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February 12, 1921

A concert by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nikolai Sokoloff, was the first of six appearances by the orchestra at Vassar, gifts of Mary Castle Norton ex-’77. Maestro Sokolff’s program included the Rachmaninoff Symphony No 2, in E Minor, the prelude to Saint-Saëns Le Déluge featuring violinist Louis Edlin, the Danses Caracteristiques from Tschaikowsky’s ballet Casse-Noissette, and the prelude to Wagne’s Die Meistersinger. Writing in The Miscellany News, “L.K.” found Sokoloff’s “reading of the whole” of Rachmaninoff’s symphony “unusually sympathetic and convincing,” and she observed that the orchestra’s appearance “won the whole-hearted appreciation of all who heard it.”

The Cleveland Symphony was the culmination of the lifelong work of Adella Prentiss Hughes ’90, a music major at Vassar and a Cleveland native, who was the first woman in America to establish and manage a symphony orchestra. Beginning her impresarial career in 1898, she founded the Musical Arts Association in Cleveland in 1915 and the orchestra in 1918. “Mrs. Hughes,” “L.K.” reported, “has herself built up the orchestra within the last two years, though such an achievement seems almost incredible after listening to such finished work.”

Mrs. Norton, the wife of Cleveland industrialist and philanthropist David Z. Norton, continued the Vassar concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra until her death on January 3, 1928. “Her last visit,” said the notice of her death in The Miscellany News, “was last spring for the fiftieth reunion of her class. Illness prevented her presence at the concert last December.” Her husband is reported to have died twelve hours after Mrs. Norton’s funeral.

The Years