In April 2012, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra made its second trip to Russia for three concerts: two at the Great Hall of the Conservatory in Moscow on April 18 and 19, and one at the Great Hall of the Philharmonia in Saint Petersburg on April 21. Riccardo Muti opened the first concert with Smirnov’s Space Odyssey (which had received its world premiere under Muti in Chicago in January), followed by Rota’s music from Il Gattopardo, and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. The second concert in Moscow and the concert in Saint Petersburg also opened with Space Odyssey and continued with Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration and Franck’s Symphony in D minor.
“Perhaps the most memorable performance in Moscow was Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony and the encore that crowned the second concert, the overture to Verdi’s La forza del destino. The impression of the Orchestra’s performance is truly stunning; the technique is impeccable, flawless orchestral verticals, perfectly aligned winds, terrific ensemble, flexibility of the dynamics (from pianos which seem impossible in theory), instant reaction to any conductor’s gesture,” wrote Marina Gaikovich in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “Muti edited out anything ‘between the lines.’ As a result, held back sobs become warm sighs, a threatening scherzo becomes playful, a slow movement turns into a classic contemplative adagio and is not a tragic moment, and finally, the stunning D major puts an exclamation point in the finale. Inhuman music that exhausts one’s soul becomes very human.”
Following the concerts in Russia, the Orchestra traveled on to Italy for concerts in Rome as well as its first performances in Naples, Brescia, and Ravenna.
“The beauty of the sound was breathtaking, from the string instruments of velvet to the brass, sculptural instruments to the sharp woodwinds, and for the clearness with which, even in the most virtuosic moments, every part is performed prominently and balanced,” wrote Sandro Compagnone in La Repubblica on the Orchestra’s debut in Naples at the Teatro di San Carlo. “And at the end, as rightly so, the triumph united the conductor and the orchestra, both of which gave as an encore the overture to Verdi’s La forza del destino.”
Image above: Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform at the Great Hall of the Conservatory in Moscow on April 18, 2012 (Todd Rosenberg photo)
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