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Bruckner, CSO, and the Pope. May 3, 2007

Music Ramblings: May 3, 2007, Bruckner, CSO, and the Pope

Bruckner, CSO, and the Pope

May 3, 2007

> Matthew B. Tepper wrote:

> And he attended at least half of a Bruckner symphony performance once.

I'm assuming your refering to the CSO and Solti's "command performance" of the Bruckner Sym #5 at Holy Name Cathedral during the Pope's 1979 visit to Chicago. And possibly to this reference to it from a recent Sun Times article about that visit: "George Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra soothed the pope's last remaining moments in Chicago with the last half of Bruckner's Fifth Symphony. Then the pope was gone from Chicago -- in body but not in memory."

But what's completely wrong is the notion (and I have no idea where it originated) that Solti and the CSO performed only half of the symphony. They most certainly did the whole thing, and the Pope was in attendance for the whole symphony as well. I know this because I was there, sitting in the front of the balcony with a clear view of the Pope in his throne placed in the center aisle on the main floor. I can also report that the Pope fell asleep during the performance.

Now, I'm neither a Catholic, a believer in general, nor much of a fan of Pope John Paul II (then how was it I got to go?--another tale for another time), but I don't think it was particularly generous of the CSO to choose the Bruckner 5 for the program. IIRC, the work was already on the CSO's schedule around that time, and the public rationale for doing it for the Pope was because Bruckner was a devout Catholic. I felt that doing a shorter program featuring some music by Polish composers would have been a more fitting tribute, but the realities of running an orchestra might have made that difficult. But still...

However, it was glorious experience for me and likely the (undoubtedly) few Bruckner fans in attendance to hear the CSO in the resonant Holy Name Cathedral doing Bruckner. But I can't say I blame the Pope for nodding off, considering the 5th is one of the less immediately-appealing Bruckner symphonies (assuming he wasn't familiar with it), and he was at the end of what looked to be an exhausting visit.

Incidently, I just checked the CSO's archive, which confirms that the whole symphony was performed for that ocassion:

Dave Royko


Re: Bruckner, CSO, and the Pope

May 3, 2007

> patter wrote:

> Oh sorry....I see now that the Solti/Bruckner Concerto No.5 for Brass

> section and obligato everyone else was a gloroius evening for you.

> Huzzah!

Your snide tone aside, I agree with your basic point, and the Solti/CSO way with Bruckner has never been my preferred choice for the symphonies either. But the point I was making was having the opportunity to hear the CSO doing Bruckner in a space other than Orchestra Hall, and in a big, resonant space at that. I've heard the orchestra countless times, but only in Chicago's Orchestra Hall, and in 1979, it was well after the early '60s renovation that made it a dead, dry hall. Those that have heard the orchestra only on tour in fine-sounding halls might not appreciate how sonically deficient the home base of the orchestra was. And to hear the CSO in Holy Name Cathedral was, yes, glorious.

Dave Royko


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