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January 25, 2010

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra: A Personal Reflection by Michael Kondziolka, UMS Director of Programming

By Michael Kondziolka

I had such a formative concert experience as a 22-year-old with a performance by the Chicago Symphony that every time they come back to UMS, I relive it…and get really excited and end up feeling like an (overly) passionate young adult again!!

Sir Georg Solti

The concert was in Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall.  Sir Georg Solti was conducting.  It opened with the “Prelude and Liebestod” from Tristan and was followed by a performance of John Corigliano’s Clarinet Concerto which, in the last movement, features large choirs of brass, performed from the back of the house.  It was so powerful and overwhelming (Chicago BRASS!!) that the next thing I knew, I was leading a standing ovation from the center of the main floor.  My friends thought I had lost my mind. (Ah, youth!!)

This Wednesday’s CSO concert in Hill Auditorium is stacking up to be a repeat, I think.  For many reasons…not the least of which is the antiphonal brass moments planned from the back of Hill Auditorium in the Bartók Bluebeard’s Castle.  The score also calls for the BIG Hill organ.

Pierre Boulez (photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Extraordinary and impactful repertoire (a 20th-century masterpiece, really)…one of the world’s great orchestras…and a conductor who is completely committed to inspiring the orchestra to greatness:  PIERRE BOULEZ!!  A veritable legend of 20th-century music in his own right.

A master with a masterpiece…my favorite combination.

Last week, I started hearing from some friends and colleagues who had witnessed the concerts in Chicago given earlier this month.  They confirmed that they were really OVER-THE-TOP, -once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  I went home that night and started snooping around on YouTube to find my favorite clips from Bluebeard…I wanted to crank the fifth door section loudly on my stereo.  As I was “grooving” on  C Major – there is nothing like it – I looked down and saw the most recent listener comment…and immediately sent it to the entire UMS staff.  It only fueled my enthusiasm and reinforced what I was already suspecting and hearing:

“Just saw the Chicago Symphony Orchestra do this tonight! So @#$%#$ powerful! [expletive deleted]  Not only are there 4 trumpets, four trombones, a tuba and organ, but 4 more trumpets and 4 trombones off stage…plus Judith screaming over the top! I was as close to a heaven as I am ever going to get.”

I hope you can be there this Wednesday.

Michael Kondziolka
UMS Director of Programming


Michael is the Director of Programming at UMS.