CSO woodwinds Michael Henoch & Dennis Michel to retire in September

Michael Henoch, assistant principal oboe, and bassoon Dennis Michel will retire from the Chicago Symphony in September.

Todd Rosenberg Photography

Michael Henoch and Dennis Michel, two longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra woodwind section, will perform in their final CSO concert Aug. 21, the last performance of the orchestra’s 2022 summer residency at the Ravinia Festival. 

Henoch, assistant principal oboe, and bassoon Dennis Michel will officially retire in September; they will receive the CSO’s Theodore Thomas Medallion for distinguished service from Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti at a later date. Henoch, who joined the CSO in 1972 and holds the Gilchrist Foundation Chair, will retire after 50 years. Michel, who joined the CSO in 1998, will retire after 24 years.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have been a member of this great orchestra,” Henoch said. “In fact, I can think of no greater honor that any musician could experience than to have spent 50 years making music with the greatest musicians in the world. I admire their extraordinary dedication and artistry, as well as their commitment to sharing great music with our audiences in Chicago and around the world.”

“The most significant feeling that I have when reflecting on being part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is gratitude,” Michel said. “To work with such amazing musical colleagues, who have the highest standards has been incredibly rewarding and a reminder of the quality that is in the DNA of this orchestra. When you play with a group of musicians like those in the CSO, you are free to play as beautifully as possible.”

In 1971, as a guest musician, Henoch first performed with the CSO when he traveled with the ensemble on its first European tour, led by Music Director Sir Georg Solti. A year later, Solti appointed Henoch as assistant principal oboe while he was still a student at Northwestern University, where he studied with the CSO’s Principal Oboe Ray Still. Originally from Clinton, Iowa, Henoch earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Northwestern University, both with highest honors. While a student, Henoch was a member of the Lyric Opera Orchestra for three years.

At his retirement, Henoch will be longest-serving musician appointed by Solti and the longest-serving member of the oboe section. During his tenure, Henoch performed under three CSO music directors (Solti, Daniel Barenboim and Muti), as well as Principal Guest Conductor Pierre Boulez and Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink. His solo CSO appearances include 1988 performances of Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante, led by Solti, and 1996 performances of J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin with violinist Maxim Vengerov and Barenboim on harpsichord, as well as a 2003 performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with conductor Peter Oundjian at Ravinia.

As a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, Henoch has toured throughout North America and Europe, appearing with conductors Solti, Barenboim, David Zinman and Alexander Schneider. He performed as principal oboe on more than 50 of the CSO’s recordings. Henoch’s other recordings include Mozart’s Quartet for Oboe and Strings, nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award, as well as the 2008 recording Maiden Voyage, recorded with Dempster St. Pro Musica, a non-profit arts ensemble (which he founded that year). In 1970, Henoch made a solo debut at Carnegie Hall with the New York String Orchestra; that led to an invitation from Rudolf Serkin to participate at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where he was principal oboe in the orchestra under Pablo Casals. Henoch has performed at many other prestigious summer festivals, including Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival and the Carmel Bach Festival in California.

In 1996, Henoch was named the artistic co-director of the Chicago Chamber Musicians, with which he performed regularly since its founding in 1986. Henoch introduced the CCM’s critically acclaimed Music at the Millennium series, which celebrated 20th-century music in concerts at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art each May from 1998 through 2002. While developing this festival, he worked with Boulez, who served as music adviser.

After he retires from the CSO, Henoch will continue to teach at Northwestern University, where he is professor of oboe at the Bienen School of Music. He also continues as artistic director of Dempster St. Pro Musica. He and his wife, Sunny Masur, who have four children and seven grandchildren, plan to spend more time with their extended family and friends.

In 1998, Dennis Michel was appointed as CSO second bassoon by Music Director Daniel Barenboim. Michel previously held the position of principal bassoon of the San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera. He was a founding member of the San Diego-based Arioso Wind Quintet, which toured regularly and recorded for Koch Classics.

Since joining the CSO, Michel has appeared as a soloist in several subscription concert programs, including performances of Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds, and Mozart’s Serenade for Winds in C Minor and Serenade No. 11 in E-flat Major. He was also featured in a 2021 performance of Mozart’s Gran Partita for the critically acclaimed CSO Sessions digital series.

An active chamber musician, Michel has been featured on the CSO’s various chamber music series. In addition, he has performed with the Da Camera Society of Houston, on the chamber series at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and at summer festivals including Tanglewood, the Bard Festival in New York, Grand Teton Music Festival and Summerfest La Jolla, where he was a featured artist for 10 seasons. Michel was an ensemble artist with the Chicago Chamber Musicians for 10 years; during that time, he directed the group’s professional development program.

A native of East Wenatchee, Washington, Michel holds degrees from Eastern Washington University and Yale University. His principal teachers include Wendal Jones and Arthur Weisberg, but he also studied with Milan Turkovic at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna when he was a 1996 recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship for advanced study. During that time, he also performed with the Vienna State Opera.

After his CSO retirement, Michel will continue to perform in chamber music settings. He will also maintain his bassoon studio at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and return to summer teaching at the Music Academy in Santa Barbara, where he marked 35 years with the woodwind faculty in 2022. He and his wife, Peggy, an accomplished oboist, plan to enjoy Chicago’s many cultural offerings and spend time with their grandson, extended family and friends.

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