Chicago Symphony founder Theodore Thomas: a brief history

Posted on: July 6, 2015

On Thursday (7/2) at Chicago classical radio station WFMT, Hannah Edgar writes about Theodore Thomas, who “founded what would later be known as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was its first music director.…Thomas was a champion of American musical excellence and left an indelible mark on the formation of our country’s orchestral tradition.” Early on, Thomas played violin in the New York Philharmonic. “Like others in the Philharmonic, he wore other musical hats in order to earn income and formed his own touring Theodore Thomas Orchestra…. In 1889, Thomas was visited by Charles Norman Fay, a friend from Chicago [who] asked Thomas if he would consider selecting Chicago as the location for establishing a permanent orchestra…. The 1890-91 season was Thomas’s last in New York. He left with 13 musicians to establish the Chicago Orchestra…. Both Fay and Thomas knew that the secret to the Chicago Orchestra’s longevity was proper financial support … Construction on the Chicago Orchestra’s new home, Orchestra Hall, was completed [in 1904]…. Sadly, the maestro only lived to lead two weeks of subscription concerts in the hall he’d always wanted, succumbing to pneumonia on January 4, 1905.… Thomas helped put American orchestras on the map … [and] proved the worth of the symphony orchestra as a cultural institution.”

Posted July 6, 2015