On February 28 and March 1, 1963, soprano Leontyne Price made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and Falla’s El amor brujo with Fritz Reiner conducting. On March 4, both works were recorded by RCA and the subsequent release won a Grammy for Best Classical Performance–Vocal Soloist.
“The Reiner sound,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune, “is not whetted merely to cut with a special clarity, but to set off a Berlioz sound somewhere between a shimmer and trill, a sound that can strike you right in the back of the neck and take possession of the spine. When the Orchestra is honed to peak performance, that is what happens in Reiner’s Berlioz. I had not realized in advance that precisely the same thing would happen to Miss Price’s Nuits d’été.”
For more than twenty years, Price returned and performed with the Orchestra on several occasions—at the Ravinia Festival, Carnegie Hall, and Orchestra Hall—with Carlo Maria Giulini, James Levine, and Sir Georg Solti.
On May 31, 1977, Price was soloist with Solti and the Orchestra in Verdi’s Requiem on a special concert benefiting the musicians’ pension fund. The other soloists included Dame Janet Baker, Veriano Luchetti, and José van Dam, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. The following week, the work was recorded by RCA in Medinah Temple; the release received a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance (other than opera), Hillis and the Chorus’s first win in that category.
With the Orchestra, Price also appeared at the Ravinia Festival under Levine in a complete performance of Verdi’s La forza del destino on June 22, 1979, and at Carnegie Hall with Solti in arias from Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Tristan and Isolde on April 29, 1980. She most recently was soloist with the Orchestra and Levine at Ravinia in a concert of opera arias by Puccini, Strauss, Verdi, and Wagner on July 13, 1985.
This article also appears here.