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 Chorus from 1999 until 2020, Kathryn Kamp earned degrees in vocal performance from the University of Iowa and the Cleveland Institute of Music. She has appeared as soloist in Clyne’s As Sudden Shut on the CSO’s MusicNOW series; in Sondheim's A Little Night Music at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; in Corigliano’s Fern Hill and Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, all with the Grant Park Music Festival; and, "in more Messiahs than I can count!" A longtime member of Chicago a cappella, Kamp currently also serves the ensemble as creative consultant and host of the podcast Bridging the Gap.
STRAUSS Four Last Songs
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1977 by Unitel, released by London
Sir Georg Solti conductor
Lucia Popp soprano
"When this recording was made, soprano Lucia Popp was transitioning from lighter repertoire towards more lyric roles. She easily negotiates the demands of this fuller repertoire with the flawless technique and superb artistry she was known for throughout her career. If you are looking to have your heart melted by the sheer beauty of music, this is the recording for you."
Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago
(works by Bloch, Sharav, Harrison, and Prokofiev)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2007 for CSO Resound
Miguel Harth-Bedoya conductor
Alan Gilbert conductor
Silk Road Ensemble
Yo-Yo Ma cello
Wu Man pipa
2008 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album–Classical
"The selections on this recording range from the sweet and delicate sounds of the pipa to the robust—and at times bombastic—CSO brass. Each time I listen, I hear different stories being told. I appreciate the Silk Road Ensemble's mission to promote cross-cultural collaboration, and this recording exemplifies the diversity of sounds that are created when artists from different traditions come together."
GRANADOS Intermezzo from Goyescas
FALLA Interlude and Dance from La vida breve and Suite No. 2 from El sombrero de tres picos
ALBÉNIZ/Arbós Navarra and Fête-Dieu à Seville and Triana from Iberia
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1958 for RCA
Fritz Reiner conductor
"While Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat is a ballet, the Orchestra brings the choreography of the three dances featured on this recording to life with fire, energy, and excitement. The precision with which Fritz Reiner negotiates changes in mood and tempos is incredible. Warning: listening to this may result in an impromptu living room dance party!"
DEBUSSY La mer, Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, and Nocturnes
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1991 for London
Sir Georg Solti conductor
Donald Peck flute
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis director
"Grab a pair of headphones, close your eyes, and submerge yourself in these incredible performances of works by one of my favorite French composers. In La mer, one experiences all aspects of the sea, ranging from calm and serene to quite tumultuous. Each section of the orchestra is critical to bringing the full character of this work to life, and with Sir Georg Solti as their captain, the CSO does not disappoint. The Nocturnes are equally rich. I confess that I love to sing along with Sirens in the third movement, as I did so many times with the women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. In Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, the CSO perfectly captures the essence of the mythical creature playing pipes in the woods, from sensual to playful and finally, restful. The flute, clarinet, and oboe solos are simply sublime, and the strings, harp, and horns enhance the dreamlike atmosphere throughout."
VERDI Messa da Requiem
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2009 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti conductor
Barbara Frittoli soprano
Olga Borodina mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe director
2010 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance
“Each time I listen to this recording, I am transported back to my place on the stage in Orchestra Hall, specifically to the moment during the trumpet fanfare leading into the Dies irae. I remember my heart beating so quickly with excitement that I was sure it could be heard on the recording! This work is an incredible tour de force and absolutely worthy of both Grammy awards it won in 2010 for best classical album and best choral performance."
A few honorable mentions:
- BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 with Sir Georg Solti for London (1986)
- MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor with Bernard Haitink for CSO Resound (2006)