125 Moments: 010 Camille Saint-Saëns

Advance notice in the program book for Saint-Saëns’ debut performances with the Orchestra in November 1906

Demand for tickets was so great for the two scheduled subscription concerts featuring composer and pianist Camille Saint-Saëns that the Orchestral Association added an extra concert for November 8, 1906. That first appearance was “regarded as . . . one of the most important events of the season,” according to Glenn Dillard Gunn in the Chicago Inter Ocean. “Black haired, gray bearded, and immaculately dressed, he carries jauntily his seventy-two years of labor and honorable achievement in the realm of art. . . . His technical command of the piano is supreme. He has a velocity that is enormous, a certainty almost infallible.”

Program page for the added concert on November 8, 1906

The first half of that extra concert was conducted by Frederick Stock. Following intermission, it was announced that Saint-Saëns — who was still somewhat weak following a recent illness — would not perform the Bretonne Rhapsodies on the organ; instead, Stock would lead the Orchestra in Phaéton and the Danse macabre. Le rouet d’Omphale and selections from Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust completed the program.

On the November 9 and 10 subscription concerts, Stock and the Orchestra repeated the Coronation March, Danse macabre and Phaéton. To close the first half of the program, Saint-Saëns was soloist in his Second Piano Concerto, and Dvořák’s New World Symphony was given following intermission. William Lines Hubbard in the Chicago Tribune noted the composer’s weak appearance. “When seated at the piano, however, the musician took predominance over the man, and positiveness, strength, and authority were in evidence. . . . We have several notable presentations of the graceful [G minor concerto], but none of them has been technically more beautiful, tonally more gratifying, or interpretatively more elegant than was the one he offered yesterday. . . . The Orchestra gave an accompaniment which could but have rejoiced the composer’s heart, and the audience grew insistently enthusiastic and would not be stilled until the veteran pianist returned to the instrument and gave an additional solo.”

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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