The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is an American orchestra based in Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1891, the Symphony makes its home at Orchestra Hall in Chicago and plays a summer season at the Ravinia Festival. The music director is Riccardo Muti (Italy, July 28, 1941), who began his tenure in 2010.
The Chicago Symphony has amassed an extensive discography. Recordings by the CSO have earned 62 Grammy Awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. These include several Classical Album of the Year awards, awards in Best Classical Performance in vocal soloist, choral, instrumental, engineering and orchestral categories
The home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the Orchestra Hall which is a 2,522 seat concert hall opened in 1904. The Orchestra Hall has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. It is part of the music complex called Symphony Center at 220 South Michigan Avenue of Chicago, Illinois. Aside from the CSO, the Symphony Center is home to the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Institute for Learning, Access, and Training.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra maintains a summer season at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois. The Orchestra first performed there during Ravinia Park's second season in November 1905 and continued to appear there on and off through August 1931, after which the Park fell dark due to the Great Depression. The Orchestra helped to inaugurate the first season of the Ravinia Festival in August 1936 and has been in residence at the Festival every summer since.
Many conductors have made their debut with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia, and several have gone on to become the artistic director, or primary summertime guest conductor at Ravinia, including Seiji Ozawa (1964–1968), James Levine (1973–1993), and Christoph Eschenbach (1995–2003).
The Big Five orchestras of the United States are the five symphony orchestras that led the field in "musical excellence, calibre of musicianship, total contract weeks, weekly basic wages, recording guarantees, and paid vacations" when the term gained currency in the late 1950s and for some years afterwards. In order of foundation, they were: New York Philharmonic (1842), Boston Symphony Orchestra (1881), Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1891), Philadelphia Orchestra (1900) and Cleveland Orchestra (1918).
People still refer to the "Big Five", but many believe the classification to be outdated. Several critics have suggested that the top echelon is expanded. Seven American orchestras were numbered among the world's top twenty in a 2008 critics' poll by Gramophone. They were, in rank order, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (5th), the Cleveland Orchestra (7th), the Los Angeles Philharmonic (8th), the Boston Symphony Orchestra (11th), the New York Philharmonic (12th), the San Francisco Symphony (13th), and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (New York City) (18th). While The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra would expand the American “Big Five”, the Philadelphia Orchestra did not rank among the world’s top 20.
For the calendar of events of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, please click here, then on "List":