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As capstone to CSO’s Beethoven celebration, Muti will lead ‘Missa Solemnis’ next season

Submitted by on Jan 28, 2020 – 3:23 pm

Music director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will perform Beethoven’s mighty Missa Solemnis early in the 2020-21 season. (CSO photos by Todd Rosenberg)

Report: Chicago Symphony’s announcement of its 2020-21 season includes two world premieres; spotlight on principals.
By Nancy Malitz

Tops in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s massive season release detailing the upcoming 2020-21 season is the welcome news that the CSO’s tribute to Beethoven during the 250th anniversary of his birth in 1770 will conclude with his mightiest sacred work, the Missa Solemnis, led by music director Riccardo Muti.

CSO music director Riccardo Muti

The awesome yet infrequently performed choral-orchestral mass – which comes near the start of the season in three concerts Sept. 24, 25, and 26 – is, in spirit and grandeur, a companion piece to the German Romantic composer’s towering Ninth (“Choral”) Symphony, which is also from the 1823-24 era. The Ninth Symphony crowns the current season in June.

Programmed all by itself, and lasting about 90 minutes, the Missa Solemnis promises a rare opportunity to hear a deeply personal, highly daunting expression from late in Beethoven’s life, with the CSO chorus and a quartet of vocal soloists. Beethoven, who was not religious in the traditional sense, created some of his most deeply spiritual, questioning music in this work, which sounds modern yet today. The Missa Solemnis is, however, not particularly well known by the public because it’s rarely performed; it’s just too difficult for less than expert forces.

Other things to note briefly before getting to a list of 15 concerts, below, that seem especially promising. A complete chronological list can be found here.

  • The Berlin Philharmonic is coming! It’s one of the world’s greatest, here for a single Sunday in November. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra frequently performs in all the European capitals on its tours, but visits to Chicago by such as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics have become extremely rare. (Vienna was last here in 2003; the Berlin Philharmonic in 2009.)
  • Thursday concerts will begin at 7:30 next season, a half hour earlier than has been the custom. (Several other arts organizations in Chicago have made a similar switch.)
  • Two composer-conductors  will visit this year with their own works in tow: Thomas Adès, whose opera “The Exterminating Angel” was recently done at the Met, and Michael-Tilson Thomas, who will be stepping down as music director of the San Francisco Symphony at the end of this season to write more music of his own.
  • Muti’s habit of putting key CSO players in the solo concerto spotlight continues, with star turns next season by concertmaster Robert Chen, timpanist David Herbert, and a bunch more.
  • Only two world premieres are in the plan – by American composer Gabriela Lena Frank and Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg – although 16 works are to be played by the CSO for the first time, including a CSO co-commission with other orchestras by American composer Julia Wolfe.
  • The CSO has by now created a de facto pops season out of its wildly popular CSO At the Movies series, with the musicians subbing in for the soundtrack. This year the titles are “Amadeus,” “Stars Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Highlights of the 2020-21 season:

A page from the Missa Solemnis (Wiki Commons)

Friday, September 18, 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, September 20, 3:00 p.m.:
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson, CSO principal flute
Sarah Bullen, CSO principal harp as soloist.

  • MOZART Concerto for Flute and Harp
  • SCHUBERT Symphony No. 9 (The Great)

Thursday, September 24, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, September 25, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 26, 8:00 p.m.
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Hanna-Elizabeth Müller, soprano
Gerhild Romberger, contralto
Matthew Polenzani, tenor
Tareq Nazmi, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus Duain Wolfe, chorus director

  • BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis

Thursday, October 22, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 23, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 24, at 7:30 p.m.
(Tuesday, October 27, 7:30 p.m. Out of town: Kaufmann Center, Kansas City)

Riccardo Muti, conductor
Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano

  • BRITTEN Four Sea Interludes from “Peter Grimes”
  • ELGAR “Sea Pictures”
  • TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5

Principal clarinet Stephen Williamson

Thursday, November 5, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 6, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 7, 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 8, 3:00 p.m.
Bramwell Tovey, conductor
Stephen Williamson, CSO principal clarinet

  • FLORENCE PRICE “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America”
  • GABRIELA LENA FRANK New Work [World premiere, CSO commission]
  • COPLAND Suite from “Appalachian Spring”
  • COPLAND Clarinet Concerto
  • BERNSTEIN “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs”
  • BERNSTEIN Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town”

Sunday, November 15, 7:00 p.m.
Berliner Philharmoniker
Kirill Petrenko, conductor

IVES “Central Park in the Dark”
NORMAN “Unstuck”
STRAUSS “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks”
STRAUSS “Ein Heldenleben”

Jane Glover, music director of Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, makes CSO debut


Thursday, December 3, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, December 4, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 5, 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, December 8, 7:30 p.m.

Jane Glover, conductor
Paul Jacobs, organ
William Welter, CSO principal oboe

  • HAYDN Symphony No. 71
  • MOZART Oboe Concerto in C Major, K. 314
  • HANDEL Organ Concerto Op. 4, No. 1
  • MOZART Symphony No. 29

Thomas helms the San Francisco Symphony and also composes

Thursday, December 10, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, December 11, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 12, 8:00 p.m.

Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor and composer
Measha Brueggergosman, soprano
Kristen Toedtman, vocalist
Kara Dugan, vocalist

  • RUGGLES “Angels”
  • TILSON THOMAS Four Preludes on “Playthings of the Wind”
  • TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 2 (“Little Russian”)

Principal timpani David Herbert

Thursday, January 14, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, January 15, 2021, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 16, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Riccardo Muti, conductor
David Herbert, timpani
Gene Pokorny, tuba

  • VIVALDI Concerto in A Major for Strings and Continuo, R. 158
    KRAFT Timpani Concerto No. 1
    SCHIFRIN Tuba Concerto
    SCHIFRIN Theme from “Mission: Impossible”
    RESPIGHI “Feste romane”

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 19, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 20, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Christian Tetzlaff, violin

  • MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto
    BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7

Mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili

Thursday, March 4, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 5, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 6, 8:00 p.m.
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Anita Rachvelishvili, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus, Duain Wolfe, chorus director

  • SCHUBERT “Song of the Spirits over the Waters”
  • BRAHMS “Alto Rhapsody”
  • CHERUBINI “Mass for the Coronation of Charles X”

Thursday, March 25, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 26, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Adès, conductor and composer
Kirill Gerstein, piano

  • LISZT Mephisto Waltz No. 1
  • ADÈS Piano Concerto
  • LISZT “Battle of the Huns”
  • JANÁČEK “Taras Bulba”

Soprano Amanda Majeski (Fay Fox)

Thursday, April 8, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 10, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Fabien Gabel, conductor
Amanda Majeski, soprano

  • WAGNER Prelude and Liebstod from Tristan and Isolde
  • WAGNER “Wesendonck Lieder”
  • SAINT-SAËNS Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”)

Thursday, April 15, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 16, 2021, 7:30 p.m. — Edman Memorial Chapel, Wheaton, IL
Saturday, April 17, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Simone Young, conductor

  • MAHLER Symphony No. 7

Thursday, May 6, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 7, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 8, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Philippe Jordan, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

  • DEBUSSY “Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun”
  • SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Egyptian”)
  • STRAVINSKY “The Rite of Spring”

Daniil Trifonov

Thursday, June 3, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, June 4, 2021, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 5, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Riccardo Muti, conductor
Daniil Trifonov, piano

  • LIADOV “The Enchanted Lake”
  • PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2
  • TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”)