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

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 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

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Charles Dutoit Conducts Stravinsky

Charles Dutoit conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO)

In a colossal career spanning more than 60 years, Igor Stravinsky was constantly reinventing himself with kaleidoscopic shifts in style. Along the way, the Russian composer forged key professional ties. In this program from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, we hear three works linked to the CSO. Charles Dutoit conducts the Symphony in C, which Stravinsky wrote for the orchestra’s fiftieth anniversary.

We also hear The Firebird, which Stravinsky led in his CSO conducting debut in 1925, and to begin, the incendiary FireworksAs a bonus, the program concludes with Esa-Pekka Salonen leading the CSO in a performance of Bartók’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin.

Stravinsky Fireworks, Op. 4

Stravinsky Symphony in C
Moderato alla breve
Larghetto concertante
Tempo guisto alla breve

Stravinsky The Firebird

From performances in May 2016.

Bartók Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

From performances in April 2014. Photo: Charles Dutoit conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO).

Kirill Gerstein Makes a Case for Tchaikovsky’s Earlier Thoughts

Kirill Gerstein (photo: Marco Borggreve)
Kirill Gerstein (photo: Marco Borggreve)

March 12, 2015

Kirill Gerstein came to the WQXR performance studio to show why he believes history has embraced the “wrong” version of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The Russian pianist had recently issued the world premiere recording of the concerto’s 1879 version.

As he discusses in this excerpt, the biggest difference between the 1879 and the more familiar 1894 version could be heard in the opening piano chords. Usually hammered out by hands crashing from a great height in three distinct registers, in the earlier, 1879 version, they were actually “rolled” sonorously, with an almost harp-like effect. Listen to this clip and read the full article.

While in the studio, Gerstein also gave a performance of Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 12 (Video: Kim Nowacki; Audio: Irene Trudel).

Metropolitan Opera Drops ‘Blackface’ Makeup in ‘Otello’

Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role of Verdi's 'Otello' at the Met Opera (Kristian Schuller/ Metropolitan Opera)
Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Otello.’ (Kristian Schuller/ Metropolitan Opera)

August 7, 2015

The Metropolitan Opera made news with its decision not to put darkening makeup on the face of the tenor singing the lead role in Otello, its 2015 opening-night production. Numerous newspaper articles followed. But largely absent from the discussion were the people with arguably the closest perspective on the issue: singers of color. 

In this edition of WQXR’s Conducting Business podcast, we explored the issue with two African-American opera singers and one scholar who has written about portrayals of race in opera. 


Joining host Naomi Lewin are:

• Lawrence Brownlee, who is one of today’s most in-demand tenors, and who frequently appears at the Met.

Naomi André, co-editor of the book Blackness in Opera and a professor at the University of Michigan.

Vinson Cole, a tenor who has sung with many of the world’s leading opera companies and orchestras over three decades.

Brooklyn Philharmonic, Innovative But Sounding a Troubled Tune

The Brooklyn Philharmonic performs "You're Causing Quite a Disturbance" in June 2013.
The Brooklyn Philharmonic performs “You’re Causing Quite a Disturbance” in June 2013 (courtesy of orchestra).

October 18, 2013

New York City Opera made international headlines in 2013 after it filed for bankruptcy. But another longstanding New York arts organization faced similar troubles, and with much less fanfare. Even some of its longtime partners were surprised, as I found in reporting this piece for WNYC and WQXR.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity in American Orchestras

The Sphinx Virtuosi at Carnegie Hall in 2011
The Sphinx Virtuosi at Carnegie Hall in 2011 (credit: Nan Melville)

February 6, 2015

This edition of WQXR’s Conducting Business podcast explores the complex question of how to build ethnic and racial diversity in American orchestras. Industry data has shown that African-Americans and Latinos account for just about four percent of all U.S. orchestra musicians and only one percent of orchestra board members and CEOs. The discussion explores the roots of this disparity, touching on blind auditions, building a diverse audition pool and board leadership. Also discussed are areas where signs of change can be found.

Joining host Naomi Lewin are three guests:

  • Aaron Dworkin, the founder and former president of the Sphinx Organization
  • Weston Sprott, a trombonist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
  • Melissa White, a violinist who performs in the Harlem Quartet.

Listen to the full segment in the above audio player.