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Muti summons bravura of Tchaikovsky Fourth and elegance of Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ with CSO

Sep 26, 2014 – 5:24 pm
Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Debussy and Tchaikovsky Sept. 25, 2014. (Todd Rosenberg)

Review:The crowd went freaking wild at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s whooping finish to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony under music director Riccardo Muti on Sept. 25 at Orchestra Hall. And understandably so. What a blazer of a performance. But the greater experience was an utterly magical account of Debussy’s “La Mer.”

Riccardo Muti’s starry Beethoven Ninth opens Chicago Symphony season in cosmic fashion

Sep 19, 2014 – 10:08 pm

Review: The cantata Beethoven composed to Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” – that is, the grandiose finale to the Ninth Symphony – may be a rousing crowd-pleaser, but it’s also a good deal more. It’s the peroration of a sweeping dialectic on man’s fate, a closely and tumultuously argued essay spun out in wordless majesty for three-quarters of an hour before the first syllable is uttered.Such was the sum and the magnificence of music director Riccardo Muti’s season opening performance of the Ninth Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 18 at Orchestra Hall.

Martha S. Gilmer, longtime Chicago Symphony executive, named CEO of San Diego orchestra

Jul 31, 2014 – 6:18 pm
Martha S. Gilmer, Chicago Symphony VP for artistic planning and audience development (Todd Rosenberg)

Report: It’s off to San Diego’s warmer clime this fall for Martha S. Gilmer, the veteran executive of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who now serves as vice-president of artistic planning and audience development. Gilmer becomes CEO of the 104-year-old San Diego Symphony effective Sept. 24.

Leading CSO toward finale of Schubert cycle, Muti imparts mastery of Viennese tradition

Jun 12, 2014 – 11:10 am
Riccardo Muti listens to the Chicago Symphony as he conducts Schubert's Ninth Symphony, March 2014. (Todd Rosenberg)

Interview: Conductor Riccardo Muti’s final two weeks of the season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also bring the consummation of his season-long cycle of Schubert’s symphonies. From his perspective “in the middle of the river,” as Muti puts the ongoing project, the CSO is absorbing the style and finesse of his reference ensemble: the Vienna Philharmonic.

Jazz premiere, youth band lead ‘Truth to Power’ and Prokofiev is spotlighted by Feltsman, CSO

Jun 2, 2014 – 5:09 pm
Jason Moran at harmonium in Looks of a Lot premiere Chicago Symphony Center 5-30-2013 (Todd Rosenberg)

Review: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “Truth to Power” festival swung fully into celebratory mode, with a jazz premiere and music of Prokofiev taking center stage, in a series of four diverse concerts at Orchestra Hall over a long weekend May 29-June 1.

Van Zweden, CSO plumb Shostakovich Seventh to kick off festival on theme of ‘Truth to Power’

May 24, 2014 – 1:32 pm

Feature review: With a ringing affirmation of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, conductor Jaap van Zweden and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have plunged into a multifaceted festival celebrating three great 20th-century composers whose music sprang from personal and political tumult. In all, the festival, dubbed “Truth to Power” and devoted to music of Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and Benjamin Britten, features 14 performances of seven different concert programs across 18 days.

Bates’ new concerto is feather in violinist’s cap when Slatkin leads CSO in American concert

Apr 18, 2014 – 11:18 pm
Leonard Slatkin conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in an all-American program.

Review: What an engaging, stimulating change of pace, this weekend’s all-American concert fare offered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin at Orchestra Hall. Extending from classics by Barber and Gershwin through William Schuman’s bold, robust Sixth Symphony to youthful Mason Bates’ cleverly crafted Violin Concerto, the program heard April 17 offered a resounding reminder of this country’s enduring contribution to orchestral music in the modern era.

With ‘Lemminkäinen’ epic, Salonen and CSO capture Sibelius in youthful flower, prowess

Apr 6, 2014 – 4:03 pm

Review: This is a perfect moment to reflect on Sibelius’ early mastery, in light of the great achievements by the twentysomething Schubert we’ve been hearing from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and music director Riccardo Muti. And it is the fully flowered young Sibelius, before the First Symphony, caught up in the allure of Finnish myth and in absolute command of his symphonic craft, whom the CSO and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen celebrate in a season-peak program heard April 3 and to be repeated April 8.

Riccardo Muti sets personal seal on Schubert with CSO’s agile turn through 2 symphonies

Mar 29, 2014 – 1:50 pm

Review: At the end of an exhilarating Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert, the third installment of music director Riccardo Muti’s season-long traversal of Schubert’s symphonies, the maestro walked to the lip of the stage with a slightly self-deprecating smile and disarmed his audience with a droll remark about the “Italianate influence” in Schubert’s Second Symphony, which the orchestra had just played. Ripples of laughter ensued, but Muti was serious about the echoes of Salieri and Rossini in the Viennese composer’s music.

To heavenly length of Schubert 9th Symphony, Muti and the CSO bring transcendent poetry

Mar 21, 2014 – 5:01 pm

Review: Riccardo Muti’s season-long traversal of the complete Schubert symphonies with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has a few stops remaining, but it’s hard to imagine the musical arc rising much higher than the “Great” C major Symphony heard March 20 at Orchestra Hall.

For two Chicago Symphony oboists, Ray Still was virtuoso career model, inspiring teacher

Mar 13, 2014 – 9:25 am
Ray Still, during his tenure as principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony, rehearsing onstage (facebook.comraystilloboist)

Report: The legacy of Ray Still as an unforgettable musician is preserved not only in the dozens of recordings he made through four decades as principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but also in the vivid memories of musicians whose lives he influenced, among them Eugene Izotov and Michael Henoch, the CSO’s current principal oboe and assistant principal.

Pianist Daniil Trifonov, 2 gold medals in hand, delivers an Olympian recital at Orchestra Hall

Feb 10, 2014 – 4:33 pm

Review: It was an Event, the recital by 22-year-old Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov on Sunday afternoon at Orchestra Hall. While the ascent of this phenomenal musician has been meteoric since he won both the Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein competitions in 2011, the artist himself is no meteor. Trifonov is more like a midsummer’s morning sun. He’s going to be with us, his zenith yet to be observed, for a long time.

Muti, CSO and singers echo private Schubert with belated first glimpse of Mass in A-flat

Feb 7, 2014 – 5:21 pm

Review: It is hard to know which to admire more about Schubert’s Mass No. 5 in A-flat, its consummate lyricism and elegance of construction or its honest spirituality, so open-hearted and direct. In both form and content, this luminous Mass shone in a performance Thursday night by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Riccardo Muti at Orchestra Hall. ★★★★★

Muti, CSO extend his directorship to 2019-20; next season accents French, Russian music

Feb 3, 2014 – 6:15 pm
Vienna's Musikverein at night (Wiki Commons)

Report: Riccardo Muti has agreed to a five-year extension of his contract as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through the 2019-20 season, the orchestra announced Monday. Word of the new pact, concluded only Monday morning, came unexpectedly at a press conference to announce the CSO’s season plans for 2014-15, the final year on Muti’s current agreement. The 72-year-old Italian maestro expressed delight at the extension, noting with a wry grin that at its conclusion he will not yet be 80. “The older I get, the more homesick I feel,” he said, “but these musicians and the city of Chicago have made me feel like this is my second home.”

Chicago Symphony on Tour: It’s a red-carpet welcome and rave reviews in Spain’s Canarias

Jan 15, 2014 – 4:51 pm
Auditorio_de_Tenerife (Wiki Commons)

Report: The sail-like hall on the shore of Tenerife, one of Spain’s Canary Islands off the African coast, was home for two concerts by the touring Chicago Symphony Orchestra this week. The famous archipelago is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its winter music festival, where music director Riccardo Muti and the CSO were headliners. Now, they’re off to Germany.

Chicago Symphony on Tour: Flight snafu resolved, musicians open series in Canary Islands

Jan 10, 2014 – 11:59 am
Alfredo Kraus Auditorium. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Canary Islands (Wiki Commons)

Report: Music director Riccardo Muti and the CSO are set to give four performances in the Canary Islands Jan. 10-14. Spain’s idyllic archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa offers architecturally striking concert halls. But the touring musicians were no less subject to travel woes in Chicago’s frigid winter than the rest of us, missing their Madrid connection.

Bernard Rands work inspired by Beckett poetry renews composer’s time-honored link to CSO

Dec 20, 2013 – 1:42 pm
Composer Bernard Rands (BernardRands.com)

Interview: For many, “…where the murmurs die…” will constitute a first Rands encounter. Indeed, this intimate marvel from 1993 is the perfect piece for it, whether one hears it shimmer in the live acoustical space of Orchestra Hall or through a pair of earphones.

CSO president Deborah F. Rutter lands top post at Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Arts

Dec 10, 2013 – 4:42 pm
CSO President Deborah F. Rutter has been named next president of  John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C (Todd Rosenberg)

Report: Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, has been named president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., effective Sept. 1, 2014.

Denève, Chicago Symphony master madness, catch magic of Berlioz’ fantastic dreamscape

Dec 7, 2013 – 4:01 pm

Review: It was the nightmare you thought you could only wish for, conductor Stéphane Denève’s hallucinogenic, careening, brilliant turn through Berlioz’ “Symphonie fantastique” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 5 at Orchestra Hall. ★★★★★

Mahlerite Michael Tilson Thomas brings newly sharpened Ninth to Chicago Symphony podium

Nov 21, 2013 – 2:24 pm

Interview: Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is what G.B. Shaw might have called the perfect Mahlerite. Not only his baton but his heart as well beats to the subtle impulses of yearning, angst and mockery that permeate and shape Gustav Mahler’s epic creations. Newly refocused on the subject, this Mahler maestro leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in four performances of the Ninth Symphony Nov. 21-24 at Orchestra Hall.

Bernard Haitink, master builder of Bruckner, leads Chicago Symphony in glorious Fourth

Nov 1, 2013 – 5:21 pm
Conductor Bernard Haitink, who turns 85 this season, led the Chicago Symphony in works by Mozart and Bruckner. (Todd Rosenberg)

Review: Upon thoughtful examination, the outwardly splendid edifice that is Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony reveals a no less magnificent interior. Articulating the one aspect without losing sight of the other might even define the work’s core interpretive challenge. Inside and out, front to back, conductor Bernard Haitink led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of consummate completeness Thursday night at Orchestra Hall. ★★★★★

Pianist Kirill Gerstein lavishes virtuosity and wit on a glittering Prokofiev concerto with the CSO

Oct 25, 2013 – 2:59 pm
Kirill Gerstein feature image (Marco Borggreve)

Review: This weekend’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra program is a curiously mixed affair. At intermission, I was exhilarated at having witnessed Kirill Gerstein’s virtuosic and sly performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. On the other hand, by the time conductor Semyon Bychkov had made it to the end of a solidly fashioned performance of William Walton’s sturdily made Symphony No. 1, I was wondering why, some 80 years along, are American orchestras still dusting this off?

Chicago Symphony sets sales and gift records, inaugurates gallery honoring its donors

Oct 24, 2013 – 12:18 pm
The new Richard and Helen Thomas Donor Gallery recognizes the CSO's 'closest friends.' (Todd Rosenberg)

Report: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association set records in fiscal 2013 with $23.2 million in ticket sales and $29.8 million in contributed income. The 2013 fiscal tally, presented Oct. 23 at the Association’s annual meeting, also showed a slight operating deficit of 0.2 percent, or $169,000 on expenses totaling $73.8 million. The CSOA reported a healthy 44 percent of fiscal 2013 revenue was earned, through ticket sales and other sources.

Composers’ imaginative new worlds of sound infuse MusicNOW concert with energy, flair

Oct 22, 2013 – 1:53 pm
Benedict Mason 'Delta River' at Chicago Symphony MusicNOW concert Oct. 21, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg)

Review: This just in from Chicago Symphony’s new music series: Benedict Mason’s multimedia “Delta River” with odd-lot Far East film, Donnacha Dennehy’s “Stainless Staining” for pianos of special resonance, and Anders Hillborg’s “Vaporized Tivoli,” which hints at a circus gone bad. ★★★★

In conductor Susanna Mälkki’s return to CSO, her place with the world’s elite is confirmed

Oct 20, 2013 – 3:52 pm
Composer Thomas Adès (Mamiko Tsusuki)

Review: In her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in 2011, the Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki was impressive. In her return, Oct. 19 at Orchestra Hall, she looked like the woman who could crack the exclusive men’s club of music directors with the world’s top orchestras. ★★★★★

Riccardo Muti and stellar CSO cast honor Verdi bicentennial with a majestic view of Requiem

Oct 11, 2013 – 11:41 am
Verdi Requiem Feature Image Oct. 10, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg)

Review: It’s hardly surprising that anyone familiar with Verdi’s operas would associate his Requiem with that imposing body of music-dramas. The musical language of the one informs the rhetoric of the other. But the difference between Verdi’s stage works and great spiritual drama of the Requiem was the distinguishing feature of conductor Riccardo Muti’s account with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 10, the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Relive Chicago Symphony’s Verdi Requiem: Chicago On the Aisle offers clickable concert

Oct 10, 2013 – 4:53 pm
Chicago Symphony Orchestra command truck for Verdi Requiem simulcast Oct. 20, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg)

UPDATE: Get your finest audio headphones ready: A video on demand is now available here of the CSO’s first-ever simulcast — Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem with Riccardo Muti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, soprano Tatiana Serjan, mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona, tenor Mario Zeffiri and bass Ildar Abdrazakov.

Russian soprano’s venomous Lady Macbeth sets tone in Chicago Symphony’s Verdi thriller

Sep 30, 2013 – 3:15 pm
Dramatic coloratura soprano Tatiana Serjan as Lady Macbeth with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Sept. 28, 2013 (© Todd Rosenberg)

Review: Tatiana Serjan is a flat-out thrilling soprano who exudes the temperament of a lioness. She is a Lady Macbeth in her early prime. There isn’t a better place to be this week than Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, where the Russian-born Serjan sings in Verdi’s “Macbeth” under ideal conditions — in concert with other emerging opera stars and the superb forces of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under Riccardo Muti. ★★★★★

Muti finally presiding, CSO delivers Brahms Second Symphony the Asia tour didn’t get

Sep 20, 2013 – 2:08 pm

Review: Ah, so that was the Brahms Second Symphony the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had planned to share with audiences in Asia last winter — on the tour music director Riccardo Muti had to skip because of emergency surgery. With stand-in conductors Osmo Vänskä and Lorin Maazel, the CSO had delivered authoritative, even commanding performances of the Brahms Second on that troubled tour. But to put it plainly, those efforts bore no relation to the exquisite account the CSO summoned Thursday night in its season opener at Orchestra Hall with Muti once again on the podium.

Riccardo Muti turns spotlight on CSO Chorus with lustrous account of Verdi ‘Sacred Pieces’

Jun 22, 2013 – 3:52 pm

Review: Riccardo Muti, winding up his third season as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this weekend, led the orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus on a spiritual voyage Thursday night, from luminous Mozart and rapturous Vivaldi to a transcendental peak in Verdi’s glorious “Four Sacred Pieces.” Performances continue through Sunday. ★★★★★