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Frederick Stock (born Friedrich August Stock; November 11, 1872, Jülich, Rhine Province – October 20, 1942, Chicago, Illinois) was a German conductor and composer, most famous for his 37-year tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Jülich, Germany, Stock was given his early musical education by his army bandmaster father. At the age of 14, he was admitted to the Cologne Conservatory as a student of violin and composition, where he counted composer Engelbert Humperdinck as one of his teachers and conductor Willem Mengelberg among his classmates. After graduating from the conservatory in 1890, Stock joined the Municipal Orchestra of Cologne as a violinist.
In 1895, Stock met with Theodore Thomas, founder and first music director of the then fledgling Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who was to have a decisive impact on his future. Thomas, who was then visiting Germany in search of recruits for his new Chicago orchestra, auditioned Stock and hired him as a violist. Thomas soon realized, however, that his new violist was also a very talented conductor and, in 1899, Stock was promoted to assistant conductor.
After Thomas' death on January 4, 1905, Stock succeeded him as music director. That year, he wrote a symphonic poem Eines Menschenlebens Morgen, Mittag und Abend, dedicated to "Theodore Thomas and the Members of the Chicago Orchestra." The work was first performed on April 7 and 8, 1905.
The orchestra's board of trustees had first approached Hans Richter, Felix Weingartner and Felix Mottl to succeed Thomas. But the board's executive committee met on April 11, 1905, and resolved: "Frederick Stock unanimously elected Conductor. Trustees voted that the Orchestra should now be known as 'The Theodore Thomas Orchestra.'" (The ensemble's name was ultimately changed to Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1913.)
Under Stock's direction, the Chicago Symphony became one of America's top orchestras, developing a distinctive brass sound already heard in the its first recordings. An enthusiast of modern music, Stock championed the works of many then modern composers including Gustav Mahler; Richard Strauss (who, at Theodore Thomas's invitation, had been the CSO's first-ever guest conductor on subscription concerts in April 1904); Stravinsky, whose Symphony in C was commissioned for the orchestra's 50th anniversary; Sergei Prokofiev, who was soloist in the world premiere of his Third Piano Concerto in Chicago (although he recorded it in 1932 with the London Symphony); Gustav Holst; Zoltán Kodály, whose Concerto for Orchestra was commissioned by Stock; Nikolai Myaskovsky, whose Symphony No. 21 was commissioned for the orchestra's 50th anniversary; Josef Suk; William Walton; Arthur Benjamin; George Enescu; and many others. But Stock's most memorable recordings were of Romantic repertory by Schubert, Schumann, Weber, Goldmark and Glazunov.
Stock's 37-year tenure as head of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was surpassed in America only by Eugene Ormandy's lengthy directorship of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Soon after Stock's death in Chicago on 20 October 1942, Désiré Defauw was chosen as his successor.
In 1936, when Stock was less and less able to conduct himself, Hans Lange, formerly Toscanini's assistant in New York, was hired to conduct those CSO concerts Stock could no longer conduct. He remained at the CSO during Defauw's tenure, and was a mentor of Chicago composer Leon Stein.
In May 1916, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under Stock's baton, made its first set of recordings for the Columbia Graphophone Company label in Chicago (the specific location is not documented); the first piece recorded on May 1, 1916, was the Wedding March from Felix Mendelssohn's Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. The orchestra later made its first electrical recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company in December 1925, including superbly idiomatic performances of Karl Goldmark's In Springtime overture and Robert Schumann's First ("Spring") Symphony; these early recordings were made in Victor's Chicago studios and within a couple of years the orchestra was recorded in Orchestra Hall, its home. Abandoning recording for several years after 1930, the CSO then returned to Columbia for a long series of recordings, only to finally return to RCA Victor in 1941-1942 for its final series of recordings under Stock, whose last studio recording, Ernest Chausson's Symphony in B-flat, was released posthumously in 1943.
Entries ending with ** are particularly outstanding interpretations of emotionally expressive Romantic repertory that was Stock's special stock in trade.