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. 

Continue reading “Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part 3”

Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part 2

Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Mahler 5 recording from 1970 showcases the brilliance of the brass (London).

Jay Friedman knew early on what kind of sound Georg Solti was after when the Hungarian maestro became the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director in the fall of 1969.  “When he first came — and this is regarding the brass section — you couldn’t play loud enough for him,” the orchestra’s principal trombone recalls. “It didn’t matter what it was. Even Schubert’s Ninth Symphony could not be played loud enough. He’d always say, ‘Give me more! Give me more!’”

Continue reading “Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part 2”

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).

Continue reading “Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part I”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Muti & Uchida

Mitsuko Uchida (c) Geoffroy Schied

On this CSO broadcast, Riccardo Muti leads Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 featuring soloist Mitsuko Uchida. The broadcast continues with a 1996 recording of Varèse’s Déserts conducted by Pierre Boulez. Rounding out the program, Riccardo Muti conducts Stravinsky’s Divertimento, Suite from The Fairy’s Kiss and Suite from The Firebird.

Listen here for free:

Mozart Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
Riccardo Muti conductor
Mitsuko Uchida piano
May 2019

Varèse Déserts
Pierre Boulez conductor
1996 DGG

Stravinsky Divertimento, Suite from The Fairy’s Kiss
Stravinsky Suite from The Firebird (1919 Revision)
Riccardo Muti conductor
May 2019

Listen to individual portions and discover more at This program will be available until December 13, 2021.

Photo: Mitsuko Uchida (c) Geoffroy Schied

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Kirill Karabits and Sunwook Kim

Kirill Karabits acknowledges Sunwook Kim | © Anne Ryan 2019

On this Chicago Symphony Orchestra broadcast, Kirill Karabits leads Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Capriccio brillant for Piano and Orchestra, both featuring pianist Sunwook Kim.  The program also includes Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, and concludes with a 1978 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony led by CSO principal guest conductor Carlo Maria Giulini.

Listen to the Show Here:

Prokofiev Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34b
Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25
Mendelssohn Capriccio brillant in B Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 22
Beethoven Adagio cantabile (second movement) from Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique)
Sunwook Kim, piano
Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra
Kirill Karabits, conductor
Originally recorded at concerts in October 2019

Schubert Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 758 (Unfinished)
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
DGG 1978

More About the Program

The program opens with Sergei Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes a work that comes from the busy year of 1919, when the Russian composer was living in New York City, giving recitals and struggling to complete his opera The Love for Three Oranges for the Chicago Opera. 

That fall, Prokofiev bumped into some classmates from the St. Petersburg Conservatory. They had formed a chamber group called the Zimro Ensemble, comprised of a clarinet, strings and piano, and named for the Hebrew word for “singing.” They were in New York to raise money for a new conservatory in Jerusalem.

The musicians handed Prokofiev a notebook of traditional Jewish themes and asked if he’d write them a piece. He initially declined their request but kept the notebook as a gesture. Then, one evening, Prokofiev sat down at the piano, opened the book and began improvising accompaniments to the melodies. He was so enthralled by music that within two days he’d sketched out the Overture on Hebrew Themes. The Zimro Ensemble introduced it at a New York recital in January 1920.

The program also features Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, a work that stemmed from a trip to Italy in 1830, and which seems to have been inspired by a young woman he met along the way named Delphine von Schauroth. This performance features Sunwook Kim, a 2006 winner of the Leeds Piano Competition.

And not to be missed is Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra. This remains one of his most popular works, and highlights his strengths as an orchestrator and a champion of Polish identity.

Listen to the full show above. This program will be available until April 19, 2023.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Marin Alsop & Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn with Marin Alsop and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra © Todd Rosenberg Photography

On this Chicago Symphony Orchestra broadcast, violinist Hilary Hahn joins conductor Marin Alsop to perform Sibelius’s spirited and rhapsodic Violin Concerto.

Alsop also conducts Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, a large, brooding and ultimately triumphant score. Plus: a look at how Brahms used German drinking songs in his Academic Festival Overture.  Listen here:

Brahms Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Hilary Hahn, violin
Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27

Marin Alsop, conductor
Originally recorded at concerts in May 2019

More about the Program

Jean Sibelius was 14 when he took up the violin. He wrote in his diary that, for the next decade, it was his “overriding ambition to become a great virtuoso.” But Sibelius never developed much skill on the instrument, hampered by a late start and by a lack of high-caliber teachers in Finland. Some listeners hear his Violin Concerto as a kind of wistful farewell to that childhood dream. Hahn says that she’s been performing this work for some 25 years. She hears an inner struggle below the work’s soaring and brilliant surfaces.

“I wonder sometimes, because Sibelius had such a connection with the violin — he played it, he wanted to be a professional, and wound up composing instead,” Hahn says. “He didn’t write that many pieces that featured the violin besides this concerto. There’s a feeling I have that he is struggling against the instrument but in a way that only someone who knows the instrument very well can tow that line.”

Listen to the full show above. This program will be available until August 25, 2021.

Program notes for Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, and Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 are here.

TOP: Hilary Hahn and Marin Alsop with the CSO in the Sibelius Violin Concerto. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography

Chicago Symphony: Riccardo Muti Conducts Rossini and Cherubini

Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus © Todd Rosenberg 2017

On this Chicago Symphony Orchestra broadcast, Riccardo Muti leads the CSO and Chorus in the Rossini Stabat mater, one of the composer’s most stirring and evocative scores. The program also includes Mozart’s Kyrie in D Minor and Cherubini’s Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn.

More about this program:

Mozart: Kyrie in D minor is a seven-minute shot of intense, somber emotions, written for chorus and orchestra. And we have no idea how it came to be. The composer never mentioned it in his letters. There were evidently no reviews of the piece, and it’s nowhere to be found in a catalog of works that Mozart kept. The score was published after his death but the manuscript has long been missing. Listen above to learn more about its genesis.

Cherubini: Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn
In 1805, Luigi Cherubini received a commission to write a funeral cantata for Joseph Haydn. Cherubini was a big fan of Haydn: The two composers were fellow freemasons, and they’d met earlier that year when the Frenchman presented his colleague with an honorary diploma from the Paris Conservatory. So Cherubini got to work, setting verses from a French poem about the death of a swan on the banks of the Danube. He called his cantata Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn — dirge on the death of Joseph Haydn. But there was one problem: Haydn wasn’t dead yet.

Rossini: Stabat Mater
After composing 39 operas, many phenomenally successful, Gioachino Rossini surprised the music world by announcing his retirement. He was just 37. But just as he was settling into a comfortable life as a foodie and bon vivant, he accepted a new commission. During a trip to Madrid, a Spanish cleric asked him to compose a setting of the Stabat Mater, the 13th century Latin poem about the Virgin Mary grieving at the cross of Jesus.

Mozart Kyrie in D Minor, K. 341
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

Cherubini Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn
Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano
Dmitry Korchak, tenor
Enea Scala, tenor
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

Rossini Stabat mater
Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano
Ekaterina Gubanova, mezzo-soprano
Dmitry Korchak, tenor
Eric Owens, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

Riccardo Muti, conductor
Originally recorded at concerts in  June 2018

Rossini Overture to William Tell
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Originally recorded at concerts in September 2017

This program will be available until March 10, 2020. Discover other CSO Radio Broadcasts.

Photo: Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus  | © Todd Rosenberg 2017

Chicago Symphony: John Storgårds Conducts Sibelius and Mendelssohn

Gil Shaham, violinist - ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

Few composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries could evoke loneliness and solitude like Jean Sibelius. But his First Symphony contains far more: undercurrents of Finnish nationalism, hints of folk dances, and a stirring, Tchaikovskian passion. Finnish conductor John Storgårds makes his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in this concert leading his fellow countryman’s youthful and imaginative First. Continue reading “Chicago Symphony: John Storgårds Conducts Sibelius and Mendelssohn”

Chicago Symphony: Gaffigan conducts Bernstein, Barber and Rachmaninov

James Gaffigan, conductor

Guest conductor James Gaffigan leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront, Leonard Bernstein’s only film score. The program continues with James Ehnes as soloist in Barber’s Violin Concerto (plus an encore from Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C Major) along with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 led by the CSO’s ninth music director, Sir Georg Solti, closes the broadcast.

BERNSTEIN Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront
BARBER Violin Concerto, Op. 14
ENCORE: BACH Allegro assai from Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005
James Ehnes, violin
RACHMANINOV Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
James Gaffigan, conductor
Originally recorded at concerts in October 2017

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 43
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Originally recorded at concerts in November 1974

More about the On The Waterfront Suite: 

As the Leonard Bernstein centennial inspires tribute concerts around the globe, it’s reported that he’ll be the subject of two upcoming Hollywood biopics. But this won’t be Hollywood’s first encounter with the late composer and conductor. In 1954, Bernstein wrote the score for Elia Kazan’s crime drama, On the Waterfront. Filmed on the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, the gritty tale starred Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, a troubled longshoreman who battles a corrupt union boss.

On the Waterfront was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won eight, including Best Picture. Bernstein’s score was nominated for an Oscar, and though it didn’t win, it’s been widely admired: The American Film Institute ranks it number 22 on a list of top American film scores.

The suite opens with a stark French horn solo, and builds to a rumbling fight sequence, followed by a tender love theme. Throughout, it underscores Kazan’s themes of corruption and heroism.

More about the CSO Radio Broadcasts

This program, which will be available until July 15, 2021, is part of the CSO’s weekly radio broadcasts, recorded live at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. Distributed by WFMT, they reach more than 250,000 listeners every week.

Photo: Gaffigan conducts the CSO.  ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Susanna Mälkki and Branford Marsalis

Susanna Mälkki (Photo: Simon Fowler)

On this Chicago Symphony Orchestra broadcast, Susanna Mälkki and Branford Marsalis team up for a program with jazz and Spanish inspiration. The program also features the world premiere of the CSO commissioned work, Proceed, Moon, composed by Melinda Wagner. Concluding the program is one of Claude Debussy’s most popular works, Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, conducted by Cristian Măcelaru. Listen to the full show:

Bizet Symphony in C Major

Fauré Pavane, Op. 50
Branford Marsalis, soprano saxophone

Williams Escapades from Catch Me If You Can
Branford Marsalis, alto saxophone
Robert Kassinger, bass
Cynthia Yeh, vibraphone

M. Wagner Proceed, Moon

Debussy Ibéria from Images for Orchestra

From performances in June 2017.

Debussy Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor

Susanna Mälkki, conductor
Branford Marsalis, saxophones
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor

Photo of Susanna Mälkki: Simon Fowler