CHICAGO — Riccardo Muti, Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Jeff Alexander, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), announce programming for the CSO and Symphony Center Presents (SCP) 2019/20 season—the Orchestra’s 129th season.

In the new season, the CSO celebrates the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven and Riccardo Muti’s 10th anniversary season as music director. Riccardo Muti, the CSO, and artists across the Symphony Center

Presents series perform works by Beethoven in a season-long exploration of the individuality, power and genius of this master musician born in 1770, as well as repertoire spanning the 18th to 21st century.

The tribute includes a cycle of Beethoven’s nine symphonies conducted by Riccardo Muti. This will include the first collaboration between Muti and the CSO to perform Beethoven’s First, Third (Eroica) and Sixth (Pastoral) symphonies. The cycle culminates in a season finale performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work that the CSO and the Chicago Symphony Chorus last performed with Riccardo Muti to great acclaim and worldwide attention in Orchestra Hall in September 2014. The live concert video from those performances has garnered more than 14 million views on YouTube to date.

“We should all become brothers and sisters. This is the message of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” says Riccardo Muti. “For two hundred and fifty years, we have tried to find the secret behind the untouchable music of this divine architect and to comprehend the enormity of his timeless philosophical, spiritual, and human message.”

The season-long Beethoven celebration also includes performances of the complete cycle of the composer’s 32 piano sonatas featuring renowned interpreters as the focus of the Symphony Center Presents (SCP) Piano series and three SCP Special Concerts. The piano sonata cycle will be performed by Rudolf Buchbinder, Kirill Gerstein, Igor Levit, Evgeny Kissin, András Schiff and Maurizio Pollini, with Buchbinder and Schiff performing two recitals each. Mitsuko Uchida is also featured on the SCP Piano series with an all-Beethoven program that includes the composer’s Six Bagatelles and Diabelli Variations.

Other Beethoven masterworks featured on CSO and Symphony Center Presents programs include the Violin Sonata No. 6 performed by Christian Tetzlaff and his Violin Sonatas Nos. 4, 5 (Spring) and 9 (Kreutzer) performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter; the Violin Concerto performed by Leonidas Kavakos; the First and Fourth piano concertos performed by Paul Lewis; a program of piano trios performed by Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma; and the Namensfeier Overture and concert aria Ah! perfido with soprano Camilla Tilling and conducted by Susanna Mälkki.

“We are extremely pleased to announce the 2019/20 season, which includes such a wide variety of impactful programming to be enjoyed by our loyal as well as new audiences in Chicago, across the country and around the world,” adds CSOA President Jeff Alexander. “We are also excited to celebrate the 10th anniversary season of Maestro Muti as our music director and the 250th birthday year of the genius who was and is Ludwig van Beethoven.”

In the new season, Riccardo Muti and guest conductors also introduce works that represent some of the most original and powerful voices of composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In 1933, the Orchestra gave the world premiere of African American composer Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1—the first large-scale composition by an African American woman to be performed by a major American orchestra—under the baton of the CSO’s second Music Director, Frederick Stock. In April subscription concerts, Muti conducts the Orchestra’s first performances of Price’s Symphony No. 3, a work of power and originality premiered during a time of war, as well as Mother and Child by William Grant Still, a composer who is sometimes called the “Dean” of African American composers.

Muti also introduces new works by leading contemporary composers including three world premieres of CSO-– commissioned works by CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli, Nicolas Bacri and Pulitzer Prize– winning composer Bernard Rands. The CSO also performs the U.S. premiere of Avner Dorman’s new percussion concerto featuring Principal Percussion Cynthia Yeh. Additionally, the Orchestra performs music by American composers John Adams, Samuel Barber, Mason Bates, Jennifer Higdon and James Lee III. The MusicNOW series, curated by Mazzoli, also features two world premieres of CSO—commissioned works by composers Wang Lu and Courtney Bryan whose work will be written especially for the Quince Vocal Ensemble and CSO musicians.

In 2019/20, the CSO continues its tradition of touring including a two-concert residency at New York’s Carnegie Hall in November 2019 and concerts in Europe in January 2020, with three performances in Vienna, as part of the 150th anniversary season of the famed Musikverein, and appearances in cities including Paris, Cologne and Naples with others to be announced. Muti and the Orchestra also return to Florida in February 2020 for a tour that includes return appearances in West Palm Beach and Naples, as well as a debut appearance for Muti and the CSO together in Sarasota.

Since its founding in 1891, the Orchestra has made 61 international tours, performing in 29 countries on five continents. The CSO also maintains a distinguished legacy of recording; recordings have earned 62 Grammy® awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, further contributing to the Orchestra’s international reputation. Global engagement also continues through online streaming content and a digital magazine available at

This season, Muti leads 10 weeks of CSO subscription concerts in five residencies with the Orchestra in Chicago, with appearances in September and November 2019, and February, April, May, and June 2020.

Beyond the CSO’s season-long Beethoven 250th Birthday celebration and special programs highlighting new and American compositional voices, there are several other noteworthy program highlights:

●Muti leads the annual free “Concert for Chicago” with the CSO on September 24 in a return appearance at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep High School with a program that includes a suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3.

●Continuing his survey of Italian opera masterworks with the Orchestra and Chorus, Muti leads concert performances of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana with an internationally renowned cast of soloists.

●The Chicago Symphony Chorus, under the leadership of Chorus Director and Conductor Duain Wolfe, appears in four programs with the Orchestra in 2019/20, including Carl Orff’s Carmina burana, led by guest conductor Alain Altinoglu.

●Soprano Renée Fleming joins piano virtuoso Evgeny Kissin in April 2020 for a one-night-only recital on the Symphony Center Presents series presented in collaboration with the Lyric Opera of Chicago where Fleming serves as Creative Consultant.

●Return appearances by celebrated guest conductors include Valery Gergiev with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 (Leningrad) and Jaap van Zweden in his first CSO appearances since assuming his role as the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Also returning are Herbert Blomstedt, Manfred Honeck, Sir Andrew Davis, and Bernard Labadie, who all lead programs featuring their signature repertoire.

●Guest conductor Hannu Lintu makes his CSO debut in a program of music by Sibelius and Nielsen and conductor and violinist Julian Rachlin makes his CSO debut in a program featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Conductors Kirill Karabits and André de Ridder also make subscription debuts.

●The CSO’s MusicNOW series enters its second season under the curatorial leadership of Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli with world premieres of two MusicNOW commissioned works by composers Wang Lu and Courtney Bryan and a tribute to the 55th anniversary of Chicago’s own Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).

●Guest artists making their debuts with the Orchestra include pianists Sunwook Kim, Joseph Moog, Beatrice Rana, and Jan Lisiecki; violinists Julian Raichlin and Ray Chen; countertenor Iestyn Davies; mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano; soprano Elena Stikhina; tenors Daniel Johansson and Piero Pretti; and baritone Elliot Madore.

●Five members of the CSO appear as soloists this season including Concertmaster Robert Chen, Associate Concertmaster Stephanie Jeong, Assistant Principal Cello Kenneth Olsen, Principal Percussion Cynthia Yeh, and Bass Clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom. Symphony Center Presents (SCP) brings leading artists and ensembles to Chicago. For the upcoming season the SCP Piano and Chamber music series offer programming that shares in the 250th Birthday celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven including the presentation of the complete piano sonatas featuring keyboard luminaries and a range of the composer’s most powerful chamber music works. The SCP Orchestras series welcomes two orchestras from a single Canadian city—the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, led by Kent Nagano—and Poland’s NFM Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra, led by music director Giancarlo Guerrero.

The programs of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2019/20 complement the CSO’s subscription programs and demonstrate the commitment of Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSOA to develop new audiences, nurture young musicians, provide broad access to the Orchestra, and to serve the city of Chicago through music. The Institute also leads programs developed for its More Peaceful Chicago Initiative that connect to areas of our community impacted by gun violence. The 2019/20 season also marks the conclusion of special celebrations for the centennials of both the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and series of concerts for children that were created in 1919.


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