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.

A native of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, Emma Gerstein began her flute studies at age eight and was a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. She continued her studies at the Manhattan School of Music and at Indiana University, and she has performed with the New World Symphony, Kentucky’s Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra (principal flute), Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony (guest principal flute), and New Zealand’s Auckland Philharmonia (principal flute). In 2017, Gerstein was appointed to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as second flute by music director Riccardo Muti.

Emma Gerstein’s Favorite CSO (scroll down for recordings available for streaming via Spotify):

PROKOFIEV Suite from Romeo and Juliet
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2013 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti, conductor
“I first listened to this recording in 2016 when I was playing in the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand. We were going to be performing Romeo and Juliet, so I chose this recording to study in preparation. I still remember exactly where I was when I heard it, and the chills it gave me. It can be hard to feel so moved by a recording (as opposed to a live performance), but this really got to me.”

RAVEL Daphnis and Chloe
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2007 for CSO Resound
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Jessica Rivera, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
“I bought this CD when it came out while I was in college. I used to enjoy coming home during breaks and getting to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and no trip to Symphony Center was complete without a trip to The Symphony Store. Mathieu Dufour was the first flutist whose playing I absolutely loved and he joined the Orchestra when I was just getting serious about music myself, so this recording was not to be missed!”

BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra 
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1955 for RCA
Fritz Reiner, conductor
“One of my favorite things about playing in the CSO is it’s history. It’s amazing that you can go back nearly a century and find incredible recordings like this one. This is one of my favorite pieces, and when I finally got a chance to play it with the CSO, I kept thinking back to this recording, which I listened to quite a lot over the years.”

MAHLER Symphony No. 7 
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1984 for Deutsche Grammophon
Claudio Abbado, conductor
“In my personal list of ‘conductors I wish I could have had the chance to work with,’ Claudio Abbado is about number 1. Mahler’s Seventh Symphony is also the first piece I got to play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (under Bernard Haitink), so this recording is very special to me.”

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1990 for London
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
“I know the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Sir Georg Solti are largely known for Mahler, Bruckner, etc., but I absolutely love the way the Orchestra sounds in this kind of repertoire. The big brassy moments as well as the eerie sounds of the strings and winds give me chills! I know the Orchestra used to have quite a few members who left Eastern Europe around WWII (and before), so I imagine that playing Shostakovich’s music carried an added personal element.”

A few honorable mentions:

Emma Gerstein’s Favorite CSO (available recordings via Spotify):

TOP: Emma Gerstein | © Todd Rosenberg 2017