Riccardo Muti looks out from the podium into Orchestra Hall at the Jan. 20, 2022, performance with the CSO, featuring performances of Reznicek’s Overture to Donna Diana, J. Strauss, Jr.’s Emperor Waltz and Tchaikovsky’s suites from The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
Todd Rosenberg Photography
Riccardo Muti’s final season as music director pays tribute to his remarkable bond with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and celebrates the communicative power of his music making that has galvanized Chicago audiences over these past 13 years.
Muti’s concerts combine classics with discoveries and reunite him with longtime colleagues and friends. Each program highlights a different aspect of the acclaimed Muti-CSO partnership, now at its peak after playing some 500 concerts together — reviving signature pieces, showcasing the Orchestra’s principal players, and inviting beloved guest artists back to our stage.
Throughout the season, Muti will conduct key works from his Chicago years — Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition, which capped his first concert with the Orchestra fifty years ago next summer; and Respighi’s Pines of Rome, the dazzling finale of his first concert as music director, in Millennium Park in 2010. Muti will return to music by Schubert and Tchaikovsky, whose complete symphonies he surveyed so memorably with the Orchestra. And he is reuniting with pianist Yefim Bronfman, violinist Julia Fischer and pianist Maurizio Pollini, who makes his first appearance with the Orchestra in a decade. Continuing his annual tradition of showcasing the Orchestra’s principal players, Muti joins Concertmaster Robert Chen in Mozart, longtime Principal Tuba Gene Pokorny in the concerto Lalo Schifrin wrote with him in mind and David Herbert, one of Muti’s earliest principal appointments, in William Kraft’s First Timpani Concerto.
Muti conducting the CSO in the Oct. 7, 2021, performance, which included former Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli’s These Worlds In Us, Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake, and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony
Todd Rosenberg Photography
For the first time in Chicago, Muti will lead Rachmaninov’s haunting Second Symphony and Prokofiev’s dazzling Fifth. He will give the U.S. premiere of the recently discovered Solemn Prelude by the British composer of African descent Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and unveil a new work by Jessie Montgomery, the sixth Mead Composer-in-Residence to be appointed by Muti. At the season’s end, he will lead his first Chicago performances of Beethoven’s sublime Missa solemnis, a towering work of sacred vocal music that is a testament to the very soul and spirit of music.
Program after program is designed to demonstrate our tenth music director’s unique passion for communicating the solace and joy that music alone can deliver. In Muti’s hands, these are pieces that draw us in with their quiet depth or thrill us with unexpected drama and lyrical power. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at his fingertips, Muti makes music soar and sing as only the greatest of musical partnerships can.
Muti’s last year as music director offers a panoramic view of music that reflects our complex world and speaks to the very qualities that make us human. With these unmissable programs, Riccardo Muti concludes one of the most extraordinary chapters in our Orchestra’s history.
Riccardo Muti at the CSO’s Community Concert at Morton East High School in Cicero on Jan 14, 2022
Todd Rosenberg Photography
In February, Phillip Huscher met with Riccardo Muti to discuss upcoming performances as well as reflections on his time as music director and his enduring relationship with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Here is an excerpt from their conversation.
Phillip Huscher: In September, I was so struck that after a year and a half, it took one rehearsal with the Orchestra to get back to where you left off, like best friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time.
Riccardo Muti: Sì, my years with this orchestra have been twelve years of beautiful musical life. Never friction. Everything was always very natural, very friendly, and the atmosphere has been unique. I love this orchestra.
PH: You have appointed 25 players.
RM: 25? I didn’t remember the number, but one thing I know, twenty-five fantastic players. Every time a music director, together with the committee, chooses a new player, it is a huge responsibility. It means that you are choosing a player for the next 30, 40 years. I think that in this case, I have chosen —together with my colleagues — 25 wonderful musicians.
PH: Emerging from COVID, what are your thoughts now on performances in the concert hall versus streaming and recording?
RM: Of course, the future is bringing new media — new possibilities. There is some advantage to that. For example, you can do a concert in Chicago, or in Berlin, or Vienna, and it can be seen immediately in every part of the world. That means you don’t have only 2,000 or 3,000 people that listen to the concert, but, theoretically, endless people. This is something that culturally can be an advantage. But music should be experienced live, directly. Because the presence of the public is very important to give a certain energy, positive or negative, to the performers … We play for them. Without the public, we have no reason to exist.
PH: The bond you have with the CSO is very strong. What are your hopes for the Orchestra?
RM: My dream for the future is that this orchestra can speak to the world from Chicago, and not only to the Chicago audience. …The world wants to have the Chicago Symphony, so this is a responsibility that important people — culturally speaking and economically speaking — must keep in mind. It is a responsibility to have this great orchestra here and to make it possible for this orchestra to speak to the world every day. It is a dream. It is a need for the new generations.