Monday, January 18, 2016

John J. Glessner and the CSO

On January 21, 1936, the Chicago Tribune reported the death of two men well known in their circles – King George V of England and John Jacob Glessner.  Glessner had died the previous day in his beloved Prairie Avenue home just six days before his 93rd birthday.   In the weeks that followed, tributes were written and published by a number of organizations in which he was prominently involved, including International Harvester which he had helped to found in 1902, and Rush Medical College, where he served as president emeritus. 

One of the most heartfelt tributes came from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra which had been at the center of John Glessner’s life for 45 years.   The full-page tribute was written by Charles H. Hamill, president of The Orchestral Association, and placed opposite the program page for the concerts of January 23 and 24, 1936.  In remembrance of the 80th anniversary of John Glessner’s passing, we reprint Hamill’s beautiful tribute in its entirety.

John J. Glessner

On the 20th of January, 1936, came the end of the long and useful life of John J. Glessner.  To no one man has The Orchestral Association been more beholden.  He was one of the small group of men who in the Association’s first years of struggle were loyal in their support and generous in their gifts.  The depression following 1893 made the early years a time of great difficulty for both the Association and its friends, but Mr. Glessner never flinched.  During those years before Orchestra Hall was built he contributed over $12,000 and then was one of the largest contributors to the building and the later reduction of the mortgage.  Only last year he made his latest gift, bringing his total to nearly forty-five thousand dollars.  But it was not only by his contributions he showed his interest.  Since 1898 he has served as a Trustee and by his constant attendance on meetings and his sound judgment has brought much needed help to his associates.  Modest to the point of self-effacement, he was clean of thought, and, when occasion required, vigorous in expression, and always with the Association’s welfare vividly in mind.

He and his devoted wife while she lived were always in their box to delight in the music their generosity made possible, and in their hospitable home men of the Orchestra and their musical friends found frequent and charming entertainment.  The loss to the Association of his wise counsel and the loss to his fellow Trustees of his fine companionship find their only comfort in the reflection that he has been discharged from the pains and penalties of extreme old age.

Charles H. Hamill,

The tone poem “Death and Transfiguration” by Richard Strauss was played in Glessner’s memory at the concert on Tuesday February 11, 1936, conducted by the Glessners’ dear friend, Frederick Stock.  In the program for January 7 and 8, 1937, The Orchestral Association gratefully acknowledged the receipt of a $50,000 bequest under the will of John J. Glessner. 

BELOW:  Two photos showing one of the Glessners’ great-great-great granddaughters exploring their box at Symphony Center during Glessner House Museum’s 125th Anniversary Gala on September 13, 2012.  (Photos by Tim Walters)

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