Wednesday
Jul052017

Rewind: July 6, 1967


As America had Robert Shaw, so Britain had Malcolm Sargent. Both dubbed the “deans of choral music” of their respective nations, both also had uncanny command of music that did not feature the voice. And just as Shaw became a household name for his Christmas albums, so too did Sargent become a well-loved public figure through his many appearances on BBC radio and as chief conductor of the Proms for 20 years. Beyond his legacy as co-founder of the London Philharmonic and co-savior of the Royal Philharmonic, Sargent particularly left an indelible mark upon the tonal music of his own time, especially that of his countrymen Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton, Holst, and Delius. He only ever made two appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Ravinia audiences were fortunate to witness both, on July 6 and 8 of 1967, a mere three months before he died at home in Britain. His programs didn’t disappoint, entirely featuring the contemporary music he lent such a knowing touch to, from concertos by Prokofiev and Wieniawski to the second symphonies of Sibelius (whose masterpiece can be heard again at Ravinia on July 21) and Vaughan Williams. And history is fortunate indeed that the Brit’s A London Symphony was recorded that first night, capturing for all time the familiarity the magnificent maestro brought to it, having grown up in the very London that Vaughan Williams sketched in music. Once confined to the archives, the recording found the light of day as the CSO celebrated the culmination of the 20th century with a 10-CD set that also featured two further never-before heard tracks captured at Ravinia: Copland’s Preamble for a Solemn Occasion, featuring Marian Anderson as narrator with then–music director Seiji Ozawa, and the same composer’s Billy the Kid Suite, led by then–music director James Levine.

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