Frederick Stock, Richard Strauss, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1895-1942)
Blair, Michelle Perrin
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The Chicago Symphony is one of the top five orchestras in the United States, and it is famous for, among other things, being the premier Strauss orchestra in this country. As the second music director of the Chicago Symphony (who served from 1905 until his death in 1942), Frederick Stock was ranked among the top four American conductors of his lifetime, a list that also included Arturo Toscanini in New York, Serge Koussevitzky in Boston, and Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia. However, posterity has not been kind to Stock, and the scholarship on his biography, conducting legacy, and compositional influences is thin. Furthermore, no specific study has yet been made of Stock’s relationship to the music of Strauss and his significant contributions to Chicago’s Strauss tradition. Additionally, Stock was a brilliant orchestrator and composer in his own right, and his transcriptions were hailed by his contemporaries as rivaling Strauss himself in their mastery of the orchestral color palette. Because Stock is such an understudied figure, this essay will initially sketch a chronology of his early life and career. Then it will establish his reputation as a conductor and interpreter of the Strauss repertoire and demonstrate that Stock helped make the Chicago Symphony Orchestra the premier Strauss orchestra in the United States by programming and promoting Strauss’ works on subscription concerts for thirty-seven years, performing Strauss repertoire as part of special events and outreach efforts throughout the country, and conducting the earliest commercial recordings of multiple Strauss tone poems. Finally, this essay will examine the influence of Strauss on Stock’s orchestration techniques through an analysis of Stock’s Symphonic Variations, op. 7.