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Sir Georg Solti acknowledges Witold Lutosławski following the premiere of his Third Symphony on September 29, 1983 (Terry’s photo)

To open the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninety-third season on September 29, 1983, Sir Georg Solti led the world premiere of Witold Lutosławski’s Symphony no. 3. The work had been commissioned by the Orchestra and was made possible by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. John C. Stetson.

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Detail of the opening bars of Lutosławski’s Third Symphony

The composer was in Chicago for the premiere and contributed to the program notes: “I began sketching my Third Symphony as early as in 1972. In the following years I composed the main movement, but subsequently I discarded it completely. It took several years for the idea to become mature and it was only in January 1983 that the whole score finally was ready. . . . When composing the symphony, I had constantly in mind the magnificent sound of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, whose recordings are still in my working room. It was a tremendous stimulus for my imagination. But on the other hand, the weight of responsibility when writing a work for such an extraordinary ensemble made me especially exacting towards myself. That is probably why the work on the symphony cost me such a long time.”

The symphony was recorded for radio broadcast on WFMT, and the recording was later released on Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The First 100 Years, issued during the centennial season in 1991. Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestra also recorded it live in concert in October 1992 for Erato Records.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

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To honor Sir Georg Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gave a gala concert of the highest order on October 9, 1987.

Governor James R. Thompson opened the concert with welcoming remarks, and after the intermission, Mayor Harold Washington presented Sir Georg with the City of Chicago’s Medal of Merit. The concert program was as follows:

CORIGLIANO Campane di Ravello (world premiere)
Kenneth Jean, conductor

J. STRAUSS Overture to Die Fledermaus
Plácido Domingo, conductor

MOZART Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat Major, K. 365
Sir Georg Solti, conductor and piano
Murray Perahia, piano

STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
Sir Georg Solti, conductor

Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa perform a scene from Verdi’s Otello (Jim Steere photo)

VERDI Excerpts from Act 1 of Otello
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Kurt R. Hansen, tenor
Joseph Wolverton, tenor
Richard Cohn, baritone
David Huneryager, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

The commemorative program contained letters and testimonials from numerous public officials, conductors, musicians, and industry professionals, including: Ronald Reagan, James R. Thompson, Harold Washington, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Carlo Maria Giulini, Rafael Kubelík, John Corigliano, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rudolf Serkin, Henry Fogel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christa Ludwig, Birgit Nilsson, Witold Lutosławski, Sir Charles Mackerras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Klaus Tennstedt, David Del Tredici, Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Slatkin, Werner Klemperer, José van Dam, Elliott Carter, Karel Husa, Isaac Stern, Morton Gould, Hans Werner Henze, Itzhak Perlman, Anja Silja, Erich Leinsdorf, Josef Suk, Plácido Domingo, Michael Tippett, Kiri Te Kanawa, Murray Perahia, Leontyne Price, András Schiff, Kenneth Jean, Andrzej Panufnik, Dame Janet Baker, Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Minton, Herbert Blomstedt, Mira Zakai, Margaret Hillis, Gunther Herbig, Ray Minshull, Ann Murray, Philip Langridge, Raymond Leppard, Vladimir Ashkenazy, George Rochberg, Gwynne Howell, Ardis Krainik, Michael Morgan, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Henry Mancini, and Barbara Hendricks.

Solti and Perahia as soloists in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (Jim Steere photo)

The concert was covered widely in the press, in the Chicago Tribune (here, here, and here) and Sun-Times (here and here), as well as Time, Newsweek, the Post-Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many others.

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To open the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 93rd season on September 29, 1983, Sir Georg Solti led the world premiere of Witold Lutosławski‘s Symphony no. 3. The work had been commissioned by the Orchestra and was made possible by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. John C. Stetson.

The composer was in Chicago for the premiere and contributed to the program notes:

“I began sketching my 3rd Symphony as early as in 1972. In the following years I composed the main movement, but subsequently I discarded it completely. It took several years for the idea to become mature and it was only in January 1983 that the whole score finally was ready. . . . When composing the Symphony I had constantly in mind the magnificent sound of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra whose recordings are still in my working room. It was a tremendous stimulus for my imagination. But on the other hand the weight of responsibility when writing a work for such an extraordinary ensemble made me especially exacting towards myself. That is probably why the work on the Symphony cost me such a long time.”

The symphony was recorded for radio broadcast on WFMT, and the recording was later released on Chicago Symphony Orchestra: The First 100 Years, issued during the centennial season in 1991.

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Theodore Thomas

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