Riccardo Muti is named Music Director Emeritus for Life of the CSO

Riccardo Muti will become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Music Director Emeritus for Life, beginning in September.

Todd Rosenberg Photography

Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has been named Music Director Emeritus for Life, beginning with the 2023-24 Season. The new artistic title was announced during an onstage ceremony June 23 at Orchestra Hall, after the first of three concerts of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, which mark his final subscription program as music director.

The CSO’s 10th music director, Muti took up his post in 2010-11 and is stepping down this summer after 13 seasons. “I am honored to stay with the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as their Music Director Emeritus for Life,” Muti said in a statement. “Our artistic collaboration has been one of the great joys of my life and created deep bonds of friendship across my years in Chicago. I look forward to returning regularly to share great music with audiences in the city and on tour.”

Muti will assume his new role in September and conduct two weeks of concerts in Chicago to open the CSO’s 133rd season, followed by two performances in New York’s Carnegie Hall that launch its season on Oct. 4-5. In January, Muti will lead the CSO on a three-week European tour, its first such event since 2020; performances already have been announced for venues in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Italy.

In his new post, Muti will lead six weeks of concerts in 2024-25: four in Chicago and two in tour performances to be announced. Annual weeks of CSO concerts will be scheduled for subsequent seasons.

“The inspired leadership and musicianship of Riccardo Muti has broadened worldwide acclaim for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during his distinguished tenure,” said CSOA Board Chair Mary Louise Gorno. “We express our endless gratitude to Maestro Muti for accepting this important role that will keep him close to the musicians of the Orchestra and extend a golden era of music-making.”

CSOA President Jeff Alexander lauded the Maestro’s legacy and said, “Riccardo Muti has conducted the Orchestra in transformative performances in Chicago, across the country and around the world, creating musical experiences for audiences who will be forever changed. We are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to continue leading CSO concerts and maintaining artistic continuity and excellence for the musicians during this new chapter for the Orchestra.”

James Smelser, chair of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Members’ Committee, said, “The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are extremely fortunate to have had Maestro Muti these past 13 seasons, and we look forward to continuing our wonderful music-making experiences with him as our Music Director Emeritus for Life. We are grateful to Maestro Muti for accepting this ongoing role to make music with us at the highest and most inspired level, and we will continue to treasure each and every concert.”

At the ceremony, Muti kept the mood light. “For life means three years ... in the sense that I am quite young, sí,” he said with a laugh. “It’s difficult to say things that have a deep meaning in a situation like this, because you can immediately sound rhetorical.”

Throughout his post-concert remarks, Muti stressed his great love of and devotion to the CSO. He recalled that he still keeps the 60 or so letters CSO musicians sent him in 2007, after his first sessions with the orchestra since 1975; the letters were thank-you notes that implored him to return.

“Since then, when I came back and became music director, nothing has changed between me and the orchestra. I mean, the human relationship. And when the human relationship is very tight, very deep, the music becomes even better. We have had together 13 really wonderful years of music-making, even at the beginning, because as you know, I’m not Swedish, I’m not Dutch” — presumably referring to maestros Herbert Blomstedt and Bernard Haitink, known for their genial natures. “I come from the south of Italy, and we have a certain humor sometimes that today in the United States can sound too provocative” — and then poked fun with examples of his characteristic wit.

“I want to thank all of the musicians, they will remain in my heart, but you don’t get to get rid of me,” he added in jest. “Over the last two years, they would wonder, ‘Is he going away? Is it the end?’ And then in September, they would say, ‘Oh, he’s here again.’ ” When he returns in his new role, he added, “Maybe I will change. It’s fashionable to be a little more casual on the podium these days. Maybe I will go on the podium with short trousers and yellow hair.” After soaking up the laughter and sustained applause, Muti smiled and announced with his signature goodbye wave, “That’s it.”

More information about next season’s programs featuring Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is available at cso.org.

The CSO’s music director position is endowed in perpetuity by a generous gift from the Zell Family Foundation.