My Favorite CSO: Keith Buncke

Keith Buncke joined the CSO as principal bassoon in 2015.

© Todd Rosenberg Photography

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 native of Portland, Oregon, Keith Buncke was featured on NPR’s From the Top, was a semi-finalist in the National Endowment of the Arts Presidential Scholars program, and attended the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Curtis Institute of Music. While a student at Curtis, he was appointed principal bassoon of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 2014, and the following year, Riccardo Muti invited him to the same position in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Buncke is on the faculty at DePaul University and has been a guest teacher at the Aspen Music Festival and Interlochen.

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade, Op. 35
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1960 for RCA
Fritz Reiner conductor
Sidney Harth violin
“This might be my favorite recording of Sheherazade, period. The over-all sound and togetherness of the ensemble are all just superb. The lyrical sections are played directly and without over-romanticization, while the last movement crackles with energy, fast yet incredibly tight. Leonard Sharrow‘s bassoon solos are beautifully rendered.”

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
“I can only imagine the excitement that the performance of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony brought in its day to audience and musicians alike — it was the final week of the 1988 downtown season, and it was one of the few times Bernstein conducted the CSO, the last time the Orchestra would work with him. The power and energy of the whole ensemble is gripping and really gets to the depth of angst in this music.”

SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 and NIELSEN Violin Concerto, Op. 33
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1996 for Teldec
Daniel Barenboim conductor
Maxim Vengerov violin
“Nielsen’s Violin Concerto was a piece I had to play on a ‘trial’ week for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, my first big professional gig, so I studied this recording quite a lot. I think for that reason this less well-known but fascinating piece holds special significance to me.”

MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1998 for Deutsche Grammophon
Pierre Boulez conductor
“I listened to this recording many times when preparing to play it in my high school orchestra when I was 16. I was so impressed with the precision and control of the ensemble; the opening, which is notoriously difficult and exposed for the woodwinds, is expertly played, so in tune, and well-balanced. This piece has a lot of challenges in it, and this recording gave me a really great example of what level of execution was possible.”

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Unfinished)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2016 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti conductor
“Bruckner didn’t write particularly challenging or exposed parts for bassoon. Unencumbered by playing pressures, I find myself appreciating even more the lush orchestration and harmonies, as well as the timeless quality of Bruckner’s music.”

A few honorable mentions: