Stoki's Chicago debut - just 53 years into his professional career!
First release of two packed CDs-worth of quintissential Stokowski
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
conductor Leopold Stokowski
Review of this release: Audiophile Audition
Notes on the recordings:
Leopold Stokowski had for several decades been one of the world's most well-known and respected conductors when, on 2nd January 1958, he stepped onto the podium at Chicago's Orchestra Hall to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the first time as its guest conductor. Between 1958 and 1968 he was to appear with the orchestra in six seasons of concerts; this release brings out for the first time what has been preserved from his debut concerts at the beginning of 1958.
The recordings presented here are not, it would appear, actual live broadcasts from Chicago, but were taken from rebroadcasts shortly later from a New York radio station - despite the announcer's assertions that they are live in Orchestra Hall, these were probably voice-overs from the New York radio studio. The rebroadcasts omitted music by Wagner which had formed the bulk of the second part of the first concert, following the Toccata of the little-known Polish composer, Boleslaw Szabelski.
The first half of that opening concert (which was repeated on 3rd January) consisted of traditional fare - Stokowski's orchestrations of Bach's Chorale Preludes and the Brahms symphony. The second programme, again repeated over two concerts, was an all-Russian affair, beginning with the Shostakovich and Glière and continuing after the interval with the Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky suites.
As usual, the orchestra and audience got full value for money from Stokowski. In addition to his own orchestrations of the Bach, he was also responsible for the orchestration of Shostakovich's Prelude in E flat minor very shortly after its composition. The composer himself later orchestrated the piece for a 1944 film entitled Zoya, a name which has stuck to a degree to the prelude - however it is, of course, the conductor's orchestration we hear in this concert.
The selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet are somewhat skirted over by the announcer, as in fact they derive not from a single suite but from both the first and second suites. Meanwhile Stokowski has again gone his own way with his Swan Lake Suite, which does not correspond to the published suite. Indeed it took a certain amount of musical detective work to identify precisely which parts of Tchaikovsky's music had been used for some of the sections presented here.
Finally, it has been suggested that without Stokowski's efforts, Glière's mighty 3rd Symphony may well have been entirely forgotten. The full work runs to a sprawling 75 minutes or longer - by skilful editing, Stokowski reduced it to something more manageable and digestible and was thus able to programme it on several occasions and thus keep it alive.
Technically the sound quality of the recordings here is generally quite good to excellent, although there are some uneven areas. I have had to play with the running orders in order to fit all of the surviving material onto two discs, and have corrected an error by the announcer, who mistakenly introduced Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet as Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake - he himself had corrected this in the back-announcement to the piece.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
historic notes from Wikipedia
In 1891 Charles Norman Fay, a Chicago businessman, invited Theodore Thomas to establish an orchestra in Chicago. Conducted by Theodore Thomas under the name "Chicago Orchestra", the Orchestra played its first concert on October 16, 1891 at the Auditorium Theatre. It is one of the oldest orchestras in the United States, along with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Orchestra Hall, now a component of the Symphony Center complex, was designed by Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham and completed in 1904. Maestro Thomas served as music director for thirteen years until his death shortly after the orchestra's newly built residence was dedicated on December 14, 1904. The orchestra was renamed "Theodore Thomas Orchestra" in 1905 and today, Orchestra Hall still has "Theodore Thomas Orchestra Hall" inscribed in its façade.
In 1905, Frederick Stock became music director, a post he held until his death in 1942. The Orchestra was renamed "Chicago Symphony Orchestra" in 1913.
Other music directors have included Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim.
Maestro Barenboim resigned from his post in 2006 in order to focus on his career in Europe with the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra and the Staatsoper Unter den Linden opera company, La Scala in Milan, and also with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he co-founded. Barenboim's final concerts leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took place on June 15–17 2006. On 27 April 2006, the orchestra named Bernard Haitink to the role of principal conductor and Pierre Boulez to the role of conductor emeritus "while [the] music director search continues." These appointments began in the 2006–2007 season.
On May 5, 2008, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association President Deborah Rutter announced that the orchestra had named Riccardo Muti as its 10th music director, starting with the 2010–2011 season, for an initial contract of 5 years.
The Orchestra has also had many distinguished guest conductors, including Richard Strauss, John Williams, Arnold Schoenberg, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninov, Maurice Ravel, Edward Elgar, Aaron Copland, Leonard Slatkin, André Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, Morton Gould, Erich Leinsdorf, Walter Hendl, Eugene Ormandy, George Szell and Charles Münch. Many of these guests have also recorded with the orchestra.
The three principal guest conductors of the Orchestra have been Carlo Maria Giulini, Claudio Abbado, and Pierre Boulez.
Music performed by the Orchestra has been heard in movies, including Casino conducted by Sir Georg Solti and Fantasia 2000 conducted by James Levine.
The Chicago Symphony holds an annual fundraiser, originally known as the Chicago Symphony Marathon, more recently as "Radiothon", and now "Symphonython", in conjunction with Chicago radio station WFMT. As part of the event, the Orchestra has, since 1986, released tracks from their broadcast archives on double LP/CD collections.
Recordings and broadcasts
The Chicago Symphony has amassed a discography numbering more than 900. Recordings by the Orchestra have earned sixty Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. These include several Classical Album of the Year awards, awards in Best Classical Performance in vocal soloist, choral, instrumental, engineering and orchestral categories.
On May 1, 1916, while on a trip to New York, Frederick Stock and the Orchestra recorded the Wedding March from Felix Mendelssohn's music to A Midsummer Night's Dream for what was then known as the Columbia Graphophone Company. These were the first classical recordings by any American orchestra under its music director. Stock and the Orchestra made numerous recordings for Columbia Records and the Victor Talking Machine Company, renamed RCA Victor in 1929. The Orchestra's first non-acoustic electrical recordings were made for Victor in 1925, including a performance of Karl Goldmark's In Springtime overture. These early electrical recordings were made in Victor's Chicago studios; within a couple of years Victor began recording the CSO in Orchestra Hall. Stock continued recording until 1942, the year he died.
In 1951, Rafael Kubelík made the first modern high fidelity recordings with the Orchestra, in Orchestra Hall, for Mercury. Like the very first electrical recordings, these performances were made with a single microphone. Philips has reissued these performances on compact disc with the original Mercury label and liner notes.
In March 1954, Fritz Reiner made the first stereophonic recordings with the Orchestra, again in Orchestra Hall, for RCA Victor, including a performance of Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra. Reiner and the Orchestra continued to record for RCA through 1962. These were mostly recorded in RCA's triple-channel "Living Stereo" process. RCA has digitally remastered the recordings and released them on CD and SACD. Jean Martinon also recorded with the CSO for RCA Victor during the 1960s, producing performances that have been reissued on CD.
Sir Georg Solti recorded primarily for Decca in recordings that were issued in the U.S. on the London label, including a highly acclaimed Mahler series, recorded in the historic Medinah Temple. Many of the recordings with Daniel Barenboim have been released on Teldec.
The Chicago Symphony first broadcast on the radio in 1925. There have been broadcasts ever since, except for a few years during World War II and a hiatus between October 2002 and April 2007. (The reason for the latter break was a dispute between the musicians' union and CSO management over extra pay for musicians for radio broadcasts.) With the resolution of the dispute, the Chicago Symphony radio syndication resumed with a 52-week series. The broadcasts are sponsored by BP and air on 98.7 WFMT in Chicago and the WFMT Radio Network. They consist of 39 weeks of recordings of live concerts, as well as highlights from the CSO's vast discography.
The CSO has also appeared on a series of telecasts on WGN-TV, beginning in 1953. The early 1960s saw the videotaped telecast series Music from Chicago, conducted by Fritz Reiner and guest conductors including Arthur Fiedler, George Szell, Pierre Monteux, and Charles Münch. Many of these televised concerts, from 1953 to 1963, have since been released to DVD by VAI Distribution.
Georg Solti also conducted a series of concerts with the Chicago Symphony that were broadcast in the 1970s on PBS.
In 2007, the Chicago Symphony formed its own recording label, CSO Resound. After an agreement was reached with the Orchestra's musicians, arrangements were made for new recordings to be released digitally at online outlets and on compact disc. The first CSO Resound CD, recording Bernard Haitink's rendition of Mahler's Third Symphony, was released in the spring of 2007. The following releases were Bruckner's Seventh symphony conducted by Haitink, Shostakovich's Fifth by Chung, Mahler's Sixth and Shostakovich's Fourth by Haitink.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Symphony_Orchestra
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