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.
A member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association staff since 2013, Molly Walker currently serves as orchestra manager for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, where she manages recruitment and auditions as well as develops CSO coach curricula and season planning. She earned a bachelor's degree in clarinet performance from Northwestern University, a master's degree from Boston University and a performance diploma from the Royal College of Music in London.
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2008 for CSO Resound
Bernard Haitink conductor
Miah Persson soprano
Christianne Stotjin mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe director
"A few years ago, I really got into distance running, and I started listening to entire symphonies on my longer runs, and this recording became one of my favorites. It was fun to kick things off with the low strings digging into the opening passage. Later, the scherzo — displaying the precision and power of the woodwinds along with some fun little E-flat clarinet whims — helped keep me on pace. Finally, when I felt some fatigue, the vocal soloists and chorus appeared out of thin air and give me the final push I needed to get through the run. The ending of the piece is truly breathtaking, and the orchestra, chorus and soloists all sound amazing. I highly recommend timing this with an early morning run."
GRAINGER Lincolnshire Posy from Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2010 for CSO Resound
Mark Ridenour conductor
“The annual CSO Brass concert is such a highlight each season. The section is just incredible to hear, and its talent and musicianship is truly inspiring. The music of Percy Grainger has many roots in my wind ensemble playing experiences, and hearing it always makes me appreciate the opportunities I had in middle and high school band as well as wind ensemble in college. Quite a few excerpts that I had to learn in order to pursue military band auditions are from Lincolnshire Posy. The Brisk Young Sailor movement has a noodle-y bit that was originally written for the woodwinds, but in this arrangement (by Timothy Higgins, who, by the way, is an alumnus of the Civic Orchestra), the trumpets make that challenging passage sound so easy. Another moment to highlight is the gorgeous, chorale-like second movement, Horkstow Grange — beautiful ensemble playing!"
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1940 for Columbia
Frederick Stock conductor
“One of my clarinet teachers played this recording for me when I was studying audition excerpts from the first and third movements of this symphony. He had these massive speakers set up in his studio that created a surround-sound listening experience, and it revealed so many layers. At the time, I had little experience performing with orchestras, so listening and discussing Frederick Stock’s interpretation with my teacher helped shape my ear and intuition as a musician. The quality of this recording is astounding, especially when realizing that it is more than 80 years old. I can only imagine how different the recording and production experience was compared to technology available today. In appreciation for the CSOA’s rich history, I would also like to acknowledge the conductor, Frederick Stock, the CSO’s second music director, who established the Civic Orchestra over 100 years ago. Little did I know when listening to this recording that one day I would be working with the orchestra he founded."
Recorded in Medinah Temple in 1970 for Angel
Seiji Ozawa conductor
“I encountered this recording just a few years ago when this piece was programmed on the Civic Orchestra’s 2018–19 season. As I was learning it and reading through the score, I was very impressed by the sonorous tones of the massive brass ensemble, especially in the first movement. This was a great recording to listen to in anticipation of having twelve (yes, twelve!) trumpets, two bass trumpets, two tenor tubas, four trombones and tuba with the orchestra onstage. The Civic was celebrating its centennial season, and we ended by having several of the ensemble's trumpet alumni join us for the performance."
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2000 for Teldec
Daniel Barenboim conductor
“This recording was released just around the time I was taking music theory classes in college. I remember my teacher playing this recording for us when we started to dive into the world of Stravinsky’s works. The musicians have such command over the complex harmonies, and they execute the rhythmic intricacies with incredible ease. The first time I attended a CSO concert, the program featured The Rite of Spring. In anticipation of the performance, I had listened to this recording. Furthermore, the Civic Orchestra performed this piece in April 2017, and for one of the rehearsals, CSO musicians who serve as Civic Orchestra coaches sat in and played side-by-side with Civic musicians. After having this recording as an entry point, hearing it at my first CSO concert and then seeing the CSO musicians working as mentors to the members of the Civic Orchestra was a special moment for me."
A few honorable mentions:
- BARTÓK Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19 with Sir Georg Solti for London (1989–90)
- KODÁLY Dances of Galánta with Seiji Ozawa for Angel (1969)
- KODÁLY Dances of Galánta with Neeme Järvi for Chandos (1990)
- BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 with Riccardo Muti for CSO Resound (2010)
- NIELSEN Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57 with Morton Gould and Benny Goodman for RCA (1966)