Beginning with the incorporation of The Orchestral Association in 1890, find out more about the CSO’s distinguished history.
CSO Biography Former Musicians (pdf) Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center (pdf)
In 1889, Charles Norman Fay encountered Thomas in New York and inquired, "Would you come to Chicago if we gave you a permanent orchestra?" Thomas’s reply: "I would go to hell if they gave me a permanent orchestra."
Stock and the Orchestra made their first recoding in 1916, and during the 1919/20 season he inaugurated a regular subscription series of youth concerts as well as the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra.
Defauw introduced Chicago audiences to the works of several contemporary composers, including Barber, Bloch, Carpenter, Chadwick, Copland, Elgar, Goldmark, Milhaud, Sibelius, Walton and Warlock.
The highlight of Rodzinski's tenure was a full-scale performance of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde with Kirsten Flagstad at the Civic Opera House.
Kubelík made his American debut with the Chicago Symphony in November 1949, and the success of those appearances led to his appointment as the Orchestra’s fifth music director.
Under Reiner’s leadership, the Orchestra made several landmark recordings for RCA Records including Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky.
Martinon directed the Orchestra away from the Germanic in favor of the French style that was more fluid than bold; he also conducted a series of contemporary concerts and led a baroque music festival.
Solti served as music director for twenty-two years and is credited with greatly extending and enhancing the Orchestra’s worldwide reputation, leading the first overseas tour in 1971.
Barenboim’s music directorship was distinguished by the opening of Symphony Center, highly praised operatic productions, and numerous appearances in the dual role of pianist and conductor.