Sunday, November 4, 2018

Veterans Day Concert
November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary centennial of the end of World War I.  In remembrance of this historical event, and since November 11, 2018 happened to fall on a Sunday, the Symphony decided to program a Veterans Day Concert this year.  The artistic committee spent considerable time and effort on the program, deciding in the end on three pieces, one each by an American composer, a French composer, and a British composer.

The concert will start with a short piece by Morton Gould entitled American Salute, its theme based on the Civil War era song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”.   Interestingly, the premiere of this piece was on NBC radio on November 11, 1942, at the height of World War II. 

The following two pieces on the program pay respects to the veterans of the first world war. 
The next piece features our piano soloist Winston Choi, head of piano at the College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University, who gave us a superb rendition of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto two years ago. 

The story of the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand by French composer Maurice Ravel is a fascinating one.  It was written for Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, a scion of one of Vienna's most remarkable families —Brahms was only one of the famous guests at the Wittgensteins’ celebrated gatherings. 

When World War I broke out, Paul enlisted in the Austrian army. A few months later, he was shot and severely wounded, and his right arm was amputated.  Being a member of a distinguished family of overachievers and survivors, and raised by a father of forceful determination, Wittgenstein did not give up his career as a pianist. (That same oppressive upbringing, however, may have led the two oldest sons to commit suicide.) Instead, he took family money and commissioned more than a dozen works for piano left-hand from some of the world's leading composers.

This concerto by Maurice Ravel was not the first, but it is generally regarded as the best. Written in 1929-1930, it contains many jazz effects that Ravel had picked up on his 1928 trip to the United States, during which he met bandleader Paul Whiteman and spent several nights visiting jazz clubs in Harlem with George Gershwin. (He also conducted the Chicago Symphony and continually complained about American food!). 

It is clear from this work that Ravel had learned all about blue notes!  A personal note..I first heard this piece when I was 14 years old.  My parents had just bought a stereo system, and my mother brought home a record of this concerto from the library.  I think she chose it because the pianist was John Browning, and she thought he was very handsome!  I listened to the record so many times that I wore out the grooves.  The piece remains a personal favorite.

The biggest work on the program is the Pastoral Symphony by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.  It was during the composer’s service in World War I that he heard a bugler practicing, giving him the first idea for his Pastoral Symphony.  He began work on the symphony just after the war ended, and it was completed in 1921 and first performed at a Royal Philharmonic Society concert at Queen’s Hall, London, on January 26, 1922.

The composer referred to this symphony in his first program notes as “almost entirely quiet and contemplative,” yet it is not without moments of underlying passion.  The symphony is in four movements, with the second movement containing two cadenzas, the first for a natural trumpet (sounding a lot like a bugle) and the second for a natural horn.  The final movement is unusual, beginning with a wordless soprano lament over a timpani roll.  After the orchestra swells to an impassioned climax, the symphony will end with the same elegiac soprano melody disappearing into silence.  In overall mood the Pastoral Symphony is quite different from most symphonies, but at the same time it is a quite moving testament to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Riccardo Muti
Visits us for the 6th year!

The musicians of the orchestra are quite excited about the visit of Riccardo Muti, the eminent conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, known throughout the world for his musicianship and leadership.

Maestro Muti will take the orchestra through the "1821 Overture" by Tchaikovsky on Sunday, September 23 at 5 p.m.

There is free parking in the parking garage adjacent to the site of the rehearsal: Concordia University, corner of Bonnie Brae and Thomas in River Forest.

Bring a donation of food for the Oak Park Food Pantry.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Message from David Leehey, President of the Board

This is the concert you have been waiting for.  

I call it "Choral Fantasies".

Beethoven did call his piece, "Choral Fantasy", but Carmina Burana is also a choral fantasy -- a choral piece with a lot of fantasy in it.

There are a lot more similarities between these pieces than one might think:

  • They are both joyous and fun.   

  • Both have uncomplicated harmonies and melodies.  

  • There is lots of C major in both!


 Hope to see you at the concert

on Monday, April 23, 7:30 p.m.

Symphony Hall, 220 S. Michigan Avenue

Chicago, IL

Call 312-294-3000 for tickets.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sad News About Our Webmaster

We are shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Janet Barnstable, our beloved webmaster.

Both Janet and her partner, Richard, perished in a house fire.

At this time, we are unable to post on the main site.  We are seeking advice and support as we work toward the ability to post on our website.

For more information, contact Beth Hoover at:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Our New Season!

We are all looking forward to our fifth open rehearsal with the great conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Riccardo Muti!  

This will happen on October 1 at 7 p.m. at Concordia University in River Forest.  (Free admission with the purchase of a ticket to our October 8th concert or a subscription to four concerts.)

Muti always brings his whole package of jokes and a wealth of musical knowledge!  We learn so much from him! It's an honor to work with a world class musician!

Maestro Muti is a busy man.  It's really wonderful that he donates his time to visit and instruct us!  He sets a wonderful example about helping others in many ways!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Two Titans of the Romantic Era

By David Leehey, Board President of The Symphony of Oak Park & River Forest

Our March 6 concert features music by the two titans of romantic-era German music, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner. Though today hearing the music of these two masters on the same program does not raise eyebrows, that was not always the case.

The "War of the Romantics" is a term used by some music historians to describe the aesthetic schism between two opposing musical philosophies in the 19th century. The conservatives favored Brahms, who was seen as the heir to the great tradition of German music as it had passed from the Baroque masters such as Bach, through the Viennese classicists (Haydn and Mozart), and on to the early 19th century romantics (Beethoven, Schumann, and Mendelssohn). They were believers in absolute music, meaning that the music, in its form, structure, melody, and harmony, could and should stand on its own merits. Their opponents were the progressives of the so-called New German School, led by Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. The conservatives believed in writing sonatas, chamber music, concertos, and symphonies. The progressives were believers in program music, thinking that the music should tell a story (and often be accompanied by a narrative). This idea led to Liszt’s creation of the symphonic poem (or “tone poem”) and reached its apotheosis in the music dramas of Wagner.

As is true of many things in life, these two opposing camps were not really as dissimilar as many considered them to be at the time. Robert Schumann had been a progressive composer and critic as well as editor of the influential music periodical Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. He had artistically fruitful friendships with both the radical romantics — Liszt in particular — as well as with musical conservatives such as Mendelssohn. However as Liszt’s piano performance antics and the fervid audiences he left in his wake (sometimes called Lisztomania) swept through Europe in the 1840s, both he and his pianist wife Clara turned to the new savior of German music, Johannes Brahms.
Brahms and his fellow conservatives were to write a Manifesto against the perceived bias of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, which after Schumann’s death was controlled by the progressives. The manifesto lodged a protest againts the leaders and pupils of the New German School, declaring its theories, principles and practice to be “contrary to the innermost spirit of music, strongly to be deplored and condemned”. This became a catalyst for spreading the conflict to the German press at large. Liszt, to his credit, did not debate the manifesto; instead, he let his music speak for him. Brahms, after this one foray into musical politics, was to do the same in the future.

Although it is true that Brahms did not care much for the music of the progressives, the exception was Wagner. Whiles his fellow conservatives loved to despise Wagner's music, he respected it privately and once told his friends, "I am the best of Wagnerians."

Another piece of the “War of the Romantics” deserves mention. The composer and pianist Hans von Bülow initially supported the Liszt-Wagner side. That was until his wife, Liszt's daughter Cosima, left him for Wagner; he then switched his allegiance to Brahms. It was Bülow who called Brahms the third of the Three Bs, after Bach and Beethoven. It does not take a lot of imagination to see why Bülow would change camps.

In its time, the 'war' was often seen to reflect a clear demarcation between what was seen to be 'classical music' and 'modern music', categories which still persist (although differently defined) to the present day. Today when we listen to the music of Brahms and Wagner, we hear the similarities more than the differences.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Italian Music!!!     Italian Food!!

Following our October 18, 2015 concert, at which we feature music by Vivaldi and Verdi, orchestra members, board members, audience members and families will gather at Trattoria 225 for dinner! 

Bill Quick, the owner of Trattoria 225, has planned a lovely meal at the cost of $25 a person.  The restaurant is located at 225 Harrison in Oak Park in the Harrison Street Arts District.

Click here to see the menu