125 Moments: 061 Dvořák’s Violin Concerto

Max Bendix, the Chicago Orchestra's first concertmaster, was soloist in the U.S. premiere of Dvořák's Violin Concerto in October 1891.

On October 30, 1891 — only two weeks after its inaugural concert — the Chicago Orchestra gave the U.S. premiere of Dvořák’s Violin Concerto at the Auditorium Theatre. Max Bendix, the Orchestra’s first concertmaster from 1891 until 1896, was soloist, and Theodore Thomas conducted.

Detail from the October 1891 program note

The program book for the third week of subscription concerts listed the concerto as “new” and “the program annotator [Adolph W. Dohn], like anyone writing about contemporary music, hedged his bets on Dvořák’s future reputation,” according to the Orchestra’s current program annotator Phillip Huscher. “Of the Bohemian composer’s recent decision to relocate to the United States, a new world he would later famously depict in a symphony, [Dohn] said only, ‘It remains to be seen to what extent the influences of another civilization may affect his musical expression.’ ”

“The solo part is, as has been said, one of great difficulty, that of the last movement being especially trying. Mr. Max Bendix met these difficulties and overcame them in most instances with ease,” wrote the reviewer in the Chicago Tribune. “His phrasing is truly exceptional in its artistic beauty and purity. Rarely has a violinist been heard in Chicago who has equaled Mr. Bendix in this respect.”

Program page for the U.S. premiere of Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in October 1891

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: 125 Moments was created to celebrate the ensemble’s 125th season in 2015-16 and gathered significant events, illustrated with imagery and artifacts from the collections of the Rosenthal Archives.

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