It’s 106 miles to Chicago. You’ve got a full tank of gas. The CSO’s got Richard Strauss, de Waart, and you’re wearing Brewers caps.
Badgers, this is your Chicago weekend. Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Strauss devotee Edo de Waart leads the CSO in the composer’s Metamorphosen and Oboe Concerto on May 15-17 (with an Afterwork Masterworks concert May 14). Works you’ll wait a year to hear at Marcus Center. Brag to music buffs in Brookfield and Bayside you saw de Waart’s Strauss in Chicago first.
The Dutch maestro was recently a Middleton man, spending most of the year in his wife’s hometown just outside Madison. Now de Waart keeps a Milwaukee pad and jets off to Amsterdam, his birthplace, where he’s conductor laureate of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and his new home, Antwerp — he’s also chief conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic. “All of the great orchestras of Europe took root in colder, less temperate countries,” the oboist turned conductor likes to tell the Milwaukee press, and Wisconsin music fans recognize the same successful formula — this tough winter especially.
Many in the CSO’s lineup have strong MSO roots — there’s something of a Milwaukee tradition in Chicago’s strings, prominent in this week’s Metamorphosen, scored for 23 of them. Violinist David Taylor, cellists Loren Brown and David Sanders and basses Daniel Armstrong, Joseph DiBello and Stephen Lester are all MSO alumni. Violist Wei-Ting Kuo, one of de Waart’s Milwaukee protégés, will join the CSO starting May 19.
Likewise, Milwaukee has long welcomed the CSO, where the Orchestra regularly toured nearly a century — beginning with its first season in 1891 and continuing well into the mid-1980s.
Former Chicago Sun-Times classical music Wynne Delacoma, who wrote for the Milwaukee Journal in the early ’80s, remembers “coming out of Uihlein Hall and seeing a massive white semi-trailer truck slowly backing into the loading dock. Across its huge pristine trailer were the words ‘Chicago Symphony Orchestra’ in large, elegant script. It was the cargo truck that would carry the CSO’s instruments and wardrobe cases back to Chicago. A perfect metaphor for the orchestra itself — gleaming, powerful and elegant.”
And, once, excessive. Chicago’s most curious “only in Wisconsin” offering remains 20-year-old West Allis phenom Walter Liberace, a Pabst Theater soloist in Lizst’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1940 and Mr. Showmanship’s sole CSO outing.
Chicago’s Wisconsin patrons still have plenty of company and won’t hurt for friends this Symphony Center weekend. Approximately 1,600 households hold CSO subscriptions and nearly 200 more are grabbing individual tickets for Maestro de Waart’s concerts. Expect plenty of “America’s Dairyland” plates around Michigan and Adams.
Clark and Addison, too — the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers face off against the cellar-dwelling Chicago Cubs all weekend. Brew Crew hurler Matt Garza takes the mound Saturday afternoon at Wrigley, then it’s Milwaukee’s de Waart atop the Orchestra Hall podium that evening. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is counting on his powerful right-hander (2-3, 4.98 ERA) to deliver six strong innings, while the righty conductor trusts stellar soprano Susanna Phillips (Beethoven 9, MSO) to enliven Four Last Songs.
So welcome to Chicago, cross-border Strauss and Brewer fans. Sing the National Anthem and join in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with the weekend’s Wrigley faithful. But Saturday night, let’s leave Im Abendrot and Beim Schlafengehen to the celebrated diva, Chicago’s Orchestra and Milwaukee’s favorite maestro.
You can hum the songs the whole ride home.
Andrew Huckman is a Chicago-based writer and lawyer.
AUDIO: Liberace and famed organist Virgil Fox appear on “The Mike Douglas Show” (first track) in 1973; at the 7:40 mark, they perform a duet on “Tea for Two.” SECOND TRACK: Liberace appears on the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs” program in 1960 (around the 7:25 mark, he discusses his CSO debut).