Music returns to Symphony Center this fall, through a variety of digital initiatives from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and Symphony Center Presents.

    Many of the fall programs will be available via CSOtv, a new video portal for free and premium on-demand videos, featuring newly recorded chamber-music concerts, educational content and archival sessions, performed by the CSO throughout its storied history.

    This new vision for the fall season has been developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has interrupted live concert performances and offers a variety of opportunities to access showcase? new and archival performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. These latest initiatives build on the success of CSO From Home, a collection of digital content designed to help keep music in patrons’ lives during the pandemic.

    Video content: CSO Sessions

    Filmed in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, the premium series will premiere on Oct. 1 and marks the official opening of the CSO’s 2020-21 season, the ensemble’s 130th. Curated with artistic guidance from Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti, the episodes will showcase chamber-music works from the 17th to the 21st centuries by Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Nielsen and others, performed by CSO duos to octets, as well as by smaller string, wind and brass ensembles. CSO musicians will serve as hosts for each episode.

    The series will be streamed via CSOtv, with additional options to cast the streams to a compatible television from a preferred device. The episodes, which will debut Thursdays at 12:01 a.m. (Central), will be available for on-demand streaming for 30 days afterward. New episodes will premiere weekly on CSOtv throughout 2020. Each premium episode will cost $15 to stream, with a 20 percent discount for three or more episodes. Patrons will need to log in to their cso.org account, or create a new account, to pay for premium content.

    Programming for the first five episodes:

    Oct. 1, Gershwin, Piazzolla, Nielsen, Gabaye & Villa-Lobos: The 
program opens with the CSO’s principal wind players — William Welter (oboe), Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson (flute), Stephen Williamson (clarinet), Keith Buncke (bassoon) and David Cooper (horn) — in 20th-century works by Gershwin, Piazzolla and Nielsen, written or arranged for wind quintet. Completing the program are two works composed specifically for flute and bassoon. CSO flute and piccolo Jennifer Gunn joins Assistant Principal Bassoon William Buchman in Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No. 6 and the final movement of the Sonatine by French composer Pierre Gabaye.

    Oct. 2, Mozart & Tchaikovsky: 
Wind and string chamber ensembles anchor this program that begins with Mozart’s Serenade No. 11, written for a wind octet of two oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns, performed by CSO principal and section wind players. The Mozart is paired with Tchaikovsky’s string sextet Souvenirs de Florence, featuring Concertmaster Robert Chen and Associate Concertmaster Stephanie Jeong, as well as Principal Cello John Sharp, Assistant Principal Cello Kenneth Olsen and CSO violas Lawrence Neuman and Wei-Ting Kuo.

    Oct. 15, Stravinsky, Bologne & Dvořák: Chamber-music works from three different musical eras highlight a program that begins with 20th-century composer Igor Stravinsky’s neo-classical Octet, scored for winds, strings and brass, and featuring Principal Flute Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson and Principal Trombone Jay Friedman. The program continues with CSO violinists and brothers Simon and Matous Michal in the Violin Sonata No. 2 by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, whose compositions were widely performed in 18th-century Paris. The concert concludes with Dvořák’s Sextet, performed by CSO violinists Simon and Matous Michal, violists Catherine Brubaker and Weijing Wang, and cellists Richard Hirschl and Karen Basrak.

    Oct. 22, Mozart, Shaw & Brahms: The second string quintets of Mozart and Brahms bookend this program that also includes Boris Kerner for Cello and Percussion by contemporary American composer Caroline Shaw. CSO violins and sisters Qing and Lei Hou, violas Catherine Brubaker and Lawrence Neuman and cello Karen Basrak are featured in the Mozart, while violins Rong-Yan Tang and Kozue Funakoshi, Acting Principal Viola Li-Kuo Chang and viola Youming Chen and cello Daniel Katz are featured in the Brahms. The Shaw is performed by Assistant Principal Cello Kenneth Olsen and Principal Percussion Cynthia Yeh.

    Oct. 29, Rossini, Dahl & Prokofiev: This varied program features a string sonata written by a 12-year-old Rossini, music for brass by 20th-century composer Ingolf Dahl and an arrangement of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite for wind ensemble. CSO musicians featured in this episode include Principal Second Violin Baird Dodge and Susan Synnestvedt (violin), Richard Hirschl (cello), Daniel Armstrong (bass), Principal Horn David Cooper, Assistant Principal Trumpet Mark Ridenour, John Hagstrom (trumpet), Michael Mulcahy (trombone), Charles Vernon (bass trombone), Principal Tuba Gene Pokorny, Principal Oboe William Welter, Scott Hostetler (English Horn), Assistant Principal Clarinet John Bruce Yeh, Miles Maner (bassoon), David Griffin (horn) and Oto Carrillo (horn), and guest musician Teresa Reilly (clarinet).

    Video content: From the CSO’s Archives



    Throughout fall 2020, several full-length concert programs from the CSO’s Rosenthal Archives will available as free video content on CSOtv. Anticipated releases include newly digitized episodes selected from the Great Music from Chicago series, originally broadcast weekly by WGN-TV in the 1950s and ’60s and featuring extraordinary CSO performances, led by former music directors and with legendary guest artists.

    Video content: 

Special features

    The CSO’s new video portal also will offer special features of free, on-demand, full-length CSO concert performances and performances of complete orchestral works. Scheduled are the CSO’s 2014 performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the CSO and Chorus and distinguished soloists, led by Riccardo Muti, as well as a 2013 performance of Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen, which premieres Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. (Central). The CSO’s virtual benefit event, Sounds of Celebration: An Evening at Home with the CSO, will be available on demand after  its premiere on Oct. 24. Anchoring the gala will be new performances by CSO musicians filmed in Orchestra Hall, along with special appearances by Riccardo Muti, Yo-Yo Ma and other stellar artists.

    Video content: CSO for Kids

    The CSO’s Negaunee Music Institute will offer a series of six, free educational videos on demand via CSOtv. The first video in the series, “My Magic Breath,” released Sept. 10, is an animated feature co-produced by Chicago Children’s Theatre and the NMI. With performances by CSO musicians and narration by First Lady of Chicago Amy Eshleman, the video is based on the popular children’s picture book My Magic Breath by New York Times best-selling author Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor, and illustrated by Michelle Polizzi, It weaves together soothing interludes of music by J.S. Bach and colorful animation to demonstrate how breathing techniques can help children feel better.

    The second video in the series, “The Music in George’s Head,” will premiere Oct. 22 as part of the Chicago Public Library’s “Live at the Library” series. It is based on the picture book biography of American composer George Gershwin by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Stacy Innerst. The new video was developed for older elementary school children and features Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Kurt Elling as the narrator, with the CSO performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

    In addition to educational videos, the Institute continues its work with Chicago Public Schools by offering musical instruction with CSO and Civic Orchestra musicians in virtual settings throughout 2020-21. Some of this instruction also  be available as on-demand video master classes with CSO musicians. The Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the CSO’s premiere pre-professional training orchestra, begins its 2020-21 season with online training opportunities and rehearsals for the 2020 Bach Marathon, which will be held virtually this year.

    Audio content: InterMISSION @ at the CSO

    This new, free podcast series features Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians in behind-the-scenes conversations about what it takes to make the CSO one of the world’s greatest orchestras. Developed by CSO trumpet John Hagstrom and local producer Scott Brewer, the series premieres Sept. 21 and may be accessed on the podcast platform of your choice, including Simplecast, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon/Audible (coming soon) and of course, cso.org. Five initial episodes will be released biweekly on Mondays, beginning with the Sept. 21 episode, which examines the role of conductors, followed by the Oct. 5 episode, which features an interview with CSO horn James Smelser.

    The podcast’s title refers to the hiatus in live performances due to the pandemic, but also the return of great performances by the CSO in the next chapter of its distinguished history. For more information, go to cso.org/intermission.

    Audio content: CSOradio



    From the CSO’s Archives: The First 130 Years, a new Tuesday-night broadcast series, will premiere Sept. 22 and air weekly on WFMT-FM  (98.7) at 8 p.m. (Central) through Dec. 29. The series has been curated by Frank Villella, director of the CSO’s Rosenthal Archives, and focuses on the orchestra’s extensive discography, covering virtually every musical era in CSO history.

    The First 130 Years series supplements the CSO’s long-running, nationally syndicated broadcasts, which also air locally on WFMT and wfmt.com each Sunday at 8 p.m. (Central). For complete listings and to listen to free, on-demand radio broadcasts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, visit cso.org/radio.

    While current public health restrictions do not allow for large audiences to attend performances at Symphony Center, the CSOA is monitoring the situation to determine future programming scenarios, including smaller-scale live performances.

    Additional information about viewing and accessing premium videos is available at cso.org/tv. Patron Services representatives also are available via web chat at cso.org, by phone at (312) 294-3000 (Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or by email at patronservices@cso.org.