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 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!’”

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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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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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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.

Louis Langrée on Beethoven’s Mega-Concert


Concerts were longer in the time of Beethoven, as were attention spans. But even by those standards, the storied program he organized for Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on Dec. 22, 1808 was over the top. Called the Akademie, it ran from 6:30 to 10:30 pm in two parts and included the premieres of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, Fourth Piano Concerto, Choral Fantasia in C minor, and other works by Beethoven.  

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Philip Glass Finds Orchestral Converts

Philip Glass (photo: Flickr/letterchen)

The New York Philharmonic recently opened its fall season with the King Lear Overture, its first commissioned score by Philip Glass. Music director Jaap van Zweden was a driving force behind the premiere. “I felt strongly that this was a symphonic composer that needed more attention from our orchestra,” the Dutch conductor told me in an e-mail before the performances.

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Bernard Haitink Retires, Leaving a Massive Mahler Legacy

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

AMSTERDAM – During a fascinating backstage tour of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam last month, a knowledgeable and droll tour guide paused before a wall of photos of past music directors. He proceeded to weave a series of colorful stories about the heroic and hapless maestros who have led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the drama that sometimes followed in their wake. But drama seemed in short supply for one: Bernard Haitink.

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Florence Price: A New Chapter For An Undervalued Composer

Florence Price

Advocates of American classical music have often complained that there is a whole generation of mid-20th century symphonic composers whose work has been unjustly neglected. It includes figures like Roy Harris, Charles Ives, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and William Schuman, to name a few who were active from roughly 1930 to 1960 and who now rarely turn up on orchestra subscription programs.

Such a list could also include the name Florence Price. Continue reading “Florence Price: A New Chapter For An Undervalued Composer”

Leonard Slatkin on His Final Bow at the Detroit Symphony

On May 25, I attended the first of three final programs that Leonard Slatkin had programmed for his 10th and final season as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But Slatkin wasn’t there. The 73-year-old conductor was forced to withdraw from the concerts in order to undergo a heart-bypass operation (he’s reportedly recovering well). Continue reading “Leonard Slatkin on His Final Bow at the Detroit Symphony”