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Verdi opera, Beethoven 9th top Muti’s agenda as CSO unveils plan for season’s second half

Submitted by on Oct 13, 2021 – 4:31 pm

As Covid wanes, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can at last announce big plans for the second half of the 2021-22 season in progress. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Report: Music director Riccardo Muti also leads premieres by CSO resident composers; Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts two programs.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s audience is likely to find the deferred announcement of the CSO’s winter-spring portion of the 2021-22 season has been worth the wait. The newly revealed line-up is replete with favorite artists and major events — foremost, no doubt, music director Riccardo Muti leading four performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and, at season’s end, Verdi’s full-length opera “Un ballo in maschera.”

Riccardo Muti will conduct the Covid-delayed world premiere of “Orpheus Undone,” by former CSO composer-in-residence Missy Mazzoli, on March 31, 2022. (Todd Rosenberg)

Muti also will conduct world premieres of CSO-commissioned works by former and current CSO
composers-in-residence Missy Mazzoli and Jessie Montgomery, as well as and the CSO’s first performances of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 11 in honor of the composer’s 85th birthday and Florence Price’s Symphony No. 3.  As an epilogue to the regular season, Muti and the orchestra will present a free concert at Millennium Park.

The world premiere of Mazzoli’s new orchestral work “Orpheus Undone,” commissioned by the CSO during her tenure as Mead composer-in-residence from 2018 to 2021 and rescheduled from April 2020. Completing the program is the CSO debut of mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča as soloist in Mahler’s “Rückert-Lieder” and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2.  Also on Muti’s docket is the world premiere of a still-untitled work by the CSO’s current Mead composer in residence, Jessie Montgomery.

Mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča makes her CSO debut with Muti in Mahler’s late romantic “Rückert-Lieder,” transcendent poems of love and loss. (Deutsche Grammophon)

Other CSO program highlights include two weeks of concerts in May led by Esa-Pekka Salonen, a return to the podium by Jaap van Zweden leading Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, and CSO podium debuts for British conductor Jane Glover leading a Baroque and early-Classical program and the American Karina Canellakis, chief conductor of Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, leading Strauss’ tone poem “Ein Heldenleben.”

The Chicago Symphony’s complete calendar of concerts for the 2021-22 season can be found here. 

Conductor Marin Alsop, newly appointed chief conductor at the Ravinia Festival, will be joined by Czech pianist Lukáš Vondráček in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Estonian-American conductor Paavo Järvi leads Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique,” and 94-year-old Swedish-American conductor Herbert Blomstedt presides over Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4. British conductor Jane Glover, known to Chicago audiences as music director of Music of the Baroque, makes her CSO debut with music of Handel, Haydn and Mozart.

Edo de Waart, who led some of the orchestra’s first in-person concerts in spring 2021, conducts an all-Tchaikovsky program with cellist Alisa Weilerstein. Two youthful Scandinavians make their CSO debuts when Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä, chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and music director of the Orchestre de Paris, conducts Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Stravinsky’s The Firebird. Soloist in the Prokofiev is Swedish violinist Daniel Lozakovich.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the CSO for two weeks beginning May 26, 2022. (Nicolas Brodard)

A two-week residency for San Francisco Symphony music director Esa-Pekka Salonen spotlights a fellow Finn, the violinist Pekka Kuusisto, in a concerto recently composed for him by Bryce Dessner. Also on the program is Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. Salonen’s second week with the CSO sees him leading works inspired by stories from ancient Greece: Ravel’s ballet “Daphnis and Chloe,” Salonen’s work “Gemini” — two character portraits of Castor and Pollux — and a suite from Rameau’s opera “Castor et Pollux.”

Pianist Yevgeny Kissin, seen backstage in 2019, performs in Chicago in May. (Todd Rosenberg)

Symphony Center Presents continues its popular series of piano recitals with a performance by German pianist Igor Levitt on Jan. 30, 2022. He will be followed by Richard Goode (Feb. 20), George Li (March 13), András Schiff (April 3), Yuja Wang (April 10), Yefim Bronfman (May 8), Evgeny Kissin (May 15) and Denis Kozhukhin (June 12).

Mitsuko Uchida, in duo role as conductor and pianist, returns in March. (Justin Pumfrey, Decca)

Chamber music also takes the spotlight for Symphony Center Presents. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis makes a solo appearance with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (Jan. 22), followed by an evening of Beethoven piano trios performed by pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cellist Yo-Yo Ma (March 11).

Doubling as conductor and pianist, Mitsuko Uchida leads the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in works by Mozart and Webern (March 20). In the chamber series finale, violinist Hilary Hahn, recently appointed as the CSO’s artist-in-residence through 2023, is joined by pianist Andreas Haefliger and cellist in works by Beethoven, Kodaly and Carlos Simon (April 1).

The CSO has also announced that its pandemic format of 90-minute concerts without intermission will end effective with the Nov. 26 screening of “Home Alone” accompanied by the Chicago Symphony. From that date forward, all concerts and other events at Symphony Center will include an intermission.

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, equally at home in jazz and classical worlds, performs with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in January. (Palma Kolansky)