View Gallery

John R. Schmidt, a Life Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, recalls how his family, especially his father, “always loved the brass section of the CSO.” Through the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund, he and other family members have been proud to underwrite commissions of brass pieces such as John Williams’ Concerto for Horn and Orchestra (2003), Carl Vine’s Five Hallucinations for Trombone and Orchestra (2016) and now, Jennifer Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto.

A 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for her Violin Concerto, Higdon likes to point out that a treasured Reiner/CSO recording of Respighi’s Pines of Rome, which she played “over and over” in her youth, led her to accept the CSO’s commission. With Principal Trombone Jay Friedman, trombone Michael Mulcahy, bass trombone Charles Vernon and Principal Tuba Gene Pokorny as soloists, her Low Brass Concerto received its world premiere Feb. 1 by the CSO, conducted by Riccardo Muti. The performance received a prolonged standing ovation, with Higdon, the soloists and Muti called back to the stage several times. (The work also will be performed on the CSO’s upcoming East Coast tour, including a concert Feb. 9 at Carnegie Hall.)

At a post-concert reception, Schmidt, a partner at Mayer Brown, spoke warmly of the occasion and received an autographed copy of the score from Jeff Alexander, CSOA president. Muti and Higdon also addressed the crowd, with the composer reminding the audience that “brass players are always fun to work with.”

TOP: John R. Schmidt receives a score of Jennifer Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, underwritten by his family’s commissioning fund. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018