MUSIC DIRECTOR RICCARDO MUTI OPENS THE CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA’S 2018/19 SEASON WITH FIVE DISTINCT PROGRAMS
SEPTEMBER 20–OCTOBER 6, 2018
Muti Leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in Side-by-Side Performance at Concert for Chicago in Millennium Park on September 20
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar) is Focal Point of Opening Subscription Concerts with Muti, CSO, Men of Chicago Symphony Chorus and Bass Alexey Tikhomirov in his CSO Debut (September 21-25)
Muti and the CSO Perform Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni and Symphony No. 40 on a Program with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade (September 27-29)
Muti Leads CSO and Pianist David Fray in Two Programs featuring Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (October 4 & 5) and) Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 at Annual Symphony Ball Benefit Concert (October 6)
CHICAGO—Music Director Riccardo Muti returns to Chicago in September for his first Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) residency of the 2018/19 season—the Orchestra’s 128th season and Muti’s ninth as its music director—which includes five concert programs September 20-October 6. On Thursday, September 20, at 6:30 p.m., Muti leads a special side-by-side concert featuring the CSO and Civic Orchestra of Chicago in a program that marks the opening of the Civic Orchestra’s centennial season, for the annual free Concert for Chicago, taking place this year in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Muti’s first subscription concerts of the season take place on Friday, September 21, at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, September 22, at 8 p.m. and Tuesday, September 25, at 7:30 p.m. and include Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar) and the Orchestra’s first performances of Prokofiev’s Sinfonietta. Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, a work to be featured on the CSO’s 2019 Asia Tour programs, is paired with works by Mozart in Muti’s second set of subscription concerts Thursday, September 27, at 8:00 p.m., Friday, September 28, at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, September 29, at 8:00 p.m. Muti’s fall CSO residency concludes with subscription concerts on Thursday, October 4, at 8:00 p.m. and Friday, October 5, at 8:00 p.m. and the annual Symphony Ball on Saturday, October 6, at 7:00 p.m. in programs that feature pianist David Fray as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, respectively.
On September 20, Muti leads a special CSO and Civic Orchestra of Chicago side-by-side community concert in Millennium Park that officially opens the Orchestra’s 2018/19 season. The program also launches the celebration for the centennial seasons of the Civic Orchestra and the CSO’s series of concerts for children established in the 1919/20 season by the Orchestra’s second Music Director Frederick Stock. Now part of the set of signature programs of the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO, the Civic Orchestra is the prestigious training ensemble for emerging professional musicians and the only one of its kind affiliated with a major American orchestra. Since becoming music director in 2010, Muti has regularly worked with the young musicians of the Civic Orchestra each season in free, open rehearsals at Symphony Center. For this concert, Civic musicians share the stage with the CSO to perform Rossini’s Overture to William Tell, Verdi’s The Four Seasons from his opera I vespri siciliani and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Muti’s opening CSO subscription program launches the CSO’s season-long theme of reflection and remembrance—A Time for Reflection, A Message of Peace—prompted by the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I on November 11, 1918. Programs throughout the 2018/19 season connect listeners to works that remain relevant in a modern world with their timeless messages of hope and peace and that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit through the healing and transformative power of music. More information available at csosoundsandstories.org.
From September 21-25, Muti leads the CSO, the men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus prepared by Chorus Director Duain Wolfe, and bass Alexey Tikhomirov—in his CSO debut—in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar ), a powerful response to the World War II massacre of the Jewish population of Kiev in 1941. Performed just days following this year’s observance of Yom Kippur during the Jewish High Holy Days, the work is in five movements whose musical character and mood closely follows the text from vivid poems by distinguished Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko—“Babi Yar,” “Humour,” “In the Store,” “Fears,” and “A Career.” This marks the CSO’s fifth set of performances of Shostakovich’s landmark work. It was last performed in 2006 at the Ravinia Festival under Music Director James Conlon and previously at Orchestra Hall in 1999 under Mstislav Rostropovich, in 1995 under Music Director Laureate Sir Georg Solti, and in 1979, in its CSO premiere with Gennady Rozhdestvensky on the podium. Muti first led performances of Babi Yar in 1970 in Rome in an Italian translation of the work with the RAI National Symphony Orchestra, a male chorus and Italian bass Ruggero Raimondi. This program opens with the CSO’s first performances of Prokofiev’s Sinfonietta, one of the composer’s early symphonic works that is similar in character to the Classical Symphony.
In his second week of subscription concerts (September 27-29), Muti leads the CSO in a program of masterworks by Mozart and Rimsky-Korsakov. The program opens with Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni and Symphony No. 40, one of the composer’s final three symphonies and one of his most adventurous in its orchestration and harmonic writing. This is followed by Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral showpiece Sheherazade, a work of great imagination that is loosely based on the tales of The Arabian Nights and highlights the composer’s great gift as a master orchestrator and musical painter whose palette contained endless colors. Rimsky Korsakov’s opening note in the score famously recounts that Sultana Sheherazade “saved her own life by interesting him [the Sultan] in the tales she told him through 1001 nights.” A solo violin assumes the role of Sheherazade in the musical voyage which takes listeners to the sea and Sinbad’s ship, the fairy-tale realm of a prince and princess, a festival in Baghdad and then back to the sea where the great ship crashes against a cliff.
For Muti’s final week of concerts, he leads a program (October 4 & 5) featuring Hindemith’s Symphony, Mathis der Maler. Based on his opera about the 15th-century painter Matthias Grunewald, Hindemith’s three-movement symphony from 1934 carries with it a central message of the importance of freedom of artistic expression pointing to the painter’s own personal journey that led him to join a peasant revolution, but ultimately brought him back to art to serve his fellow man. The music is full of drama and heroic qualities as well as colorful orchestration throughout. The program also includes a selection of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances (Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 10) and Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont, which musically depicts a character who stands against oppression. Pianist David Fray joins Muti and the CSO as soloist for Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in C minor. One of the composer’s five piano concertos, it shares a connection in its darker, brooding musical character with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, a work that Beethoven greatly admired and one that Fray performs with the CSO and Muti on the October 6 Symphony Ball program. Fray, who was hailed for his “poetic account,” of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto with the CSO in 2018 by the Chicago Tribune, is celebrated worldwide as a recitalist, soloist and chamber musician. As a soloist, he has performed with orchestras including the Royal Concertgebouw, London Philharmonic, Deutsche Sinfonie Orchester, Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, and Orchestre de Paris, among others. Fray’s 2017 recording of selected Chopin piano works was praised for its “considerable seriousness and beauty” (Gramophone).
Muti’s fall residency concludes with the annual Symphony Ball benefit concert on Saturday, October 6, at 7:00 p.m. This year’s Symphony Ball program celebrates the timeless appeal of the waltz and heartfelt melodies. Alongside Hungarian dances by Johannes Brahms and Viennese waltzes from Josef Strauss and Johann Strauss Jr., Muti conducts the Intermezzo from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, with David Fray as soloist.
At the conclusion of his final CSO residency of the 2017/18 season in June, Muti traveled to Kiev, Ukraine with the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, which he founded in 2004, for the first of two programs in Le vie dell’Amicizia (The roads of friendship), a project of the Ravenna Festival since 1997. On July 1, Muti and the young musicians along with musicians from the orchestra and chorus of the National Opera Theater of Ukraine, performed in St. Sophia’s square in Kiev. The program included Verdi’s Stabat mater and Te Deum from the composer’s Four Sacred Pieces and excerpts from Nabucco. The program also featured Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with actor John Malkovich, who also performed the work with Muti and the CSO at Orchestra Hall in April 2018. The program was repeated on July 3 in Ravenna, Italy at the 4,000-seat Palazzo Mauro De André. In keeping with the project’s mission, the concerts served as message of peace while promoting dialogue through the shared language of music.
In July, Muti marked the 50th anniversary of his professional conducting debut with Maggio Musicale with performances on July 11 and 13 of Verdi’s Macbeth in Florence, Italy. Maggio Musicale not only presented the debut of Muti in 1968, it also served as his first professional home, where he was principal conductor and music director from 1969 to 1981. The concert performances of Verdi’s Macbeth featured a cast of internationally acclaimed soloists including baritone Luca Salsi (Macbeth), soprano Vittoria Yeo (Lady Macbeth), Francesco Meli (Macduff) and Riccardo Zanellato (Banquo).
Muti continued his focus on Verdi’s Macbeth at his fourth annual Italian Opera Academy in Ravenna, Italy in July during two weeks of rehearsals and master class activities with four young conductors and répétiteurs along with distinguished soloists, chorus and the Cherubini Youth Orchestra. The Academy culminated in public performances of selections from Verdi’s Macbeth led by the four conductors. After the conclusion of the Academy, Muti also participated in special concert programs at Ravenna’s penitentiary and in Norcia, an area in central Italy that was devastated by the effects of a 2016 earthquake.
On July 11, the Japan Performing Arts Association, the nation’s oldest cultural foundation, announced that Muti was one of five artists selected as recipients of its 2018 Praemium Imperiale awards. The award recognizes “outstanding contributions to the development, promotion and progress of the arts” in the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, music and theater/film. Muti and this year’s other honorees—Pierre Alechinsky (painting), Catherine Deneuve (film), Christian de Portzamparc (architecture) and Fujiko Nakaya (sculpture)—receive their honors from Japan’s Prince Masahito at a ceremony Oct. 23 in Tokyo.
In August, Muti returned to the Salzburg Festival to lead the Vienna Philharmonic, chorus and soloists in a program that featured Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 and Schubert’s Mass in E-flat Major, D. 950. Marking his 46th consecutive Salzburg Festival appearance with the Vienna Philharmonic, Muti has had a distinguished history with the Orchestra since Herbert von Karajan first invited him to conduct at the Festival in 1971. Noting the special artistic partnership between Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic, which has no permanent music director, the Kronen Zeitung declared, “When the Maestro … works with Vienna Philharmonic, it’s almost like a very musical family get-together” and as Die Presse noted,“‘Sold out’ is not enough — Riccardo Muti is the Philharmonic Maestro par excellence.” Muti, who also led the 2018 New Year’s Concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, his fifth time leading this unique program, joined representatives from the Philharmonic and Sony Classical for a special honors ceremony in Salzburg to celebrate the August announcement of the January 2018 recording’s double platinum status.