Photo: Anne Ryan
This is the third and final week of Riccardo Muti’s busy summer residency and the final week of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-13 season. As we have come to expect, Muti has been leading extraordinary performances with the CSO, including a rare and wonderful foray into Wagner last week.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the transition from the first week of Muti’s June residency, which featured principal horn Dale Clevenger struggling with the high horn parts of the Haydn “Maria Theresa” Symphony, to last week’s concerts, which featured assistant principal horn Daniel Gingrich taking over the horn calls for “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey,” was that Clevenger decided to retire a couple of weeks early in unannounced last appearances. Read the rest of this entry »
Rudolf Buchbinder/Photo: Marco Borggreve
Riccardo Muti’s distaste for Wagner is widely known, but even he cannot ignore the fact that the influential composer that devotees refer to as simply “The Master” had his 200th birthday on May 22.
As such, Muti is performing two orchestral interludes of Wagner at this week’s concerts, “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey,” performed as part of the Rivers Festival, and recently added to the announced program, “Siegfried’s Funeral March.”
Thankfully, Muti has a higher opinion of Bruckner, the composer of whom it is often said that if Wagner were to have written symphonies, they would have sounded like Bruckner. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Todd Rosenberg
That Riccardo Muti is one of Scriabin’s greatest champions is no surprise: his recordings of the complete symphonies and tone poems of Scriabin when he was music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra stand as one of his most significant recording projects and Muti remains unparalleled in this repertoire.
Performing Scriabin’s Third Symphony, “The Divine Poem,” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of the most anticipated performances of the 2012-13 season, which Muti returns to this week to conclude with three weeks of concerts.
Even more curious is Muti’s first foray into the music of Martinu, a composer he has never conducted before. This week’s performances of the Martinu Oboe Concerto is the outgrowth of Muti wanting to perform a work with Chicago Symphony principal oboist Eugene Izotov, “a great oboe player,” says Muti, and the Martinu Oboe Concerto was Izotov’s choice. “So, I expand my repertoire,” says Muti. Read the rest of this entry »
The excursion boat Theodore Roosevelt heads east under the State Street bridge in 1910/Photo: The Lost Panoramas (CityFilesPress.com)
By Dennis Polkow
City on a river. Chicago is many things, but whatever qualities that make Chicago Chicago exist in no small part because it is a city on a river, albeit a river by and large taken for granted.
For many of us, our own placement as a city on a river is something we forget about until we are inconvenienced by having to go over a bridge or have to wait for a bridge that a boat is passing through or that is undergoing construction.
“The Chicago River is the city’s defining characteristic because it is what built the city,” says Martha Gilmer, vice president for artistic planning and audience development at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as the curator of the CSO’s month-long Rivers Festival which runs May 9-June 9. “The river has taken a second place to our lakefront, but Mayor Daley—and now Rahm Emanuel—is very interested in the development of the Chicago River.” Read the rest of this entry »
Civic Orchestra open rehearsal/Photo: Todd Rosenberg
By Dennis Polkow
“Are there conductors out there?” asks Riccardo Muti, before starting a Civic Orchestra rehearsal Monday afternoon in front of some visiting music students. No response. “Who is studying conducting?” A handful timidly raise their hands. “Where are you studying? Who is your teacher? Do you study from books or in front of an orchestra?” “Bene,” says Muti, to the responses. “You know, the traditional Italian method is to have conductors study composition for ten years and you do not conduct until the last three, until you have mastered counterpoint, orchestration, etcetera,” says Muti, with a hard c so it sounds like “et-chetera.” “Today we are a visual society and people think conducting is waving your arms. The truth is, you actually have more control with less gestures. Do my young colleagues agree?”
“Come to me,” Muti adds, with a lower voice and deliberateness, intently staring at each of them. “If you have any problem, come to me. I am not sure I will give you the best advice, but, I am here for you.” Read the rest of this entry »
“This piece is very near to my heart,” says Riccardo Muti, touching his breast twice. “It is the grandest setting of all of the masses, a piece that I have done several times. You know, Beethoven wanted a copy of the [Mass in b minor] before he began writing his ‘Missa solemnis.’
“Incredibly, Bach wrote the first part of the piece to get a better job that he never got. And it was never performed. Amazing how such a circumstance can produce such a magnificent masterpiece. Yet there is no doubt that he wanted this to be a Catholic, not a Lutheran mass, because he includes [“catholic and apostolic”] in the ‘Credo.’ ” Read the rest of this entry »
2013 is the bicentennial of both Wagner and Verdi. Whereas Verdi will be getting numerous salutes from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, oddly enough, Wagner, whose influence spread across the continent and even influenced Verdi himself, is getting quite little by comparison, particularly odd given that the CSO is considered by many to be the greatest Wagnerian orchestra in the world.
The biggest Wagner salute comes this week from Finnish conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, a relative newcomer to Wagner but who like so many contemporary composers, including Pierre Boulez, has been influenced and remains enraptured by the music. Salonen will be conducting two performances of the Prelude and Act II of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” with German tenor Stefan Vinke as Tristan and soprano Linda Watson as Isolde. Act II includes the most rapturous and sensual music between the lovers. The Prelude will be the subject of a Beyond the Score entry called “The Tristan Effect” with Salonen and the CSO sans the singers. Read the rest of this entry »
Sir Georg Solti
By Dennis Polkow
When former Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Sir Georg Solti turned eighty in 1992, the British Royal Family threw a surprise birthday party for the legendary conductor at Buckingham Palace. The highlight of the bash was a performance by a chamber orchestra made up of players from all over the world from various orchestras that Solti had conducted, including the CSO.
Solti was visibly moved and wondered aloud at the gathering, “Why, if it were possible for musicians from various countries to come together in peace and harmony, why couldn’t politicians from various countries do the same?”
That hope gave birth to the extraordinary idea: creating a World Orchestra for Peace to perform for a special concert made up of world leaders to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations in Geneva in July of 1995.
Solti himself made a list of the best players across the world’s orchestras to participate and much to his amazement, every invitation was accepted. That first concert was conducted by Solti and was broadcast live via satellite radio as well as recorded for television broadcast and was an enormous success. Read the rest of this entry »
Anne-Sophie Mutter conductorless at the 2010 Symphony Ball/Photo: Todd Rosenberg
The last time the Chicago Symphony Orchestra went on strike in 1991, it took three weeks before a new contract was negotiated. If last Saturday’s strike had lasted three weeks, the orchestra would have lost its Thursday night performance in Ann Arbor, Michigan, its tour to Mexico, its opening of Carnegie Hall, et al, as well as Saturday night’s Symphony Ball. And at what point would a homesick Italian music director without an orchestra to make music with simply head home? Thankfully, these are questions that will remain unanswered as both sides, with the help of a federal mediator, did manage to come to an agreement Monday night that was ratified by the players Tuesday morning and subsequently expected to be approved by the CSO board. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Todd Rosenberg
By Dennis Polkow
Two years ago, Riccardo Muti inaugurated his tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with a free outdoor public concert in Millennium Park that brought out throngs of music lovers and curiosity seekers. This year, Muti and the CSO are returning to the park Friday night, this time along with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Chicago Children’s Choir for another free event.
“I have wonderful memories of the last concert in Millennium Park,” says Muti from his home in Italy as he is preparing to leave for Chicago. “The atmosphere was fantastic. I could feel that the public had such warm feeling for the orchestra. Even though there were many thousands of people, the way that they followed the performance was so intense. I could feel that the audience was with the orchestra, was with the music. I hope—I am sure—it will be the same thing now.”
Unlike the event in September of 2010 which featured a handful of pieces by various composers, Muti has decided to present a single work “very dear to me” at this year’s outdoor concert, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” which he performed last season at CSO subscription concerts and will perform on tour at Carnegie Hall next month. Read the rest of this entry »