The gift that just goes on giving

The gift that just goes on giving


norman lebrecht

September 19, 2014

Chicago Symphony has announced another $2 million gift – to add to the $32 million it received a few weeks back.



CHICAGO—Jay Henderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), announced today that CSOA Trustee Randy Berlin and her husband, Melvin, have pledged $2 million to the CSOA to create the Randy and Melvin Berlin Family Fund for the Canon. This gift provides support for artistic excellence in the programming of core orchestral repertoire by German and Austro-Hungarian composers—such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert and Schumann—for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO).

“All art forms have a core collection of ‘best works’ or ‘canon’—famous and timeless pieces that have remained appreciated over the centuries,” said Randy Berlin. “The deep awe and pleasure we feel for this music of the past enlarges our capacity to connect with the composers from other places and times who transport us through beautiful sound into worlds we never knew and to audiences around the world who share our appreciation. Great art fulfills our urge to make order out of chaos and helps us to be proud of being human. By creating the Fund for the Canon at the CSO, Melvin and I chose to support the masterpieces of core classical orchestral repertoire on which the CSO built its tremendous legacy. It’s an honor for us to help ensure the future performances of this great repertoire by this remarkable Orchestra.”


  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Well this puts paid comments about “dead white mens’ music”.

  • William Safford says:

    LOL. I was thinking the same thing.

    Perhaps it will free up monies for other projects. That would be a win-win.

  • Rosana Martins says:

    The repertoire is definitely very standard, however the orchestra would normally programme some of these works anyway, so now they receive extra money to do it. Mr. Berlin has the right to choose how to invest his money… Of course, one would hope to find investors for living composers as well.
    I believe that with all the financial problems the symphony orchestras are suffering, a U$ 2 million gift is most welcome and merits applause,

  • Harlow says:

    The great irony is that it’s being done under Muti, champion of the Italian canon. To be sure, Muti respects and is well steeped in the German and Austro-Hungarian canon, having collaborated over 40+ years with the Vienna Philharmonic. But still, for Muti, he’d love to see $2 million to elevate Vivaldi along Bach, Cherubini along Beethoven… et chetera et chetera (as Muti likes to say in his soft Italian accent).

  • Tom says:

    This is a conservative act in the best sense of the word.
    For many ensembles, finding new funding means broadening its range of activities into community activities, more Pops programs, gala events, multi-media presentations and on and on, leading to a kind of ‘mission creep’, a distraction from the core activity of presenting excellent performances the greatest music written for symphony orchestra.
    Funding of this kind is a refreshing reminder of the importance of the core repertoire, honestly presented in the concert hall.