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.
Recipient of the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Recording–Classical for Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 13 (Babi Yar), Charlie Post has been audio engineer for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2014. He previously lived in Miami, Florida, mixing live sound in numerous venues, including the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts, Jackie Gleason Theater, and Miami-Dade County Auditorium. For ten years, Post spent his summers as audio engineer for the Tanglewood Music Festival in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, recording and mixing sound for hundreds of performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus, along with solo and chamber concerts, jazz groups and rock shows. A native of upstate New York, he runs his company PostProductions Audio at home in Chicago’s Logan Square, where he lives with his wife Sharlet and their son Luca.
MAHLER Symphony No. 5
Recorded in Medinah Temple in 1970 for London
Georg Solti conductor
"Sir Georg Solti’s recordings of Mahler's symphonies with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are widely known as the best. I bought this recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony on the excellent advice of my best friend Julian on one of our frequent trips to Tower Records in Hamburg, New York. This was probably my junior year in recording technology and music performance studies at the State University of New York at Fredonia. I remember coming back to my apartment one afternoon after classes, putting the CD in the player and poising to listen to it carefully. Conditions were ideal: my roommate wasn’t home, so it was quiet!"
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1981 for Deutsche Grammophon
Claudio Abbado conductor
"As if to line up with Mahler’s sequence, it was years earlier that I happened upon this epic recording of Mahler's First Symphony with Claudio Abbado, while shopping with friends at Rhino Records, a used-CD outlet in Albany, New York, next door to my home town of Schenectady. Rhino often had obscure jazz and rock records that interested me, but also often had orchestral music that somehow wasn’t snatched up immediately. At the time, I was studying music history and learning that Mahler and Bruckner were the big players in these huge symphonic works. So I couldn’t pass this CD up, especially for $5.99!
"Though I have come to love all of Mahler’s symphonies (especially the First through the Sixth), his First is my favorite of all. The way in which the first movement builds up may be part of that. Little did I know that when I bought the CD, this recording would prevail as my favorite after hearing so many others that don’t come close. To be fair, though, I haven’t heard any other of the many CSO recordings of this piece. That will certainly make my to-do list this summer!"
RESPIGHI Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1959 for RCA
Fritz Reiner conductor
"After college and moving to New York City, Julian and I continued our Tower Records visits. Strolling through the Lincoln Center location, I remember asking him which recording of Respighi's Pines of Rome was the best. He immediately grabbed this CD and said 'hands down, this one!' Years later I found and bought the SACD version, which reveals even more detail than the CD. If the piece itself wasn’t already magical, the CSO under Fritz Reiner would have made it so. If you close your eyes, you will see these trees depicted so clearly in the music."
FALLA El amor brujo and BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1963 for RCA
Fritz Reiner conductor
Leontyne Price soprano
"I have always been interested in collecting orchestral and jazz music released in the SACD format. I’ve had the equipment to play these discs since the technology became available in 2000 and will continue to listen to this high-resolution format, despite the fact the that format is essentially dead. It sounds so much better than CD to my ears.
"I say all that because when I learned that this historic recording of Leontyne Price singing Falla's El amor brujo was available on SACD, I bought it immediately. (It’s actually for sale at The Symphony Store!) I was already familiar with Miss Price’s gorgeous voice from archival projects I had worked on years ago at Bridge Records. To hear her singing this hauntingly beautiful piece is a pinnacle of vocal music."
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13 in B-flat Minor, Op. 114 (Babi Yar)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2018 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti conductor
Alexey Tikhomirov bass
Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe director
2020 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Recording–Classical
"How could I not love this recording? Yes, recording it earned me my first Grammy Award, but I would love it regardless. As is somewhat typical, I spent much of the rehearsal time learning the piece and sorting out balances, all of which I did while training my intern, who had the night off the evening of the first performance. So I sat alone listening to this masterpiece equally saddened, amused and amazed by Shostakovich’s writing. I got chills several times listening to the CSO, men of the Chorus, and soloist Alexey Tikhomirov under Maestro Riccardo Muti. I said to myself each night, 'This has to become a commercial release. The world needs to hear this performance.' Lucky for the world and me, that dream came true."
A few honorable mentions:
- STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring with Sir Georg Solti for London (1974)
- Riccardo Muti Conducts Italian Masterworks with Riccardo Muti for CSO Resound (2017)
- RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade with Fritz Reiner for RCA (1960)