This is the week Georg Solti bids Chicago adieu. Though he’ll be back occasionally as a guest maestro, the Chicago Symphony’s Solit era–a nearly two-decade span during which both he and the orchestra won accolades, new followings, and numerous Grammys–has effectively come to an end. In these farewell concerts the sleek sound machine he’s fashioned over the years will offer the quintessential Solti program (to be repeated in Carnegie Hall later this month): a new work from the conservative wing of the musical establishment (Michael Tippett’s Byzantium), and, of course, a crowning achievement of Austro-Germanic romanticism (Mahler’s Fifth Symphony). The Mahler, I’m told, was chosen for sentimental reasons: it appeared on Solti’s Carnegie Hall debut as CSO helmsman back in 1970, and it was a main attraction of his final European tour with the orchestra last November. Byzantium is a CSO centennial commission by Solti’s favorite living composer. Set to the famous Yeats poem about the sacredness and durability of artistic creation, it catches the dean of British music in an autumnal frame of mind; Tippett has said that he was drawn to the poem’s “crystalline intensity” and its “emphasis on the notion of artifacts, enshrining values that can be set against the impermanence of the everyday world.” The best of Tippett’s vocal scores–this one is for soprano and orchestra–tends to be lyrical and plangent, mysterious in sound and transcendental in outlook. If Byzantium is this way, it’ll make a grandiose and fitting valediction for a man who put Chicago on the world musical map. With soprano Faye Robinson, a last-minute replacement for an indisposed Jessye Norman. Thursday and next Saturday, April 13, 8 PM, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mike Evans.