The Chicago Symphony Orchestra began when a group of citizens became concerned with the city's reputation in the arts at the end of the 19th Century. As Chicago grew and gained renown as a center of industry and commerce Charles Norman Fay took a trip to New York, representing a group of Chicago's leading citizens, and met with the respected German conductor Theodore Thomas. Thomas had gained a reputation as a leader in brining symphonic music to America. Not long after this meeting Theodore Thomas was established as the leader of the Chicago Orchestra, now known as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Thomas remained music director until his death of pneumonia on January 4, 1905.
The next person to fill the role of conductor for the Orchestra was the assistant conductor, the 33 year-old violinist Frederick Stock. The young man had been established as the assistant in 1899, after displaying incredible talent and skill following his move from Germany to join the Orchestra. He served as Conductor until 1942, serving a total of 37 years. He was replaced by Defauw in 1943.
Defauw only served as director for four years, before moving to Indiana where he served as music director for the Gary Symphony Orchestra. Another short-term replacement followed with Artur Rodzinski filling the place of Defauw from '47 to '48, his tenure was interrupted by conflicts with the management. Rafael Kubel came next, leading the Orchestra from 1950 to 1953. During Kubelk's time the first fully distinctive recordings that presented the signature sound of the Orchestra and its hall to full effect.
Fritz Reiner followed with the longest career since the death of Stock, lasting nine years. With Reiner's induction as Conductor, the Orchestra regained its stability and direction. He was known as a man fiercely committed to his music with standards that were difficult to meet, to the benefit of the Orchestra. He served as Conductor from '53 until '62 when he was forced to step down due to failing health. He died of pneumonia in New York on November 15, 1963. He was followed by Jean Martinon, who served in the position for five years until '68.
After the departure of Martinon, Sir Georg Solti became the Conductor for the Orchestra. Solti served in the position for a total of 22 years, making his career the second longest in the history of the orchestra. Solti's relationship with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had actually begun in 1954, when he first led the Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and even after he stepped down as conductor he continued to make guest appearances until his death in 1997. He was succeeded by Daniel Barenboim, who spent 15 years as conductor before being appointed the 2006 Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard University.
The most recently appointed CSO Music Director is Riccardo Muti, who begins his tenure in the 2010/2011 season. Chicago Symphony Orchestra tickets are an important purchase for any music fans or residents of the Chicago area, as an integral part of the history of music and culture. If you find these tickets hard to obtain, be sure to try online.
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