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.

With degrees from Asbury College and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Mark Ridenour was a member of the Dayton Philharmonic, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and principal trumpet of the Florida Orchestra before Daniel Barenboim appointed him assistant principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1994. Currently, he is on the faculty of Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Mark Ridenour’s Favorite CSO (scroll down for recordings available for streaming via Spotify):

RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1956 for RCA
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Artur Rubinstein, piano
“There are few pianists that can play with beautiful lyricism.  I marvel at how Artur Rubinstein is able to infuse emotion into the music. His artistry is simply just amazing.”

PROKOFIEV Lieutenant Kijé, Op .60 and STRAVINSKY The Song of the Nightingale
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1957 and 1956 for RCA
Fritz Reiner, conductor
“This recording of Stravinsky’s The Song of the Nightingale contains some of the most incredible trumpet sounds you will ever hear. It was one of my favorites before I joined the CSO. There are two trumpet solos at the very end of the piece accompanied by strings, and Adolph “Bud” Herseth‘s sound is so mysterious and otherworldly. Several times I asked him how he got that sound—covered the bell with a hat, use a contraption to reduce the size of the backbore like William Vacchiano (longtime principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic) used to do, unscrew the mouthpiece rim, use a flugel mouthpiece . . . ???? All he would say was that he didn’t know how, only that he had that sound in his ear.”

BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1995 for Teldec
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
“This was the first recording that I played first trumpet. At the end of my first year (beginning of May 1995) in the CSO, I was summoned to the Maestro’s studio. I was informed that Bud needed to take an immediate medical leave, and the following week, I began playing first trumpet for the foreseeable future. The week after the Berlioz, we recorded Hannibal’s African Portraits. And the week after that, we left for a three-week tour to Japan, but since Bud—along with William Scarlett and Timothy Kent—were all out on medical leave, I was the only member of the trumpet section that went on tour.”

WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 1995 for London
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Karita Mattila, soprano
Iris Vermillion, mezzo-soprano
Ben Heppner, Herbert Lippert, Roberto Saccà, John Horton Murray, and Steven Tharp, tenors
Alan Opie, Gary Martin, and Richard Byrne, baritones
José van Dam, Albert Dohmen, Kevin Deas, Stephen Morscheck, and Kelly Anderson, bass-baritones
René Pape, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director
1997 Grammy award for Best Opera Recording
“This fortnight of concerts and recording was maybe the most memorable of my career. With all of the people that needed to be onstage, the physical stage was extended, built out into the hall. Solti then had the brass section in one row—trombones, trumpets and horns. Right behind us was a riser where the singers would stand and then the Chorus was at the back of the stage. Sitting in front of these singers was the most amazing experience. Ben Heppner. Karita Matilla. José van Dam. René Pape. Alan Opie. Just incredible.”

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA BRASS LIVE: Works by Gabrieli, Bach, Revueltas, Prokofiev, Grainger, and Walton
Recorded in Orchestra Hall in 2010 for CSO Resound
Dale Clevenger, Jay Friedman, Michael Mulcahy, and Mark Ridenour, conductors
“This CD was recorded the week that the annual brass concert was turned into the subscription concerts. Instead of doing this concert only once, it was scheduled to be performed three times. In addition, our Welcome, Yule! holiday concerts were also being performed that same weekend. I believe this was the first conducting credit I had on a commercial recording. Anecdotally, I will get periodic texts from my son about him hearing one of the tracks from this CD on Pandora. It is always nice having your kids be proud of their father’s work.”

A few honorable mentions:

  • MAHLER Symphony No. 4 in G Major with Fritz Reiner for RCA (1958)
  • SIBELIUS Violin in D Minor, Op. 47 with Jascha Heifetz and Walter Hendl for RCA (1959)
  • STRAVINSKY Petrushka with Carlo Maria Giulini for Angel (1969)
  • STRAUSS Don Juan, Op. 20 with Sir Georg Solti for London (1972)
  • MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition with Carlo Maria Giulini for Deutsche Grammophon (1976)
  • BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major with Sir Georg Solti for London (1979)
  • MAHLER Symphony No. 6 in A Minor with Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophon (1979)
  • MAHLER Symphony No. 5 with Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophon (1980)
  • BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra with Sir Georg Solti for London (1981)
  • MAHLER Symphony No. 3 with Sir Georg Solti for London (1982-83)
  • DEBUSSY Fêtes from Nocturnes with Sir Georg Solti for ICA Classics (video) (1985)
  • BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7 in E Major with Sir Georg Solti for London (1988-87)
  • SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 13 in B-flat Minor, Op. 113 (Babi Yar) with Sir Georg Solti for London (1995)
  • VERDI Messa da Requiem with Riccardo Muti for CSO Resound (2009)

Mark Ridenour’s Favorite CSO (available recordings via Spotify):

TOP: Mark Ridenour | © Todd Rosenberg 2010