The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s commercial recording legacy began on May 1, 1916, when second music director Frederick Stock led the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Columbia Graphophone Company. The Orchestra has since amassed an extraordinary, award-winning discography on a number of labels—including Angel, CBS, Deutsche Grammophon, Erato, London/Decca, RCA, Sony, Teldec, Victor, and others—continuing with releases on the in-house label CSO Resound under tenth music director Riccardo Muti. For My Favorite CSO, we asked members of the Chicago Symphony for their favorite recordings (and a few honorable mentions) from the Orchestra’s discography.

Viola Danny Lai began his musical studies on the piano at age six and picked up the viola in public school when he was ten. He later studied at Northwestern University and was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, before being invited to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2014 by music director Riccardo Muti.

Danny Lai’s Favorite CSO (scroll down for recordings available for streaming via Spotify):

VERDI Messa da Requiem
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2009 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
2010 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance
“This is the first recording of Riccardo Muti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra I ever heard. I was still in college, and the power and drama absolutely blew me away. I thought the recording captured perfectly the essence of the CSO: power, refinement, and sensitivity.”

BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra and Four Orchestral Pieces
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1992 for Deutsche Grammophon
Pierre Boulez, conductor
1994 Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance
“The Concerto for Orchestra is one of my all-time favorites and Pierre Boulez’s recording with the CSO is as perfect as it can get. Boulez has the greatest ear for balance and the last movement is exhilarating, like driving a Ferrari at top speed.”

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2008 for CSO Resound
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Miah Persson, soprano
Christianne Stotijn, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
“This has a special place in my heart. Mahler’s Second Symphony was the first piece of orchestral music I fell in love with, and Bernard Haitink’s performance of it was the first Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance I ever heard live. Listening to it is like hearing from the mouth of God Himself.”

VERDI Otello
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2012 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Aleksandrs Antonenko, tenor
Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano
Carlo Guelfi, baritone
Barbara Di Castri, mezzo-soprano
Juan Francisco Gatell, tenor
Michael Spyres, tenor
Paolo Battaglia, bass
Eric Owens, bass-baritone
David Govertsen, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director
“I picked another Riccardo Muti recording because his performances of Verdi are absolute masterpieces. It grabs your attention from the very beginning and never lets up on the drama.”

BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2007 for CSO Resound
Bernard Haitink, conductor
“If there is any composer that is synonymous with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it would be Bruckner. His Seventh Symphony is my favorite and Bernard Haitink shines with his interpretation here, letting the music build up and speak for itself.”


A few honorable mentions:

Danny Lai’s Favorite CSO (available recordings via Spotify):

TOP: Danny Lai | © Todd Rosenberg 2018