Maestro Riccardo Muti wished to have a bronze bust in order to honor his illustrious predecessor, Fritz Reiner, as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1953 to 1962) during the orchestra’s 125th anniversary. As luck would have it, Chris Daniels proposed such a project to Jeffrey Alexander, the President of the CSO, soon after Maestro Muti expressed this desire. Famed Hungarian sculptor, Katalin Gerő, was asked to sculpt the bust. Her work on the bust began in September 2015 and after meticulously studying photographs of Fritz Reiner from every angle and sculpting the clay model with painstaking detail, the bust was cast in bronze in May 2016 and shipped to Chicago.
At the unveiling, Maestro Muti was not only pleased and satisfied, but jubilant at having his dream fulfilled. He gave a heartfelt speech about the lasting affect Maestro Reiner’s recordings with the Chicago Symphony had on him and his fellow young conducting students in Naples, and the lasting woldwide fame that recordings brought to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Budapest in 1888, Reiner was the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1953 to 1962). While a student at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, he studied piano with Bela Bartók; and he later worked with Richard Strauss while chief conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle (1914 to 1921). In the United States, he served as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony (1922 to 1931) and Pittsburgh Symphony (1938 to 1948), as well as principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. During the 1930’s and 1940’s he also taught conducting at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his pupils included Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss. Reiner served as musical advisor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the 1962–63 season, just before his death on November 15, 1963.