and most of them are young,” wrote Edward Moore in the Chicago Tribune. “Miss Morini, however, has a few things in her artistic makeup that take her widely out of even their class. It is not once in twenty times that one hears a violinist with the fiery vitality of this young girl. . . . She gave rise to more violinistic fireworks at higher speed and got more of them correct than any one who has been on the stage since the day that Jascha Heifetz took away the breath of the same audience a few years ago.”

One month later, Morini gave her debut recital in Orchestra Hall. In the Chicago Evening Post, Karleton Hackett wrote, “there was no doubt of the remarkable powers as well as the charm of this young artist. The tone was lovely in quality, the technique of extraordinary accuracy, and everything was done with gratifying ease. . . . Miss Morini has something to say with her violin and the power to say it.”

Morini’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, re-released on LP in 1957, featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. (RCA Victor)

Morini later earned the distinction of being not only the first violinist but also the first woman to commercially record as a soloist with the Orchestra. On December 12, 1945, she recorded Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto under the baton of third music director Désiré Defauw in Orchestra Hall. The initial RCA Victor release was as a 78 RPM record, and the subsequent 1957 LP re-release featured album cover art by Andy Warhol. For WGN, Morini was soloist with the Orchestra for a television broadcast recorded on December 10, 1961, performing Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto with George Szell conducting. The video was later released by Video Artists International.

A complete list of Morini’s performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is below.

November 18 and 19, 1921, Orchestra Hall
VIEUXTEMPS Violin Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 10
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 8 and 9, 1922, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
SARASATE Fantasy on Carmen for Violin and Orchestra
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 14 and 15, 1930, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Frederick Stock, conductor

November 18 and 19, 1921

December 14, 1937, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Frederick Stock, conductor

December 16 and 17, 1937, Orchestra Hall
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Hans Lange, conductor

January 27, 1942, Orchestra Hall
SPOHR Violin Concerto No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 55
Frederick Stock, conductor

July 24, 1945, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Massimo Freccia, conductor

July 28, 1945, Ravinia Festival
GLAZUNOV Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82
Massimo Freccia, conductor

December 3, 1945, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
December 6 and 7, 1945, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Hans Lange, conductor

December 11, 1945, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Désiré Defauw, conductor

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was initially released as a 78 RPM disc in 1946 by RCA Victor

December 10, 1946, Orchestra Hall
December 16, 1946, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Désiré Defauw, conductor

December 12 and 13, 1946, Orchestra Hall
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
Désiré Defauw, conductor

November 22, 1949, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

November 24 and 25, 1949, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Rafael Kubelík, conductor

July 3, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965

July 5, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double)
Leonard Rose, cello
George Szell, conductor

December 7 and 8, 1961, Orchestra Hall
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
George Szell, conductor

December 10, 1961, WGN Studios
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
George Szell, conductor

January 14, 15, and 16, 1965, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

December 18, 1921

Erica Morini also gave three recitals in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

December 18, 1921
Emanuel Balaban, piano

January 14, 1923
Harry Kaufman, piano

April 3, 1949
Leon Pommers, piano

This article also appears here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the passing of legendary pianist, conductor, and composer Sir André Previn, who died this morning at his home in Manhattan. He was 89.

A frequent visitor to Chicago from 1962 until 2006, Previn appeared with the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and in Orchestra Hall, in Milwaukee, in the television and recordings studios, as well as on a number of appearances in recital and with visiting orchestras. A complete list is below.

March 18, 1962, WGN Studios (Great Music from Chicago)
BERNSTEIN Overture to Candide
HINDEMITH Scherzo from Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-flat Major
PREVIN Portrait for Strings
PREVIN Jazz Sequence
GERSHWIN Piano Concerto in F
André Previn, piano and conductor

July 2, 1964, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95
LALO Symphonie espagnole for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 21
Ruggiero Ricci, violin
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47

July 4, 1964, Ravinia Festival
PREVIN Overture to a Comedy
COPLAND The Red Pony, Film Suite for Orchestra
GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue
GERSHWIN Piano Concerto in F
André Previn, piano and conductor

June 24, 1965, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Overture to Coriolanus, Op. 62
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto for Piano, No. 1, C Major, Op. 15
Daniel Barenboim, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
This concert was Daniel Barenboim’s debut as piano soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

June 26, 1965, Ravinia Festival
MOZART Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297 (Paris)
MOZART Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
Judith Raskin, soprano
BARBER Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24
Judith Raskin, soprano
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17

January 13, 14, and 15, 1966, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano

February 19, 20, 21, and 22, 1975
February 24, 1975, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
BERLIOZ Overture to Beatrice and Benedict
BARTÓK Concerto for Violin No. 2
Kyung-Wha Chung, violin
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 54

February 27, 28, and March 2, 1975
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No. 5 in D Major
RACHMANINOV Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27

July 22, 1976, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (Classical)
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 26
Gary Graffman, piano
PROKOFIEV Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64

July 24, 1976, Ravinia Festival
BERLIOZ Le Corsaire Overture, Op. 21
RAVEL Mother Goose Suite
WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Scottish National Orchestra Chorus
John Currie, director

January 20, 21, and 22, 1977, Orchestra Hall
MESSIAEN Turangalîla-Symphonie
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
Jeanne Loriod, ondès martenot

January 24, 1977, Orchestra Hall
MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219
Mayumi Fujikawa, violin
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47
Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony was recorded in Medinah Temple on January 25, 1977. For EMI Records, Christopher Bishop was the producer, Christopher Parker was the balance engineer, and Simon Gibson remastered the recording at Abbey Road Studios.

January 27 and 30, 1977, Orchestra Hall
January 31, 1977, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Mayumi Fujikawa, violin
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43
Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony was recorded in Medinah Temple on February 1, 1977. For EMI Records, Christopher Bishop was the producer, Christopher Parker was the balance engineer, and Simon Gibson remastered the recording at Abbey Road Studios.

April 19, 20, and 21, 1979, Orchestra Hall
April 23, 1979, Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
MAW Life Studies (No. VII and No. VIII)
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Horacio Gutiérrez, piano
STRAUSS An Alpine Symphony, Op. 64

April 28, 1979, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27
Concert celebrating the second inauguration of Illinois Governor James R. Thompson, rescheduled from January 13, 1979, due to inclement weather

April 26, 27, and 29, 1979, Orchestra Hall
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
Viktor Tretyakov, violin
RACHMANINOV Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27

March 11, 12, and 13, 1982, Orchestra Hall
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
WALTON Cello Concerto
Ralph Kirshbaum, cello
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93

March 18, 19, and 20, 1982
RAVEL Piano Concerto in G Major
Cristina Ortiz, piano
RAVEL Daphnis and Chloe
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Previn also appeared on the CSO Presents and Symphony Center Presents series in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

September 30, 1996
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
MOZART Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414
Leon Fleisher, piano
STRAUSS Domestic Symphony, Op. 53

April 28, 2004
BEETHOVEN Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 1, No. 3
BRAHMS Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8
MENDELSSOHN Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
Lynn Harrell, cello
Sir André Previn, piano

March 6, 2005
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
DEBUSSY Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
PREVIN Violin Concerto (Anne-Sophie)
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
STRAUSS An Alpine Symphony, Op. 64

Numerous tributes have appeared on The New York Times, BBC News, and NPR sites, among several others.

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First television concerts copy

Rafael Kubelík conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first television concert on September 25, 1951, carried over WENR-TV Chicago and fed to twenty-two stations. The thirty-minute program, performed at the Civic Theatre* for a studio audience, included Rossini’s Overture to The Silken Ladder, Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orpheus and Eurydice, Schubert’s ballet music from Rosamunde, and Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Because the initial contract specified a minimum of only twenty-five musicians, the earliest programs credited the “Chicago Symphony Chamber Orchestra” rather than the full orchestra. Sponsored by Chicago Title and Trust Company, twenty-nine programs were broadcast during the 1951–52 season.

“This series represents something new for television, particularly for Chicago TV,” wrote Larry Wolters in the Chicago Tribune. “Symphony orchestras have been telecast on a single-program basis, but this is the first time for such a venture on a weekly basis.”

Fritz Reiner and the Orchestra in the WGN-TV studios

Fritz Reiner and the Orchestra in the WGN-TV studios (Lawrence-Phillip Studios photo)

Considerable changes were initiated in 1953 at the beginning of Fritz Reiner’s tenure as music director, and WGN-TV, now the producer, extended the program to an Hour of Music. The show was syndicated over the fourteen-station DuMont network, and as many as fifty musicians were hired each week. The series continued through the spring of 1958, when Chicago Title and Trust withdrew its sponsorship.

After only a year’s absence, the Orchestra returned to WGN-TV for Great Music from Chicago, appearing in twenty-six shows during the 1959–60 season. Carson Pirie Scott, RCA Victor, and United Airlines provided sponsorship, and Deems Taylor was the first host. As many as seventy musicians were used for each program with most shows originating in WGN’s Studio 1-A in the Tribune Tower; other programs were taped at Orchestra Hall, the ballroom of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, and at the Ravinia Festival. The Orchestra’s participation lasted four seasons through the spring of 1963, after which the series continued for three more years but focused exclusively on popular artists and music.

*The 850-seat Civic Theatre, originally part of the Civic Opera Building that opened in 1929, was consolidated with the backstage areas during an extensive renovation completed in 1996.

This article also appears here.

Hindemith with viola

During the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-13 season, anonymous donors endowed in perpetuity the principal viola chair but requested some time to decide on how they wanted the chair to be named. After quite a bit of thought, the donors have decided upon “The Paul Hindemith Principal Viola Chair, endowed by an anonymous benefactor.”

On March 3 and 4, 1938, Paul Hindemith debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, appearing as composer, conductor, and viola soloist. The concert opened with associate conductor Hans Lange leading Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 followed by Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher (subtitled Concerto on Old Folk Melodies) with the composer as soloist. After intermission, Lange returned to the podium for Hindemith’s Chamber Music no. 1, followed by the composer leading the U.S. premiere of his Symphonic Dances.

Hindemith's March 1938 program biography

Hindemith’s March 1938 program biography

In the Journal of Commerce, Claudia Cassidy described Hindemith’s Chamber Music no. 1 as “brilliant, witty, and spectacularly scored. Mr. Lange conducted and the orchestra turned in a glittering job, particularly in the introduction to the finale which has that kinetic energy at a boil.” She described Der Schwandendreher as having “no compassion for the poor viola player, taking for granted that he can handle the instrument as Mr. Hindemith does, which is nothing short of amazing.”

Hindemith had conducted the first performance of the Symphonic Dances only three months earlier, on December 3, 1937, in London. Eugene Stinson in the Chicago Daily News described the work as having “more unity, and it seems to me there is more thoughtfulness, in the Symphonic Dances than in almost all the other music Hindemith’s Chicago knows. At a first hearing it struck me as one of the most impressive and most affecting contemporary scores I can recall.”

Hindemith’s complete performance history with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is as follows:

March 3 and 4, 1938

March 3 and 4, 1938

March 3 and 5, 1938, Orchestra Hall
HINDEMITH Der Schwanendreher
Paul Hindemith, viola
Hans Lange, conductor
HINDEMITH Symphonic Dances
Paul Hindemith, conductor

July 25, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major
CHERUBINI Overture to Les Abencerages
HINDEMITH Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50
Paul Hindemith, conductor

July 27, 1961, Ravinia Festival
HINDEMITH Pittsburgh Symphony
MENDELSSOHN Fingal’s Cave Overture, Op. 26
SCHUBERT Symphony in C Major, D. 944
Paul Hindemith, conductor

July 29, 1961, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Gary Graffman, piano
HINDEMITH Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 38
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120
Paul Hindemith, conductor

March 28 and 29, 1963, Orchestra Hall
April 1, 1963, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
HINDEMITH Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Paul Hindemith, conductor

April 4 and 5, 1963, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Manfred Overture, Op. 115
REGER Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven, Op. 86
WAGNER Siegfried Idyll
HINDEMITH Sinfonietta in E
Paul Hindemith, conductor

April 6, 1963, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Manfred Overture, Op. 115
REGER Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven, Op. 86
BEETHOVEN Grosse Fuge in B flat Major, Op. 133
HINDEMITH Nobilissima visione
Paul Hindemith, conductor

April 7, 1963, Orchestra Hall (television concert)
HINDEMITH Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50
BRUCKNER Allegro moderato (first movement) from Symphony No. 7 in E Major
BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Originally broadcast on WGN and currently available on a VAI DVD release.

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Charles Pikler, principal viola (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Charles Pikler, principal viola (Todd Rosenberg photo)

The principal viola chair currently is held by Charles Pikler, who joined the Orchestra as a violinist in 1978; and in 1986, Sir Georg Solti named Pikler principal viola.

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