Complete cycles of Beethoven’s symphonies and piano sonatas. World premieres by leading composers Nicolas Bacri, Missy Mazzoli and Bernard Rands. And the 10th anniversary season of Riccardo Muti as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
These concerts, offerings and milestones are among the highlights of the 2019-2o season for the CSO and Symphony Center Presents, beginning Sept. 19 and running through June 21. “We are extremely pleased to announce the 2019-20 season, which includes such a wide variety of impactful programming to be enjoyed by our loyal audiences as well as new audiences in Chicago, across the country and around the world,” said CSOA President Jeff Alexander. “We are also excited to celebrate the 10th anniversary season of Maestro Muti as our music director and the 250th birthday year of the genius who was and is Ludwig van Beethoven.”
The Beethoven tribute consists of a cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies, conducted by Riccardo Muti. This will include the first collaboration between Muti and the CSO to perform Beethoven’s First, Third (Eroica) and Sixth (Pastoral) symphonies. The cycle culminates in a season-finale performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work that the CSO and the Chicago Symphony Chorus last performed with Muti to great acclaim in Orchestra Hall in September 2014. The live video from those performances has garnered more than 14 million views on YouTube to date.
“We should all become brothers and sisters. This is the message of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” Muti said. “For 250 years, we have tried to find the secret behind the untouchable music of this divine architect and to comprehend the enormity of his timeless philosophical, spiritual and human message.”
The season-long Beethoven celebration also features the complete cycle of the composer’s 32 piano sonatas featuring renowned interpreters as the focus of the Symphony Center Presents Piano series and three SCP Special Concerts. The sonata cycle will be performed by Rudolf Buchbinder, Kirill Gerstein, Igor Levit, Evgeny Kissin, Sir András Schiff and Maurizio Pollini, with Buchbinder and Schiff performing two recitals each. Mitsuko Uchida is also featured on the SCP Piano series with an all-Beethoven program with Six Bagatelles and the Diabelli Variations.
Other Beethoven masterworks featured on CSO and Symphony Center Presents programs include the Violin Sonata No. 6 performed by Christian Tetzlaff and his Violin Sonatas Nos. 4, 5 (Spring) and 9 (Kreutzer) performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter; the Violin Concerto performed by Leonidas Kavakos; the First and Fourth piano concertos performed by Paul Lewis; a program of piano trios performed by Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma, and the Namensfeier Overture and concert aria Ah! perfido with soprano Camilla Tilling, led by Susanna Mälkki.
In the new season, Riccardo Muti and guest conductors also introduce works that represent some of the most original and powerful voices of composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In 1933, the orchestra gave the world premiere of composer Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1 — the first large-scale composition by a black woman to be performed by a major American orchestra — under the CSO’s second Music Director, Frederick Stock. In April subscription concerts, Muti conducts the CSO’s first performances of Price’s Symphony No. 3, a work of power and originality premiered during a time of war, as well as Mother and Child by William Grant Still, regarded as the dean of African American composers.
Muti also introduces new works by leading contemporary composers including world premieres of CSO-commissioned works by CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli, Nicolas Bacri and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands. The CSO also performs the U.S. premiere of Avner Dorman’s new percussion concerto featuring Principal Percussion Cynthia Yeh. Additionally, the CSO performs music by American composers John Adams, Samuel Barber, Jennifer Higdon and James Lee III. The MusicNOW series, curated by Mazzoli, also features the world premiere of a CSO-commissioned work by composer Courtney Bryan, written especially for the Quince Vocal Ensemble and CSO musicians.
In 2019-20, the CSO continues its tradition of touring including an international tour to Europe in January, with performances in Vienna, as part of the 150th anniversary season of the famed Musikverein, and one concert each in Paris, Cologne, Florence, Milan, Naples, Lugano and Luxembourg. Muti and the CSO also return to Florida in February for a tour with return appearances in Miami, West Palm Beach and Naples, as well as a debut appearance in Sarasota. In November, Muti and the CSO appear for a two-concert residency at Carnegie Hall.
This season, Muti leads 10 weeks of CSO subscription concerts in five Chicago residencies in September and November, and February, April, May and June 2020. Beyond the CSO’s season-long Beethoven 250th anniversary salute and special programs by new and American compositional voices, other program highlights are:
- Muti leads the annual free Concert for Chicago with the CSO on Sept. 24 in a return appearance at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep High School with a program that includes a suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3.
- Continuing his survey of Italian opera masterworks with the Orchestra and Chorus, Muti leads concert performances of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana with an internationally renowned cast of soloists.
- The Chicago Symphony Chorus, under the leadership of Chorus Director and Conductor Duain Wolfe, appears in four programs in 2019-20, including Carl Orff’s Carmina burana, led by guest conductor Alain Altinoglu.
- Soprano and Lyric Opera of Chicago Creative Consultant Renée Fleming joins piano virtuoso Evgeny Kissin for a one-night-only, Symphony Center Presents and Lyric Opera of Chicago collaboration in April 2020.
- Return appearances by celebrated guest conductors include Valery Gergiev with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 (Leningrad) and Jaap van Zweden in his first CSO appearances since assuming his role as music director of the New York Philharmonic. Also returning are Herbert Blomstedt, Manfred Honeck, Sir Andrew Davis and Bernard Labadie, who all lead programs featuring their signature repertoire.
- Guest conductor Hannu Lintu makes his CSO debut in a program of music by Sibelius and Nielsen, and conductor and violinist Julian Rachlin makes his CSO podium debut in a program featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Conductors Kirill Karabits and André de Ridder also make subscription debuts.
- The CSO’s MusicNOW series enters its second season under the leadership of Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli with world premieres of two MusicNOW commissioned works by composers Wang Lu and Courtney Bryan and a tribute to the 55th anniversary of Chicago’s own Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
- Guest artists making their debuts include pianists Sunwook Kim, Joseph Moog, Beatrice Rana, and Jan Lisiecki; violinist Ray Chen; countertenor Iestyn Davies; mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano; soprano Elena Stikhina; tenors Daniel Johansson and Piero Pretti, and baritone Elliot Madore.
- Five members of the CSO appear as soloists this season including Concertmaster Robert Chen, Associate Concertmaster Stephanie Jeong, Assistant Principal Cello Kenneth Olsen, Principal Percussion Cynthia Yeh and Bass Clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom.
Symphony Center Presents brings leading artists and ensembles to Chicago. For the upcoming season, the SCP Piano and Chamber music series offer programming that shares in the 250th Birthday celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven, including the complete piano sonatas and the composer’s most powerful chamber music works. The SCP Orchestras series welcomes two orchestras from a single Canadian city — the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, led by Kent Nagano — and Poland’s NFM Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra, led by music director Giancarlo Guerrero.
The programs of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 complement the CSO’s subscription programs and demonstrate the commitment of Muti and the CSOA to develop new audiences, nurture young musicians, provide access to the orchestra, and to serve the city of Chicago through music. The Institute also leads programs developed for its More Peaceful Chicago Initiative that connect to communities affected by gun violence. The 2019-20 season also marks the conclusion of special celebrations for the centennials of both the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and children’s concerts series.