On October 18, 1991, new music director Daniel Barenboim shared the podium with two of his predecessors, Rafael Kubelík and Sir Georg Solti, to bring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s centennial celebration to a grand conclusion. The program was a recreation of the Orchestra’s inaugural concerts, conducted by its first music director, Theodore Thomas, on October 16 and 17, 1891.
The program opened with Barenboim leading Wagner’s A Faust Overture, followed by Solti conducting both Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto (with Barenboim as soloist). Kubelík concluded the program with Dvořák’s Husitská Overture.
The concert was unexpectedly interrupted shortly after intermission. Several patrons who attended a preconcert dinner were given digital clocks as a gift, several of which had unintentionally been preset to start beeping at 9:15 p.m., just as Tchaikovsky’s concerto began. After the first movement, “Solti halted the proceedings, telling the audience it was impossible to continue as long as the noise persisted. . . . Executive director Henry Fogel, visibly embarrassed, explained the problem and requested everyone who was holding one of the clocks to please check them with an usher. Meanwhile, the source of the beeping was traced to the lower balcony. Out went the alarms,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “Huge sigh of relief. On with the Tchaikovsky. On with the show.”
A particularly special moment of the evening was the performance of the final work on the program. According to von Rhein, “Clearly this music touched a deep vein of national pride in the seventy-seven-year-old Kubelík, and he inspired the Orchestra to its finest work of the evening. It made an unforgettable coda to the CSO’s first 100 years. . . . Kubelík drew a prolonged standing ovation, with the Orchestra members remaining seated as he took his bows, refusing to steal his limelight until he was finally able to persuade them to stand. . . . As the applause continued, he was joined on stage by Barenboim and Solti. The CSO responded with a tusch (brass fanfare), the traditional gesture of acclamation for conductors.”
Image above: Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti, and Rafael Kubelík onstage at the end of the October 18, 1991, concert (Jim Steere photo)