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 Rome, New York, Dale Hedding earned a bachelor of music degree from Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music and an MBA in arts administration from SUNY Binghamton. Early in his career, he worked as a professional trombone player, serving as principal trombone of the United States Air Force Band of New England. Hedding has held fundraising leadership roles at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, and he also led the contributed revenue practice area as a consultant at the Arts Consulting Group in Washington, D.C. He joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s administration as vice president of development in December 2019.
JANÁČEK Sinfonietta and LUTOSŁAWSKI Concerto for Orchestra
Recorded in Medinah Temple in 1970 for Angel
Seiji Ozawa conductor
“This recording was my introduction to both Janáček's unique compositional voice, which I love, and to this dynamic and thrilling work with its resplendent writing for brass choir. I’ve always felt this piece was underrepresented in live concert performances, understandably, since Janáček scored the work for twenty-five brass players, requiring orchestras to hire many extra performers. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's legendary brass section performing a work built on five movements of military brass–inspired fanfares, this recording remains deeply satisfying and exciting every time I listen to it."
PROKOFIEV Suite from Romeo and Juliet
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2013 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti conductor
“Since I was a young musician, Prokofiev’s works have always intrigued me and captured my attention and admiration, none more so than Romeo and Juliet. Having heard this piece many times live and on recordings with many orchestras, this release is my new standard bearer. Riccardo Muti’s interpretation captures and does not shy away from the searing dissonances and tension woven throughout this work, fully realized by the spectacular playing of the Orchestra. Incidentally, I had the added pleasure of hearing Muti and the CSO perform this several times on tour in early 2020, further reinforcing why this version of Romeo and Juliet will sit atop my list."
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8 in C Minor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1980 for Deutsche Grammophon
Daniel Barenboim conductor
"My first exposure to this recording coincided with hearing the CSO live for the first time (also in Bruckner's Eighth Symphony)—which also was my first time hearing a true world-class orchestra in concert—while I was studying trombone at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. All of these collective CSO experiences had a profound effect on me as an aspiring young musician and taught me what true musical greatness could sound like. Decades later, this recording continues to inspire me with the extreme range of dynamic contrasts played to perfection and the CSO’s gorgeous and weighty sound that serves this work so well."
STRAVINSKY The Firebird, Fireworks, and Four Studies
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1992 for Deutsche Grammophon
Pierre Boulez conductor
"Stravinsky's Firebird is one of my favorite twentieth-century works, and it is such a brilliant showpiece for a great ensemble like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Competing with so many other fantastic performances on record, Pierre Boulez's interpretation with the CSO stands out for me for its great attention to the many rich details and sound colors contained within this masterpiece."
MAHLER Symphony No. 7 in E Minor
Recorded in Krannert Center, Urbana, Illinois, in 1971 for London
Georg Solti conductor
1972 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance, Orchestra
“While Mahler’s Seventh Symphony isn’t as popular as perhaps the Fifth or Second (Resurrection) symphonies, it is nonetheless an important and magnificent work in the composer's output. I was a professional brass player earlier in my career, and to me, the CSO has for many decades been the gold standard for recordings of Mahler's symphonies, and none highlight the greatness of the ensemble's brass playing more than Georg Solti's recording of Mahler's Seventh."
A few honorable mentions:
- SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13, Op. 113 (Babi Yar) with Riccardo Muti for CSO Resound (2018)
- VERDI Messa da Requiem with Riccardo Muti for CSO Resound (2009)
- TCHAIKOVSKY Symphonies nos. 1-6 with Claudio Abbado for CBS and Sony (1984–1991)
- MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures from an Exhibition with Carlo Maria Giulini for Deutsche Grammophon (1976)
- DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World) with Sir Georg Solti for London (1983)
- CORIGLIANO Symphony No. 1 with Daniel Barenboim for Erato (1990)