Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part 3

Michael Mulcahy leads his fellow section members in the annual holiday concert by the CSO Brass. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

Back in 1991, the Chicago Bulls had clinched their first of six NBA Championships, a Daley was returning to the mayor’s office, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was ushering in the Daniel Barenboim era. The successor to Sir Georg Solti arrived at an orchestra with the most celebrated brass section in the world, and one whose character he would help shape over the next 15 years as Music Director. 

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Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part I

The Chicago Symphony Brass

Every devotee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass section can point to a goosebump-worthy moment in a past performance or recording. Maybe it’s the ping of Principal Trumpet Adolph “Bud” Herseth’s solos in Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, recorded in 1954. Or the riotous blaze of horns that conclude Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, from 1971. Or the low brass delivering the stentorian opening theme of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, released in 2017 (on CSO Resound).

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When Your Recording Has An Unintended Noise

Glenn Gould recording Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations in 1955 (Fred Plaut, Sony Music Entertainment)

In the recording business they’re known as sonic artifacts. They’re the non-musical noises that periodically turn up on recordings – and sometimes add to their historical significance. In the May 2021 issue of BBC Music Magazine, I highlight 15 notable examples, from the sounds of war to subway rumbles to coughs, barking dogs, traffic noise, and singing conductors.

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Before Arena Rock, There was Lewisohn Stadium

Lewisohn Stadium in 1915

Outdoor concerts are a perennial summer pastime for New York City residents, and perhaps none is more beloved than the New York Philharmonic’s traveling summer series to the parks throughout the boroughs. Before the series began in 1965 (and which for a time included visits to Long Island and elsewhere), the Philharmonic held a longstanding residency at Lewisohn Stadium, a Greek-style amphitheater and athletic facility owned by the City University of New York. I looked into its remarkable history in the February 2021 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

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The Crown, Season 4 Puts Opera in the Spotlight

Scene from "The Crown" (Netflix)

When characters in “The Crown” attend the opera, one can usually expect some pointed commentary on the fictionalized British royal family. The genre serves a plot device twice during the fourth season of the Netflix series, as Prince Charles and Diana visit the Royal Opera House at various stages in their troubled relationship (I’ve previously looked at the uses of classical music in seasons one, two and three of “The Crown”).

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The Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Composer and Swordsman

Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges

As concert presenters overhaul their programming amidst the pandemic, several are taking up the works of Joseph Bologne, better known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Bologne’s largely unsung chamber music, symphonic and even operatic repertoire is turning up in advance of a planned Hollywood biopic, and mirrors a larger racial reckoning across the United States.

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Long-Distance, Online Performances Without the Latency?

Concordia Quartet low latency

The question has perplexed a lot musicians since the start of social distancing and quarantines: Is it possible to hold an online performance when performers are spread out in remote locations? The presence of latency, or lag, in the video connections makes such collaboration especially difficult. And most video-conferencing platforms (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime) allow only one person to speak or sing at a time.

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Celebrating Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day

Stroh Violin

July 31st was Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day. Yep, that’s a holiday. It’s a moment to reflect on the world’s rare, odd and truly extraordinary instruments. In a video that I produced for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I look at 10 curious inventions that you may hear at its concerts one time or another. They range from the Stroh violin (pictured) to the heckelphone. Watch:

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How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Shaped Classical Music

A hospital orchestra during the 1918 flu epidemic, West Baden, Indiana (Photo: National Archives)

In the June 2020 issue of BBC Music Magazine I look at various ways in which composers were impacted by the flu epidemic of 1918-20. The virus, which wreaked havoc for nearly three years and left at least 50 million people dead including about 675,000 in the U.S., impacted music in ways both significant and modest. There were several escapist ragtime songs about “the grip,” and at least one chamber music piece: Darius Milhaud’s Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Piano, which ends with a dirge for the victims of the epidemic. 

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