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 family for their favorite recordings (and a few honorable mentions) from the Orchestra’s discography.

A member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus soprano section since 2009 and the Recording Academy since 2013, Eileen Marie Bora is equally at home on the operatic and musical theater stages, and she also is active as a church soloist and in jazz. She studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy and earned her bachelor’s degree from Rider University’s Westminster Choir College and master’s degree from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. A founding faculty member of the Des Plaines School of Music, Bora serves there as faculty coordinator and instructor in voice, piano, flute, and music theory, and she also has taught basic vocal technique for the adult programs at Interlochen Center for the Arts. In addition, she is a landscape subcontractor and sustainable-garden educator.

Eileen Marie Bora’s Favorite CSO (scroll down for recordings available for streaming via Spotify):

STRAUSS Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in April and May 1962 for RCA
Fritz Reiner, conductor
“This is such an epic work, forever linked with cinematic history in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But what I remember most about listening to this as a child was the rattling of the speakers and windows in our house when my parents would turn the volume way up at the very beginning. The transitions and layering between sections of the Orchestra really create a deep and passionate mood. Then, when the woodwinds enter, their brilliant and flirty tones lighten the spirit, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the wonderfully robust and dramatic brass, as well. Every moment of this recording creates a world and a story in the imagination. This is definitely a ‘sit on the sofa with a cup of tea or adult beverage and revel in the entire album’ kind of recording, and I enjoy my original vinyl copy because I appreciate the depth of tone vinyl provides.”

HANDEL Messiah 
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1984 for London
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Anne Gjevang, contralto
Keith Lewis, tenor
Gwynne Howell, bass-baritone
David Schrader, harpsichord
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
“For almost as long as I could remember being able to talk and sing do I also remember our family listening and singing along to several Messiah recordings, this always being the first on the playlist. I remember finishing Thanksgiving and my mother declaring, ‘It’s officially the start of the Messiah season.’ The sensitivity of connection among the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists draws the listener into the piece in an exquisite manner. The Chorus’s lightness and clarity in ‘And the glory of the Lord’ is in perfect contrast to the seriousness, sensitivity, and depth of tone in ‘Behold the Lamb of God’; this further demonstrates the professionalism and excellent vocal production that long remain trademarks of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.”

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1961 for RCA
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Van Cliburn, piano
“Our house was always filled with music when I was growing up, and this recording was definitely a staple in our musical diet. Van Cliburn’s precision, mixed with passion, elevates this energetic work by Beethoven to another level. The Orchestra’s fluidity and ability to blend seamlessly in and out of play with the pianist demonstrates the skill of this ensemble to transcend what is written on the page and create emotion through its musicianship.”

DEBUSSY La mer and STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1960 for RCA
Fritz Reiner, conductor
“In La mer, the Orchestra uses its ability to paint the beautiful images Debussy composed in his musical depictions of the sea so vividly that you can almost see and touch it. Close your eyes and you may just feel the waves flutter or crash, smell the salty sea air, and see the fish jumping in and out of the water. Don Juan, by contrast, is full of heroic brass, along with the sweetly romantic woodwinds and strings. I love that this album demonstrates all of the beauty that the full Chicago Symphony Orchestra creates. Music’s capacity to visually and emotionally paint images while we listen is perfectly embodied in this recording.”

BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14 and Lélio, or the Return to Life, Op. 14b
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2010 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Gérard Depardieu, narrator
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
“I chose this over the other CSO Resound recordings I participated in because I found it a very educational and unique performance experience. The beauty and vocal agility of the Chorus is beautifully featured in the Lélio portion, especially the ‘La tempête’ movement. It was the first time I had ever sung the work, and I had never heard it performed with the Symphonie fantastique, the way it was intended, until this performance. Every time I listen to this recording, I can palpably remember Maestro Riccardo Muti bringing the Orchestra and Chorus together to create the musical depiction of Berlioz’s own struggles and joys in life. I also appreciate when a performance is perfectly crafted, captured on a live recording without retakes.”

A few honorable mentions:

  • VERDI Messa da Requiem with Riccardo Muti for CSO Resound (2009)
  • BACH Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 with Sir Georg Solti for London (1990)
  • GERSHWIN Cuban Overture and BERNSTEIN Symphonic Dances from West Side Story with Daniel Barenboim for Teldec (1997)
  • BRITTEN The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34 with Seiji Ozawa for RCA (1967)
  • Italian Masterworks (works by Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni, and Boito) with Riccardo Muti for CSO Resound (2017)

Eileen Marie Bora’s Favorite CSO (available recordings via Spotify):

TOP: Eileen Marie Bora | Sandro photo, 2017