The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. Its music director since 2010 is Riccardo Muti, one of the preeminent conductors of our day. Founded in 1891 by its first music director, Theodore Thomas, the CSO’s other illustrious music directors include Frederick Stock, Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim. From 2006 to 2010, Bernard Haitink served as principal conductor, the first in CSO history. Pierre Boulez was appointed principal guest conductor in 1995 and was named Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus in 2006. Celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma was appointed the CSO’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant in 2010. Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek were appointed the CSO’s Mead Composers-in-Residence in 2015.
The renowned musicians of the CSO command a vast repertoire that spans from Baroque to new music. They annually perform more than 150 concerts, most at Symphony Center in Chicago, and, since 1936, in the summer at the Ravinia Festival. The CSO also tours nationally and internationally. Since its first tour to Canada in 1892, the Orchestra has performed in 29 countries on five continents during 59 international tours. Whether at home or on tour, tickets to CSO concerts are always in high demand and frequently sold out.
Since 1916, recording has been significant in establishing the Orchestra’s international reputation, with recordings by the CSO earning a total of 62 Grammy awards. In 2007, the CSO launched an independent label, CSO Resound, on which it has released 16 recordings; the most recent is with Muti in September 2015: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique and Lélio. The 2010 release of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem—Muti’s first recording with the CSO—was recognized with two Grammy awards.
Listeners and fans around the world can hear the CSO in weekly airings of the CSO Radio Broadcast Series, which is syndicated on the WFMT Radio Network and online at CSO.org/Radio.
Annually, the CSO engages more than 200,000 people of diverse ages, incomes and backgrounds through the innovative programs of the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO. These include concerts for children, families and school groups; curricula and programs for teachers and community groups; and low-cost and free rehearsals and performances, including a free annual CSO concert led by Muti. The Institute also manages the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the only pre-professional training ensemble of its kind affiliated with a major American orchestra.
The parent organization for the CSO is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), which also includes the acclaimed Chicago Symphony Chorus, directed by Duain Wolfe. Under the banner of its presentation series, entitled Symphony Center Presents, the CSOA annually presents dozens of prestigious guest artists and ensembles from a variety of musical genres— classical, jazz, pop, world, and contemporary.
A nonprofit charitable organization, the CSOA is governed by a voluntary board of trustees made up of leaders from the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Jeff Alexander has been the CSOA’s President since January 2015. Thousands of patrons, volunteers, and donors—corporations, foundations, government agencies and individuals—support the CSOA each year. Bank of America is the Global Sponsor of the CSO. The CSO’s music director position is endowed in perpetuity by a generous gift from the Zell Family Foundation. The Negaunee Foundation provides generous support in perpetuity for the work of the Negaunee Music Institute.
Learn more at cso.org, or visit CSOSoundsandStories.org to read the CSO’s online digital multimedia magazine. CSO Sounds and Stories offers on-demand streaming of radio broadcasts, audio and video clips of performances and interviews, videos of concerts and Beyond the Score® productions, and articles about the music and musicians presented at Symphony Center.