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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is an American orchestra based in Chicago, Illinoismarker. It is one of the five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1891, the Symphony makes its home at Orchestra Hallmarker in Chicago and plays a summer season at the Ravinia Festivalmarker. The music director designate is Riccardo Muti, due to begin his tenure in 2010.


In 1891 Charles Norman Fay, a Chicago businessman, invited Theodore Thomas to establish an orchestra in Chicagomarker. Conducted by Theodore Thomas under the name "Chicago Orchestra", the orchestra played its first concert on October 16, 1891 at the Auditorium Theatremarker. 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 Hallmarker, now a component of the Symphony Centermarker 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 Rodziński, 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 opera company, La Scalamarker 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.

Ravinia Festival

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra maintains a summer home at Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinoismarker. The orchestra first performed there during Ravinia Park's second season in November 1905 and continued to appear there on and off through August 1931, after which the Park fell dark due to the Great Depression. The Orchestra helped to inaugurate the first season of the Ravinia Festivalmarker in August 1936 and has been in residence at the Festival every summer since.

Many conductors have made their debut with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia, and several have gone on to become the artistic director, or primary summertime guest conductor at Ravinia, including Seiji Ozawa (1964–1968), James Levine (1973–1993), and Christoph Eschenbach (1995–2003). As of 2005, James Conlon holds the title of Ravinia music director.

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, Frederick Stock 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. 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 orchestra 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 orchestra 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 Templemarker. 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. The Orchestra offered to match the broadcast fees of the highest-paying US orchestra, but the union refused the offer. Henry Fogel, then president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, told the Tribune, "I think the musicians' representatives believe we should find a way to fund payments at the levels they expect, and frankly we just cannot." 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-TVmarker, 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.

Civic Orchestra of Chicago

Frederick Stock founded the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the first training orchestra in the United States affiliated with a major symphony orchestra, in 1919. Its goal is to recruit pre-professional musicians and train them as high-level orchestra players. Many alumni have gone on to play for the CSO or other major orchestras.

The Civic Orchestra performs half a dozen orchestral concerts and a chamber music series annually in Symphony Center and in other venues throughout the Chicago area free of charge to the public.

Music directors, conductors

Music directors

Titled Conductors


Assistant / Associate Conductors

Honors and awards

Recordings by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have won sixty Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Bernard Haitink, principal conductor, has won two Grammy Awards, including one with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the recording of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony on the CSO Resound label.

Pierre Boulez, conductor emeritus and former principal guest conductor, has won twenty-six Grammy Awards including eight with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Boulez is tied with Alison Krauss as the third all-time Grammy winner, behind Sir Georg Solti (thirty-one) and Quincy Jones (twenty-seven).

The late Sir Georg Solti, former music director and music director laureate, won thirty-one Grammy Awards—more than any other recording artist. He received seven awards in addition to his twenty-four awards with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. In addition, Sir Georg Solti and producer John Culshaw received the first NARAS Trustees’ Award in 1967 for their "efforts, ingenuity, and artistic contributions" in connection with the first complete recording of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen with the Vienna Philharmonic. Sir Georg Solti also received the Academy's 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The late Margaret Hillis, founder and longtime director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, won nine Grammy Awards for her collaborations with the Orchestra and Chorus.

Rated as the top orchestra in the United States and the fifth best orchestra in the world by the British classical music magazine Gramophone in November, 2008.

Grammy Award for Best Classical Album

Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance

Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra

Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance

Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording

Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition

Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Classical


External links

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