Theodore Thomas, the Chicago Orchestra‘s founder and first music director, favored the music of Ludwig van Beethoven above all others. Of the five composers’ names inscribed on the façade of Orchestra Hall, Beethoven’s is the one featured prominently in the center.

Shortly after the turn of the last century, Thomas began writing a series of essays — complete with accompanying diagrams — analyzing Beethoven’s symphonies. These were intended “simply to serve as an aid to students and concertgoers in understanding and listening intelligently to these masterworks,” according to his widow, Rose Fay Thomas. Thomas was able to write articles on only the first five symphonies before his unexpected death in January 1905, and Rose later invited his successor, Frederick Stock, to finish the series. Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies was published in Chicago by Oliver Ditson Company in 1930.

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TOP: Theodore Thomas, dust jacket for the first edition of Talks About Beethoven’s Symphonies, and Frederick Stock