Muti reveals lineup for 1st CSO season in new role
CHICAGO — Conductor Riccardo Muti won’t take over as 10th music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until Sept. 19, but he proved Thursday that he already can lead the city’s critics and musical public into laughter and thoughtful speculation.
Muti and CSO Association president Deborah F. Rutter appeared Thursday at Symphony Center to announce the orchestra’s 2010-2011 season – his first. The season runs from September to June.
Rutter, who recruited Muti to take the post Daniel Barenboim left vacant in 2006, was so vocal in her praise of the Naples-born maestro that the always quotable Muti replied with self-effacement.
“I felt I was watching a film, and I was the body at the funeral,” he said.
Muti, 68, noted that he first conducted the CSO in his 30s, but then was out of contact with the orchestra for more than three decades.
“Then, you had a young man, and now I hope you won’t get the ruins,” he said, laughing. “But I think I am like the best Italian wine – with the age, it becomes better.”
Rutter said Muti will debut as music director Sept. 19 with a free outdoor concert at Millennium Park.
Muti’s first regular-subscription CSO concert will feature the Hector Berlioz favorite “Symphonie fantastique,” coupled with its less-familiar companion piece, “Lelio: The Return to Life.” French film star Gerard Depardieu will be the narrator for “Lelio.”
Muti will also conduct the annual Symphony Ball on Oct. 2, which will feature the first CSO performance in nearly 20 years by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.
Another highlight of Muti’s first season will be a concert version of Verdi’s “Otello,” to be performed in Chicago and at New York’s Carnegie Hall during an April visit that will also feature performances of the Berlioz works.
CSO audiences also will hear the world premieres of commissioned works by Osvaldo Golijov, Bernard Rands, Mark-Anthony Tunage and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Muti, known in Italy, the Balkans and the Mideast for his musical outreach programs, plans eventually to perform in juvenile prisons and recruit at-risk youth for musical programs.
“Possibly because I am a southern Italian and inclined to be pessimistic, I think Western civilization is in danger,” Muti said.
Musical outreach can help, he said, because music speaks directly to the heart.
Muti said he will begin his Chicago outreach efforts with an open rehearsal of works by Mexican composers in Chicago’s predominantly Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood. The first half of the CSO season will be studded with Mexican-composed and -inspired pieces.
But Muti said he doesn’t believe in imposing overall themes on musical seasons. Instead, Muti plans mixed programs in which 18th and 19th century pieces are sometimes juxtaposed with contemporary and even electronic works.