Nineteen days ahead of his official retirement date, Dale Clevenger appeared for the last time as principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Tuesday night’s subscription concert in Orchestra Hall. Riccardo Muti conducted.
Several months ago the CSO announced that the legendary horn player, 73, will retire on June 30 after a remarkable 47 years as first chair horn, a track record surpassed by very few other important orchestral musicians.
Clevenger will not take part in any further CSO concerts this season because of vacation and the scheduled rotation of personnel, an orchestra spokeswoman said. The season runs through the end of June.
During the Tuesday night concert, Clevenger, along with recently retired assistant principal second violin Albert Igolnikov, received the Theodore Thomas Medallion, an honor customarily given to all CSO members at their retirement.
At a private performance Muti and the CSO gave for patrons Monday night, the music director praised Clevenger as “one of the greats” in the orchestral field. The revered hornist conducted several brass pieces, including a horn concerto arranged for his five colleagues of the CSO horn section. The entire brass choir then saluted him with a “tusch,” the traditional fanfare of appreciation.
For the concert’s grand finale, an ensemble of nearly 70 fellow horn players – all former or current students and colleagues of Clevenger’s – played an arrangement of a movement from the Mahler Symphony No. 5, long one of his signature pieces; and a tribute video was shown.
In other CSO news, the orchestra association announced Tuesday that it has received a $1.25 million gift from longtime supporters Richard and Mary L. Gray and the Richard and Mary L. Gray Foundation.
The gift is in two parts — $250,000 for artistic innovation and programming, $1 million to endow the position of vice president of artistic planning and audience development, which has been held by Martha Gilmer since 1976. This is the first time an administrative post at the association has been endowed.
Richard and Mary L. Gray are both longtime CSO governing members, the former since 1986, the latter since 1999. Richard Gray was elected to the board in 1990 and became a life trustee in 2003. The Grays have been CSO subscribers for 58 years.