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CSO, Muti plan tributes to Verdi and Schubert in 2013-14 season, with two world premieres

Submitted by on Feb 6, 2013 – 3:24 pm

Report: The complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra schedule includes many Chicago firsts and 10 weeks led by music director Riccardo Muti. Here’s what jumps out at us.

By Nancy Malitz and Lawrence B. Johnson

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has come up with a most congenial pairing to open its 2013-14 season — music director Riccardo Muti, Italy’s most celebrated living conductor, with Giuseppe Verdi, Italy’s greatest composer, on the occasion of the lyric master’s bicentennial.

Verdi’s complete opera “Macbeth,” in concert, and his famously operatic Requiem are both in the season-opening mix.

Commenting from Italy, where he is recuperating from hernia surgery, Muti said Verdi expresses “the most essential feelings of mankind. We all recognize ourselves in the characters he puts on the stage.”

Just as Verdi looms large in the season’s first half, Muti’s traversal of the complete Schubert symphonies punctuates the programing for winter and spring. Chamber music presentations under the CSO’s aegis will stir in more Schubert, including the great song-cycles “Die schöne Müllerin” and “Winterreise.”

Another ambitious project spotlights Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden in a concentrated spring festival (four programs in three weeks) that he curated on the theme “Truth to Power.” It celebrates the eloquence and passive resistance of 20th-century composers Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Britten to tyrannical repression and the horror of war.

“We’ve been doing these three-week festivals around a theme each year,” says Martha Gilmer, CSO vice-president for artistic planning and audience development. “Jaap was interested in the idea that some composers, in the midst of darkness, manage to write such uplifting music. The times they lived in brought about the creativity that allowed them to say through music what people can’t say.”

The new season promises two world premieres by innovative, eclectic composers, including a double cello concerto featuring Yo-Yo Ma with Italian composer-cellist Giovanni Sollima. 

Sollima’s a member of the Silk Road Project, which Ma founded. Here they are playing Sollima’s “Violoncelles, vibrez!” with a stageful of cellists.

The other new work is a flute concerto for CSO principal flutist Mathieu Dufour by fellow Frenchman Guillaume Connesson, whose style is also a lively blend of influences. (Here are Dufour and two other quick wits in Connesson’s speedy “TechnoParade.”)

“Connesson was my choice,” says Dufour. “He usually writes quite pretty music but in fact it’s very difficult and constantly changing. Another work of his that I performed was ‘Jurassic Trip’ — he’s always very imaginative. I can’t wait to see what he will do.”

There are many concerts in the CSO’s 2013-14 season that we can’t wait to see and hear. Herewith, our hot picks:

  • Sept. 28-Oct. 6: Verdi “Macbeth.” Riccardo Muti, conductor. Baritone Dario Solari and soprano Tatiana Serjan, as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, sang the opera with Muti in Rome. Here’s Serjan in the famous sleepwalking scene.
  • Oct. 31-Nov. 3: Bruckner Symphony No. 4, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27. Bernard Haitink, conductor; Emanuel Ax, piano. Haitink is one of the greatest Bruckner conductors of the last half-century.
  • Nov. 14-16: Britten “War Requiem.” Chicago Symphony Chorus; Charles Dutoit, conductor. Verses from British poet Wilfred Owen, killed in World War I, provide Britten’s poignant text.
  • Nov. 21-24. Mahler Symphony No. 9. Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor. The last of Mahler’s completed symphonies evokes a profound reflection on the transition from life.
  • Dec. 5-7: Berlioz “Symphonie fantastique,” Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1. Stéphane Denève, conductor; James Ehnes, violin. The French maestro made a brilliant CSO debut last season.
  • Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2014: Schubert Symphonies No. 3 and No. 4; Giovanni Sollima Double Cello Concerto (world premiere). Riccardo Muti, conductor; Yo-Yo Ma and Giovanni Sollima, cellos. Between two undervalued Schubert gems, an enticing premiere.
  • Feb. 20-25, 2014: Stravinsky “Pulcinella” Suite, etc.; works by Debussy and Ravel. Pierre Boulez, conductor. The venerable French conductor offers a pastiche of six facets of Stravinsky.
  • Feb. 27-March 1, 2014: Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements, etc.; works by Ravel. Pierre Boulez, conductor. Part 2 of Boulez ruminating on music that’s close to his heart.
  • March 6-8, 2014: Connesson Flute Concerto (world premiere), Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”). Charles Dutoit, conductor; Mathieu Dufour, flute; Paul Jacobs, organ. The CSO’s principal flutist steps up to showcase his virtuosity.
  • March 20-22: Schumann Piano Concerto, Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C major. Riccardo Muti, conductor; Mitsuko Uchida, piano. With the “Great C major,” Muti arrives at the summit of his season-long Schubert compendium.
  • May 22-24, 2014: Truth to Power festival program 1. Britten “Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia” from “Peter Grimes,” Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 (“Leningrad”). Jaap van Zweden, conductor. Shostakovich’s sweeping symphony in time of war kicks off van Zweden’s four-part tribute to musical transcendence.
  • May 29-30, 2014: Truth to Power festival program 2. Prokofiev Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Britten Suite on English Folk Tunes, Shostakovich Symphony No. 9. Jaap van Zweden, conductor; Alisa Weilerstein, cello. Prokofiev’s rarely heard Symphony-Concerto alone makes this program special.
  • May 31-June 3, 2014: Truth to Power festival program 3. Shostakovich Five Fragments, Britten “Sinfonia da Requiem,” Prokofiev Symphony No. 5. Jaap van Zweden, conductor. Britten’s requiem-symphony is a masterful and moving benediction without words.
  • June 5-8, 2014: Truth to Power festival program 4. Britten Violin Concerto, Shostakovich Symphony No. 5. Jaap van Zweden, conductor; Simone Lamsma, violin. Britten’s unjustly neglected Violin Concerto, played by the young Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma,and the most popular work from Shostakovich’s pen.
  • June 19-21, 2014: Schubert Symphony No. 5, Mahler Symphony No. 1. Riccardo Muti, conductor. Schubert’s charming Fifth Symphony affords an ideal foil to one of the few Mahler symphonies Muti conducts.
Related Link:
Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg) Descending: Composer Giuseppe Verdi. (Art treatment courtesy Chicago Symphony Orchestra) Cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Composer-cellist Giovanni Sollima. (Photo by Gian Maria Musarra) Soprano Tatiana Serjan as Lady Macbeth. (Salzburg Festival) (Conductor Stéphane Denève. (Photo by Drew Farrel) CSO principal flutist Mathieu Dufour. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg) Conductor Jaap van Zweden.  (Photo by Hans van der Woerd) Violinist Simone Lamsma. (Photo by Otto van den Toorn) Below: Music director Riccardo Muti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)


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