Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) celebrated its 125th anniversary during its 2015/16 season, and continues to be consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world.  Founded in 1891 by its first music director, Theodore Thomas, the CSO’s other illustrious music directors include Frederick Stock, Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim and current music director Riccardo Muti. From 2006 to 2010, Bernard Haitink served as principal conductor, the first in CSO history. Pierre Boulez was appointed principal guest conductor in 1995 and was named Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus in 2006. Celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma was appointed the CSO’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant in 2010. 

The renowned musicians of the CSO command a vast repertoire that spans from Baroque to new music. They annually perform more than 150 concerts, most at Symphony Center in Chicago, and, since 1936, in the summer at the Ravinia Festival. The CSO also tours nationally and internationally. Since its first tour to Canada in 1892, the Orchestra has performed in 29 countries on five continents during 59 international tours. Whether at home or on tour, tickets to CSO concerts are always in high demand and frequently sold out.

Since 1916, recording has been significant in establishing the Orchestra’s international reputation, with recordings by the CSO earning a total of 62 Grammy awards. In 2007, the CSO launched an independent label, CSO Resound, on which it has released 16 recordings; the most recent is with Muti in September 2015: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique and Lélio. The 2010 release of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem—Muti’s first recording with the CSO—was recognized with two Grammy awards.

Listeners and fans around the world can hear the CSO in weekly airings of the CSO Radio Broadcast Series, which is syndicated on the WFMT Radio Network and online at

Annually, the CSO engages more than 200,000 people of diverse ages, incomes and backgrounds through the innovative programs of the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO. These include concerts for children, families and school groups; curricula and programs for teachers and community groups; and low-cost and free rehearsals and performances, including a free annual CSO concert led by Muti. 

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

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