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Since its first performance over 100 years ago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has become one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world. Boasting 110 of the finest musicians (including a world renowned low brass section) and 200 performances a year, the CSO currently resides in the newly renovated Symphony Center (formerly Orchestra Hall) on Michigan Avenue along Chicago’s lake shore.

The CSO was the brainchild of Chicago businessman Norman Fay who, in early 1891, approached conductor Theodore Thomas and asked him to establish a permanent orchestra in Chicago. Considered the best conductor in America at the time, Thomas first performed with his new orchestra on October 16, 1891, and cemented its reputation as a symphony of the highest standard. It was not long before the ensemble began performing some of the most important works of the era. On October 22, 1892, the CSO had the honor of performing the American premier of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Then, in 1904, Richard Strauss led the orchestra for a landmark performance of his compositions Also Sprach Zarathustra and Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks. Thomas remained as musical director until his death in 1905, three weeks before the orchestra officially moved into Orchestra Hall. His final performance with the orchestra was of his own arrangement of Wagner’s Träume.

Thomas’ successor was Frederick Stock. Beginning his career in the viola section, Stock became Thomas’ assistant conductor in 1889. When Thomas passed away, the Trustees unanimously elected Stock as the new musical director. Stock’s tenure lasted thirty-seven years, the most of any of the CSO’s directors. Performance highlights of the Stock era include Edward Elgar’s conducting his own Enigma Variations, In the South Overture, and Pomp and Circumstance. In 1909 Sergei Rachmaninov made his CSO debut performing his Second Piano Concerto. Stock’s tenure also saw historic performances by such legendary musicians and conductors as Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Vladimir Horowitz, and Isaac Stern as well as the premiere of Gustav Holst’s The Planets for American audiences. Maestro Stock also founded the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the first training orchestra ever affiliated with a major symphony. In 1916, the orchestra made its first recording, the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and becomes the first American orchestra to record under its regular conductor. Stock’s achievements also include the creation of the first subscription concerts, the first youth auditions, and the first series of Popular Concerts. He lead the orchestra until his death in 1942.

Over the next decade, three distinguished conductors led the orchestra. Désiré Defauw conducted the group from 1943-1947, presiding over Leonard Bernstein’s debut. Artur Rodzinski took over for the 1947 – 1949 seasons, and Rafael Kubelík was named head conductor until 1953 during which time the orchestra made its first television performace on Chicago’s WENR.

For the next 16 years, the orchestra was placed in the hands of Fritz Reiner. In 1957, Maestro Reiner invited Margaret Hillis to form the Chicago Symphony Chorus. It was during Reiner’s reign that the orchestra’s hallmark performances were recorded. Nineteen-sixty saw the Orchestra win its first of fifty-eight Grammy Awards with its recording of Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. Other landmark recordings included Strauss's Ein Heldenleben, and Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. After Reiner’s poor health forced him to reduce his workload, he established a tradition of “permanent” guest conductors. He stepped down as musical director in 1962, instead taking on the title of musical advisor. His conducting was limited to sparse guest appearances in Chicago and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Reiner passed away in 1963 after contracting pneumonia in New York. He had just begun rehearsals for the Met’s production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.

Jean Martinon took over as musical director when Reiner fell ill. His reign saw the CSO debut of legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman performing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major. Martinon was raised in France and even spent two years in a German POW camp during World War II. As a result, Martinon’s music selection shifted the orchestra’s focus away from the Germanic and more towards the French style.

For the 1969 season, another soon to be legend took over. Sir Georg Solti’s 22 years are highlighted by the extension of the orchestra’s reputation beyond North America. He led the orchestra on its first international tour in 1971 and later brought the orchestra to Japan, Australia, and Russia. In 1973, Time magazine named the CSO “Best American Orchestra.” He followed Reiner’s initial recording efforts with over 250 recordings, more than a hundred with the CSO, and won a record thirty-one Grammy’s. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972, received the Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany, received the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society, Great Britain's highest musical honor, in 1989, and had the street in front of Symphony Center posthumously named after him in 1997. For his final performance as musical director, Solti conducted a stellar cast performing Verdi's Otello with Kiri Te Kanawa, Luciano Pavarotti, and Leo Nucci as principal soloists. After his retirement in 1991, Solti was named Music Director Laureate and continued to guest conduct several weeks each year until his death in 1997.

The ninth and current musical director of the CSO is Daniel Barenboim, who has not only conducted the orchestra but has displayed his piano virtuosity on a number of occasions. His first performance with the ensemble occurred in 1958. Only 15 years old at the time, the piano prodigy performed compositions by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Ben-Haim. He has also received critical acclaim for his conducting of the three Mozart/Da Ponte operas. He has led the orchestra on twelve international tours including its first to South America. His most well received CSO recordings include renditions of Tchaikovsky's symphonies nos. 4, 5, and 6, and Mahler's Symphony No. 5.

Today, the Chicago Symphony continues to live up to its reputation as one of the most popular and respected ensembles in the world. Their performances are broadcast on over 200 radio stations in the United States. Hundreds of telecasts have been made, including weekly series that were scheduled off and on between 1951 and 1963. Of those performaces, nearly 80 still exist making it the largest symphony based archive in the country. Many of the orchestras performances and recordings are now available on videocassette and compact disc.

The Musical Diretors

Theodore Thomas 1891-1905
Frederick Stock1905-1942
Désiré Defauw 1943-1947
Artur Rodzinski 1947-1948
Rafael Kubelík 1950-1953
Fritz Reiner 1953-1962 Musical Advisor 1962-1963
Jean Martinon 1963-1968
Sir Georg Solti 1969-1991 Music Director Laureate 1991-1997
Daniel Barenboim 1991-present

The Grammy Award Winners

Best Classical Orchestra Performance

2001
Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Boulez Conducts Varèse (Amériques; Arcana; Déserts; Ionisation)

1998
Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler Symphony No. 9

1994
Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra: 4 Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12

1993
Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Bartok: The Wooden Prince

1991
Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Corigliano: Symphony No. 1

1990
Leonard Bernstein conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Shostakovich: Symphonies No. 1, Op. 10 and No. 7, Op. 60

1987
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor ("Choral")

1986
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Liszt: A Faust Symphony

1983
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D Major

1982
James Levin conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 7 in E Minor

1981
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor

1980
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 in A Major

1979
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Brahms: Symphonies (4) (Complete)

1977
Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D Major

1976
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra

1974
Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

1972
Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 7 in E Minor

1971
Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Chicago Symphony
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major

1960
Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

Best Classical Album

1994
Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra: 4 Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12

1993
Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Margaret Hillis: Choral Director For: Bartok: The Wooden Prince and Cantata Profana

1983
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D Major

1981
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor

1979
Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Orchestra
For: Brahms: Symphonies (4) (Complete)

1978
Carlo Maria Giulini, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Izhak Perlman: violin soloist
For: Brahms: Concerto for violin in D

1975
Gerog Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Beethoven: Symphonies (9) complete

1974
Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique

1972
Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E-flat (Symphony of a Thousand)

1966
Morton Gould conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Ives: Symphony No. 1 in D Minor

Best Opera Performance

1998
Pierre Boulez, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Jessye Norman, Laszlo Polgar soloists
For: Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle

1997
Georg Solti, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Wagner: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg

1985
Georg Solti, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Franz Mazura, Phil Langridge soloists
For: Schoenberg: Moses Und Aron

Best Choral Performance – other than Opera

1983
Georg Solti, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Margaret Hillis, choral director
For: Haydn: The Creation

1982
Georg Solti, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Margaret Hillis, choral director
For: Berlioz: La Damnation De Faust

1979
Georg Solti, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Margaret Hillis, choral director
For: Brahms: A German Requiem

1978
Georg Solti, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Margaret Hillis, choral director
For: Beethoven: Miss Solemnis

1977
Georg Solti, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Margaret Hillis, choral director
For: Verdi: Requiem

1972
Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
For: Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E-flat (Symphony of a Thousand)

Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (with Orchestra)

2001
Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Alex Klein, oboe, Dale Clevenger, horn, Daniel Barenboim, piano, David McGill, bassoon & Larry Combs, clarinet
For: Strauss Wind Concertos (Horn Concerto; Oboe Concerto, Etc.)

The Premiers

October 22,1892
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

February 8, 1895
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Cecile Chaminade's Concertstuck.

November 15, 1895
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks.

February 5, 1897
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra.

January 6, 1899
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Richard Strauss's Don Quixote.

March 9, 1900
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben.

November 16, 1900
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Camille Saint-Saëns's Symphony No. 2.

January 3, 1902
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations.

October 31, 1913
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra.

April 24, 1917
The Orchestra presents the Chicago premiere of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8.

December 31, 1920
The Orchestra presents the American premiere of Gustav Holst's The Planets.


www.cso.org
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Chicago-Symphony-Orchestra.htm
http://www.cosmopolis.ch/english/cosmo21/chicago_symphony.htm
http://www.enescu.pcnet.ro/infos/Chicago.htm
http://www.grammy.com/
http://vaimusic.com/chicagoweb/HISTORY.shtml

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