In September 2007—after an absence of thirty-two years—Riccardo Muti returned to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra podium for a monthlong residency. On September 14 and 16, 2007, he led the Orchestra’s first subscription concerts of the 117th season, conducting Prokofiev’s Third Symphony, Falla’s Suite no. 2 from The Three-Cornered Hat, and Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole and Boléro. The Opening Night Gala, given on September 15, featured Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino; soprano Barbara Frittoli in arias by Cilea, Puccini, and Verdi; as well as the works by Falla and Ravel.

In the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein called Muti and the Orchestra, “perfect together. . . . To judge from the magnificently committed playing the Orchestra gave Muti, from the first crunching chords of Prokofiev’s Symphony no. 3 on Friday through the cataclysmic ending of Ravel’s Boléro (which concluded both programs), the rapport between him and these virtuoso musicians seemed almost instantaneous, as if both parties already knew everything there was to know about each other. Neither from Muti’s confident command on the podium or from the full-throttle playing of the CSO did one get the sense that he and the Orchestra were tap-dancing around each other. The mutual understanding was there. All that remained for them was to make beautiful, life-affirming music together.”

Muti and the Orchestra at the Auditorium Giovanni Agnelli in Turin on September 26, 2007

Muti and the Orchestra at the Auditorium Giovanni Agnelli in Turin on September 26, 2007 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

The second week of subscription concerts featured Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, Hindemith’s Suite from Nobilissima visione, and Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy. Of the second week, von Rhein wrote, “We need to bring back Muti regularly, even if management does not succeed in persuading him to accept a formal title with the CSO. Through their brilliant, exceptionally committed playing, the Orchestra members have made it clear they wish the relationship to continue and, indeed, deepen.”

Following the concerts in Chicago, Muti led the Orchestra on a seven-city, nine-concert European tour to England, France, Germany, and a return to Italy for the first time in more than twenty-five years that included debut performances in Rome, Turin, and Verona.

Image above: Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome on September 28, 2007 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

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