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.
“Little by little, we will do all of the Bruckner Symphonies,” says Muti, who has already performed the Second and the Sixth symphonies here and will do the First Symphony during this week’s concerts.
A complete multi-year Bruckner cycle, however, is something that Muti has never attempted and there are Bruckner works he has never conducted. Has he, for instance, ever done Bruckner’s Symphony No. 0, or “zero,” so-called because Bruckner withdrew the work? “Not yet,” he says with a smile.
Although the First Symphony is not usually considered a favorite among Bruckner admirers, Muti has deep affection for the piece. “I have done the piece many times, with the Berlin and the Vienna philharmonics, and it was the first Bruckner symphony that I did in Milano and in Florence.
“Of all the Adagios, the First is one of the most beautiful in any Bruckner symphony. The Scherzo is very special. The idea of the first movement is very Bruckner[ian]. Of course, the Fourth, Seventh and Eighth are more popular, but I think that when you are devoted to a composer, you must do everything of that composer, no?”
Also on the program is the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto with Rudolf Buchbinder stepping in for the previously announced Leif Ove Andsnes. (Dennis Polkow)
June 13 at 8pm, June 14 at 1:30pm and June 15 at 8pm, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 South Michigan, (312)294-3000.