Congratulations to Music Director Riccardo Muti on the occasion of his 74th birthday on July 28, 2015.
Since his first concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in 1973, to the present day starting his sixth season as Music Director, working with Maestro Muti continues to be a incredible musical adventure. We are extremely grateful that Maestro has chosen to spend his precious time in Chicago. During that time, the CSO has entered a Golden Age of musicianship and international acclaim.
The cultural life of the city of Chicago has grown under Maestro Muti's brilliant leadership. From annual free community concerts all across the city, to making music with the young people in juvenile detention centers, Maestro Muti and musicians from the CSO are bringing great music to the people of Chicago. When the CSO travels internationally with the Maestro, the City of Chicago earns respect and admiration from music-lovers all over the world.
All who know the Maestro envy his energy and stamina. In fact, no one will be surprised to learn that Maestro Muti will be traveling to Orviedo, Spain on his birthday to conduct a concert there. We wish he would tell us where he discovered the Fountain of Youth!
Happy Birthday, Maestro!
With admiration and affection from the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Congratulations to Maestro Muti on the 42nd Anniversary of his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
On July 25th we celebrate the 42nd anniversary of our Maestro Muti's debut with the Chicago Symphony, at the Ravinia Festival, July 25, 1973.
His first program was:
ROSSINI Overture to Semiramide
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto with Christoph Eschenbach, piano
MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition
The following is published in the CSO's Rosenthal Archives Blog:
Maestro Muti made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in the summer of 1973, conducting a series of three concerts that also included three up-and-coming pianists: thirty-three-year-old Christoph Eschenbach (in his Ravinia Festival debut), twenty-seven-year-old Misha Dichter, and twenty-eight-year-old Jean-Bernard Pommier (in his CSO and Ravinia Festival debuts).
Muti’s biography in the Ravinia program book that week:
Permanent conductor of the Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra since 1969, Riccardo Muti was born in Naples in 1941. He graduated with honors from the Conservatorio San Pietro a Maiella, where he studied piano, and then completed his studies at Milan’s Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, graduating with honors in composition and conducting. In 1967, Riccardo Muti became the first Italian candidate to win the Guido Cantelli International Conducting Competition. In June 1968, he conducted the Maggio Musicale Orchestra and the same night was asked to become permanent conductor.
Thomas Willis’s review of the first concert in the July 26 Chicago Tribune certainly sets the stage:
“It is easy to see why Riccardo Muti was the first Italian to win the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition. The Neapolitan firebrand, still in his early thirties, can galvanize both audiences and an orchestra with the kinetic energy of his beat. In his Midwest debut at Ravinia last night, he asserted command at the first notes of Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide and sustained it until the last of the procession had marched through the Great Gate of Kiev in the Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition. Whether one responds or not to the tense muscularity of his approach, there is no gainsaying its power and effectiveness . . . With the sensitivity to melody of an already seasoned opera conductor, he sets off each tune with a breath, combines short phrases into longer ones, and underlines each high point. Above all, his music is perfectly clear.”
Click here to read the entire article from the Rosenthal Archives
Herbert von Karajan, so goes the story, was hailing a taxi in Vienna. "Where to?" asked the driver. "Doesn't matter," replied the feared and foibled Austrian maestro. "They want me everywhere."
Replace Karajan's name with Riccardo Muti's and you get something of how sought-after the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's music director is in today's classical music world.
Both La Scala and Vienna, two of the world's preeminent opera companies, have standing invitations out to Muti, even though his days of suffering the slings and arrows of willful stage directors are over, he declares.
Plenty of major orchestras would love to engage him as well. But, as the Italian baton supremo approaches his 74th birthday in July, he is almost entirely restricting his conducting to the three orchestras he considers the finest in the world – the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and, of course, the CSO, where his contract runs through August 2020. By then he will have served 10 years in the post.
Click to continue reading the article on ChicagoTribune.com
Our Maestro: How Riccardo Muti Accepted the Position of Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
By: Susan Synnestvedt, CSO violinist since 1986
There was a palpable feeling of excitement in the air at Orchestra Hall on the morning of September 11, 2007. The world-famous maestro, Riccardo Muti, was about to walk onstage and start our first rehearsal together. Maestro Muti hadn’t conducted the CSO for over 30 years, so most of us had never worked with him before, but I felt like I knew more than most about the Maestro. I attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia while Maestro Muti was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I remember banners fluttering throughout center-city Philadelphia with the words, Tutti per Muti, emblazoned on them. I went to many Muti-led concerts, sitting way up high at the Academy of Music.
While a senior at Curtis, I was asked to be a violin substitute for a special concert with Maestro Muti conducting. It was a quick one-rehearsal, one-concert program. The piano soloist was Rudolf Serkin, whose Marlboro Chamber Music Festival I had attended the previous summer. Mr. Serkin was performing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, a standard that everyone but me had played before! I could barely enjoy Serkin’s beautiful playing because I had to concentrate very intently on the old, yellowed second violin part. I certainly didn’t want to play where I wasn’t supposed to. I also played Ravel’s Bolero for the first time during that concert. I remember being impressed with Maestro Muti’s elegance on the podium, but I don’t remember him saying a word during that rehearsal.
After more than twenty years, I was curious to see the Maestro again that September morning. Maestro Muti strode onto the stage at Orchestra Hall and began to speak. He introduced himself in a melodious baritone voice with charming Italian-accented English. The Maestro was funny, self-effacing and he quickly put us all at ease. When he began to conduct, it was as if we’d all been making music together for years. That was a relief, because we had two weeks of rehearsals and concerts scheduled in Chicago, and then a two-week tour of Europe. Taking an international tour with a conductor we’d never worked with seemed like a gamble, but the tour was wonderful, with everyone enjoying this new musical relationship between Maestro Muti and the Orchestra. There was no doubt that we wanted this relationship to continue. But Maestro Muti had made it clear that he wasn’t interested in being the leader of another American orchestra.
The CSO had been without a Music Director since June of 2006. We were very fortunate to have had the marvelous Bernard Haitink serve as Principal Conductor since then, but he didn’t want the responsibilities of being a full-time leader of the CSO. During that European tour in the fall of 2007, it was obvious to the musicians that Riccardo Muti should become our next Music Director. But how? Could he possibly be persuaded? Our bass trombone player, Charlie Vernon, had played in the Philadelphia Orchestra under Maestro Muti and they had remained friends ever since. Knowing that the Maestro preferred traditional forms of communication, Charlie's wife, Alison suggested that we each write a letter to Maestro thanking him for the fantastic tour and letting him know that we’d like him to consider being our Music Director. Nearly every CSO musician wrote Maestro a heartfelt, hand-written letter; the letters were all sent together in one large envelope to Maestro’s house in Ravenna, Italy.
Cut to May 2008. A special meeting had been called on a Monday, a day off for the musicians, at Symphony Center. We were encouraged to attend, so I got into my car for the trip downtown. I was dying to know what was going on, and hoped that somehow Maestro Muti would be involved. As I turned on my car radio, WFMT was announcing that Riccardo Muti would become the tenth Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I like to think that our letters to Maestro Muti played a part in his decision.