My Favorite CSO: Tom Hall

Tom Hall greets Lady Solti at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association reunion at the Cliff Dwellers on October 16, 2009

Dan Rest

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's commercial recording legacy began on May 1, 1916, when second music director Frederick Stock led the Wedding March from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Columbia Graphophone Company. The Orchestra has since amassed an extraordinary, award-winning discography on a number of labels — including Angel, CBS, Deutsche Grammophon, Erato, London/Decca, RCA, Sony, Teldec, Victor and others — continuing with releases on the in-house label CSO Resound under tenth music director Riccardo Muti. For My Favorite CSO, we asked members of the Chicago Symphony family for their favorite recordings (and a few honorable mentions) from the Orchestra's discography.

Tom Hall received all of his formal music education in his hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, beginning his violin study in the public schools at age eight through six years at Florida State University. He served as concertmaster and assistant conductor of the State Symphony of Florida, appeared as soloist with the original Tallahassee and Miami Beach symphonies, performed with the Florida Symphony in Orlando and toured with the New Orleans Philharmonic. After graduation, Hall was a member of the United States Army Strings, performing frequently at the White House during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, while also playing with the Baroque Arts Chamber Orchestra, the Meridian String Quartet and the Richmond Symphony.

Following one season as a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Hall joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1970 and served under music directors Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim. During his tenure, he was an officer of the CSO Members' and Audition committees and editor of Senza Sordino, the official publication of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. Hall also has given recitals, appeared as soloist with the Chicago String Ensemble, served as a member of the Contemporary (later Chicago) Arts Quartet, and performed with Music of the Baroque and Ars Viva. His articles have been published in Symphony Magazine, the Journal of the Conductors Guild and Medical Problems of Performing Artists. After retiring from the Orchestra in 2006, Hall continued active membership in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association and served as its president from 2006 until 2017.

MAHLER Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major
Recorded in the Sofiensaal, Vienna in 1971 for London
Georg Solti conductor
Heather Harper soprano
Lucia Popp soprano
Arleen Augér soprano
Yvonne Minton mezzo-soprano
Helen Watts contralto
René Kollo tenor
John Shirley-Quirk baritone
Martti Talvela bass
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera
Norbert Balatsch chorus master
Singverein Chorus
Helmut Froschauer chorus master
Vienna Boys Choir
1972 Grammy awards for Album of the Year–ClassicalBest Choral Performance–Classical (other than opera) and Best Engineered Recording—Classical
“My favorite recordings are those that evoke personal memories. High on my list is the Eighth Symphony of Gustav Mahler, a recording made in 1971 in Vienna during the CSO's (and my) first tour of Europe. Following the afternoon recording session on September 1, London/Decca treated the musicians to dinner at a traditional Viennese heurige (a large outdoor wine tavern) in the suburb of Klosterneuburg. Someone let on that it was my birthday, and the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra sang 'Happy Birthday' to me. I can never hear Mahler's Eighth without remembering that special occasion."

JANÁČEK Sinfonietta and LUTOSŁAWSKI Concerto for Orchestra
Recorded in Medinah Temple in 1970 for Angel
Seiji Ozawa conductor
“I joined the orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in the summer of 1970. My first day saw my first rehearsal, the second day my first concert and the third day my first recording session. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool! Seiji Ozawa conducted Janáček's Sinfonietta and Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra. Not only had I never played these pieces, I'd never even heard of them. (Of course I got the music in advance, so I was prepared!)"

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10 and Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 60 (Leningrad)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1988 for Deutsche Grammophon
Leonard Bernstein conductor
1990 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance
“The only opportunity I had to work with Leonard Bernstein was a two-week span during which the Orchestra performed and recorded Shostakovich's First and Seventh symphonies. Neither is a favorite piece, but that did not matter. When I had a brief opportunity to tell the maestro how much his recordings and his televised concerts for young people had meant to me in my formative years, he gave me a big bear hug. Unforgettable."

MAHLER Symphony No. 9 in D Major
Recorded in Medinah Temple in 1976 for Deutsche Grammophon
Carlo Maria Giulini conductor
1977 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance
“Another magnificent conductor was Carlo Maria Giulini, and performing and recording Mahler's Ninth Symphony under his direction was a profoundly moving experience. In my opinion, the maestro's recordings don't convey the special aura that his live performances did, and that's unfortunate."

ROSSINI Overtures (from William Tell, La scala di seta, Il Signor Bruschino, The Barber of Seville, La gazza ladra, and La Cenerentola)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1958 for RCA
Fritz Reiner conductor
“I listened to many recordings of orchestral music in my youth, and a favorite was the album of Rossini's opera overtures played by the CSO with Fritz Reiner conducting. All of the overtures are brilliantly played, but of course my favorite was (and remains) the Overture to William Tell."

An honorable mention:

  • DOWNS Bear Down, Chicago Bears with Sir Georg Solti for London (1986)
    "I could list many recordings that we made with Maestro Solti, but perhaps the most fun was one everyone seems to mention: Bear Down, Chicago Bears. He really had a way with that piece."


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