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Chicago Symphony Orchestra

“I would go to hell if they gave me a permanent orchestra,” Theodore Thomas, the first music director of what is now the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), allegedly replied to his friend Charles Norman Fay in 1889, when asked if he would be willing to move from New York to Chicago under certain conditions. Thus began the history of an ensemble long considered, for example by Gramophone magazine, one of the world’s finest orchestras. CSO’s appearance at the Prague Spring Festival will be particularly special as it marks the orchestra’s very first concert in the Czech Republic! Under the baton of conductor Jaap van Zweden, CSO will perform one of the most impressive works by the Czech native Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) – his autobiographical Symphony No. 6, in which the composer portrayed, among other things, his tumultuous relationship with Alma Mahler. “Mahler led a life full of contradictions: the rollercoaster he experienced in his family life, his divergent feelings about human existence. It’s all in his music,” said Jaap van Zweden referring to the Sixth Symphony.

 

The concert is held under the auspices of the US Embassy in the Czech Republic.

 

Programme

  • Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A minor “Tragic”

Performers

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Jaap van Zweden - conductor
20 5 2025
Tuesday 20.00

Founded by Harvard University graduate and later general manager of the Bell Telephone Company, Charles Norman Fay, the ensemble has a rich and illustrious history. The first CSO concert took place in 1891, and throughout its nearly 145 years of existence, it has been led by some of the greatest figures in the music world, including Sir George Solti, Daniel Barenboim, and its current emeritus music director, Riccardo Muti. From 1950 to 1953, the position of music director of CSO was held by the Czech conductor Rafael Kubelík, who made his American debut in Chicago in 1949 and two years later conducted CSO’s first-ever televised concert. Today, the orchestra’s regular guests include also the Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša.

Dutch-born Jaap van Zweden has conducted virtually all of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, and the London Symphony Orchestra. Last season, he concluded his six-year tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic – one of the most prestigious positions a conductor can hold. He collaborates regularly with CSO. When they performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 in 2022, the Chicago Classical Review wrote that “Thursday night’s riveting performance of this epic work delivered a season highlight with one of the most powerful and compelling Mahler concerts of recent years”. The review also noted that “under van Zweden, CSO musicians were inspired, delivering some of their finest playing of the season across all sections”. These words promise that the CSO’s concert with Jaap van Zweden at the Prague Spring Festival will be an extraordinary musical event indeed.