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 member of the Orchestra since 1986, Gary Stucka received his first cello lessons at the Park View School in Morton Grove, Illinois, and received his bachelor and master’s degrees from Roosevelt University’s Chicago Musical College (now the Chicago College of Performing Arts). He was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, assistant principal cello with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, principal cello with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and a member of the Cleveland Orchestra before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the invitation of Sir Georg Solti.

Gary Stucka’s Favorite CSO (scroll down for recordings available for streaming via Spotify):

REZNICEK Donna Diana Overture
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1941 for Columbia
Frederick Stock, conductor
“This is a recording of infectious enthusiasm that leaves the listener exhilarated. It may be the best version ever made. Fans of radio and early TV will recognize the piece as the theme music to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. To hear this recording on a first-class gramophone, please check out my post here.” (The overture was one side of a set of two 78 RPM records that featured Enescu’s Roumanian Rhapsody no. 1 on three sides and Reznicek’s Donna Diana Overture on side four.)

R. STRAUSS On the Shores of Sorrento from Aus Italien
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1941 for RCA
Frederick Stock, conductor
“At rehearsals for the complete Strauss work with Riccardo Muti in May 2011, Maestro reminded us that, in spite of the dreamy atmosphere of Strauss’s music, the real shores of Sorrento are largely big rocks!! Regardless, this extremely late Stock recording has a real glow around the sound that beautifully captures the fabulous acoustics of ‘old’ Orchestra Hall. Too bad the complete Aus Italien wasn’t captured by the RCA microphones at the time. To hear this recording on a first-class gramophone, please check out my post here.”

J. STRAUSS, Jr. Thunder and Lightning Polka
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1960 for RCA
Fritz Reiner, conductor
“Just as little children are frightened by thunder, has the bass drum ever been recorded more effectively than here in this terrifying little lease-buster of a romp recorded by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra?? The recording is also great because it thrillingly captures the legendary acoustics of ‘old’ Orchestra Hall.”

SCHMIDT Symphony No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 137
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1989 for Chandos
Neeme Järvi, conductor
“Recorded with a conductor other than a music director, the CSO really raises to the occasion with this very difficult work. A real favorite of mine because in my mind’s eye, this piece drips of Bavaria, and the CSO executes it beautifully!”

PROKOFIEV Suite from Romeo and Juliet

Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2013 for CSO Resound
Riccardo Muti, conductor
“Riccardo Muti’s way with this music is especially passionate. After all, the subject matter is about two young Italian lovers. We have played this music often with Maestro Muti, and it’s wonderful to have a souvenir of something that is clearly close to his heart.”

A few honorable mentions:

  • BACH (arr. Stock) Saint Anne Prelude and Fugue with Frederick Stock for RCA (1941)
  • RESPIGHI The Birds with Désiré Defauw for RCA (1945)
  • MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (Scottish) with Artur Rodzinski for RCA (1947)
  • HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber with Rafael Kubelík for Mercury (1953)
  • STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20 with Fritz Reiner for RCA (1960)
  • NIELSEN Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 (The Inextinguishable) with Jean Martinon for RCA (1966)
  • WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with Sir Georg Solti for London (1995)

Gary Stucka’s Favorite CSO (available recordings via Spotify):

TOP: Gary Stucka | © Todd Rosenberg 2017