Riccardo Muti (center) clubbing with CSO bass trombonist Charles Vernon (right) and Russian bass trombonist and Vernon protege Andrey Kharlamov/Photo: Dennis Polkow
After a standing ovation and frantic applause and cheers from the capacity crowd that seemed as if it could have gone on all night, Riccardo Muti officially concluded his inaugural season as CSO music director Saturday night. Motioning for the audience to sit down, Muti addressed both the audience and the orchestra in some heartfelt remarks sprinkled with the wicked wit that has already become a beloved Muti trademark here.
“This is my last concert of my first season, which as you know, was cut short because,” Muti said with a pregnant pause, “I am eccentric.” The crowd howled at Muti poking fun at the snap judgments some made about his medical misfortunes. “Thanks to the Chicago doctors at Northwestern Hospital, I am still alive,” said Muti, to an immense ovation. “You know, it is very tough to kill a Neapolitan. And thank you so much for all of your cards, letters and good wishes, and thank you, my dear orchestra, for your patience. When I fell, they probably thought that instead of a music director, they received a piece of junk,” said Muti, to uproarious laughter from players and audience alike.
The final piece of Muti’s residency was Richard Strauss’ “Aus Italien,” a work Muti performed at his CSO debut in 1973 at Ravinia that had not been here in decades. When some premature applause greeted the rousing finale of the second movement, Muti was amused and turned to the man clapping and said, “There’s a beautiful slow movement yet about the beaches in Sorrento, even though there are no beaches in Sorrento! And we haven’t even got to my part of the country yet, the South!” When the fourth movement about Naples, Muti’s hometown, began with Strauss’ variation on a familiar Neapolitan folksong, Muti beat his heart as if to say, “this is me!”
The program opened with Mason Bates’ “The B Sides,” the most substantial piece yet heard here by the young composer that Muti chose as co-composer-in-residence and who is writing a world-premiere work for Muti and the CSO that will be heard next season. Muti chose Bates for the position based on “his interesting use of color and texture” and as Bates told me about Muti, “He doesn’t just phone it in, he really knew this work.” Read the rest of this entry »