A complete Brahms symphonic cycle, a celebration of Prokofiev’s 125th birthday, a traversal of Beethoven’s piano concertos, four world premieres and a new three-concert series at Wheaton College are among the highlights announced Jan. 26 for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2016-17 season.

“We look forward to the orchestra’s extraordinary music-making through a wide variety of programs, including some of the most beloved works ever written, along with several exciting world premieres,” said Jeff Alexander, CSO president, in announcing the season, along with Riccardo Muti, CSO music director. “We are also pleased to be expanding our activities in the western suburbs, and continuing our special concerts, Symphony Center Presents series and expansive community-engagement activities. The 2016-2017 season contains over 200 concerts for almost every musical taste, and we invite people from Chicago and around the world to enjoy them.”

In addition, the CSO will conclude its 125th anniversary celebrations with the annual gala Symphony Ball on  Oct. 15, which will re-create the orchestra’s first-ever concert (Oct. 16, 1891). Muti will lead the CSO in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, along with works by Wagner and  Dvořák. Also on the program will be Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Daniil Trifonov as the soloist. As usual, the fund-raising gala will feature a pre-concert reception, and dinner and dancing after the performance.


Prokofiev’s 125th Anniversary

Sergei Prokofiev walks along Michigan Avenue (the Art Institute is in the background) during a 1919 visit to Chicago.

Sergei Prokofiev walks along Michigan Avenue (the Art Institute is in the background) during a 1919 visit to Chicago.

Born in 1891, the same year as the founding of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Prokofiev became one of the most notable figures of the 20th century, writing numerous symphonic scores, operas, ballet, concertos and chamber music over his career. Beginning in 1918, Prokofiev visited Chicago five times and conducted the CSO in several of his works. In 1921, he oversaw the world premieres of his Piano Concerto No. 3, which he played in Orchestra Hall on Dec. 16, and his opera, The Love for Three Oranges, which was staged by the Chicago Opera at the Auditorium Theatre on Dec. 30. The CSO also played Prokofiev’s Classical  Symphony for the first time that month. For his last visit, in 1937, he introduced Romeo and Juliet. In honor of Prokofiev’s 125th anniversary year in 2016, the CSO will perform and present several of his works on subscription concerts.

Oct. 6-8: Guest conductor James Gaffigan leads the CSO in Prokofiev’s score to the ballet Cinderella on a program with music by Franck and a world premiere of a CSO co-commissioned work by Carl Vine.

Nov. 17-19 and 22: Guest conductor Emmanuel Krivine leads Denis Kozhukin in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, on a program that also features music by Liszt and Dvořák.

Dec. 8-10: Guest conductor Neeme Järvi leads the CSO in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Vadim Gluzman as soloist, followed by works of Sibelius and Glazunov.

Dec. 15-18: Michael Tilson Thomas conducts a suite from Prokofiev’s ballet score of Romeo and Juliet on a program that also includes works by Stravinsky and Saint-Saëns.

Feb. 23-25: Maestro Muti conducts the CSO’s first-ever performances of Prokofiev’s score from Eisenstein’s film Ivan the Terrible. Actor Gérard Depardieu is the narrator; mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass Mikhail Petrenko join the CSO, the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Chicago Children’s Choir. To complement these performances, a screening of the classic Eisenstein film is scheduled for Feb. 21 at Symphony Center.

April 6-8 and 11: Guest conductor Charles Dutoit concludes the celebration of Prokofiev with perhaps his most famous symphony, his Symphony No. 5. Glinka’s overture to Ruslan and Ludmila opens the program, followed by Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, with Truls Mørk as soloist.

Beethoven Piano Concerto Cycle

Iván Fischer (left) will lead the Budapest Festival Orchestra and soloist Richard Goode in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 next season.

As part of a complete Beethoven piano concerto cycle, Iván Fischer (left) will lead the Budapest Festival Orchestra and soloist Richard Goode in Piano Concerto No. 2 next season.

Beethoven’s genius is on display throughout the 2016-17 season, as the CSO and visiting orchestras traverse the composer’s complete piano concertos, with Muti conducting three of the five works.

Oct. 20-22: Guest conductor David Afkham leads Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Emanuel Ax as soloist. Music of Shostakovich completes this program.

Feb. 8: The Symphony Center Presents Orchestras Series features music director Iván Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra and soloist Richard Goode in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Feb. 16-18: Muti leads the first of the three remaining installments, with Piano Concerto No. 4 performed by Yefim Bronfman, on a program that also features music of Rossini and Mendelssohn.

March 16, 18-19 and 21: Mitsuko Uchida performs Piano Concerto No. 3 with Muti and the CSO on a program also featuring works by Rossini, Samuel Adams and Schumann.

April 27-29: To complete the survey, Radu Lupu joins Muti and the CSO in Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor) on a program also featuring Liszt’s Dante Symphony, with the women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

Wheaton College Series

New in 2016-17 will be a series of three CSO concerts at Wheaton College’s Edman Memorial Chapel. Tickets for the concerts can be purchased individually or as a series, with subscriptions available beginning Jan. 26, or as single tickets beginning Aug. 12.

Oct. 28: Guest conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada leads the CSO in a program of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto (featuring the CSO debut of Baiba Skride as soloist), Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, Ives’ The Unanswered Question and Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra.

March 17: Music Director Riccardo Muti conducts the world premiere of Mead Composer-in-Residence Samuel Adams’ first CSO-commissioned work for full orchestra, on a program that also showcases Mitsuko Uchida as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Rossini’s overture to La scala di seta and Schumann’s Fourth Symphony. 

April 21: Guest conductor Christoph von Dohnányi leads the final concert in this series, with Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) and Concertmaster Robert Chen as soloist in Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

Brahms Cycle

A longstanding advocate for the works of Johannes Brahms, Maestro Riccardo Muti will conduct the CSO in a complete cycle of Brahms’ four symphonies, with the First and Second symphonies on one program (May 4-6 and 9), and the Third and Fourth symphonies the following week (May 11-13).

Choral Masterworks

French actor Gérard Depardieu will narrate the CSO's performances of Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible.

French actor Gérard Depardieu will narrate the CSO’s performances of Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible.

The Chicago Symphony Chorus, under the leadership of Chorus Director Duain Wolfe, will appear with the CSO three times under Muti, as well as with guest conductors Charles Dutoit, Nicholas Kraemer and Jaap van Zweden. Major choral repertoire will include requiems by Brahms and Fauré and a season-finale program of Italian opera favorites.

Nov. 10-12: The Chorus joins guest conductor Jaap van Zweden and the CSO for three performances of Brahms’ A German Requiem, featuring the CSO debuts of soprano Christiane Karg and baritone Michael Nagy. Also on the program are Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music and Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. (November 10, 11 and 12)

Dec. 1-3: Guest conductor Nicholas Kraemer leads the CSO and Chorus in an all-Handel program, with soprano Amanda Forsythe as soloist. (December 1, 2 and 3)

Feb. 23-25: Muti leads the CSO, Chorus, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, bass Mikhail Petrenko and narrator Gérard Depardieu in the orchestra’s first-ever performance of Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible, as part of the CSO’s season-long tribute to Prokofiev.

April 13-15: Charles Dutoit leads the CSO in Fauré’s Requiem, with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, soprano Chen Reiss and baritone Matthias Goerne. Also on this program are Wagner’s Good Friday Music from Parsifal and Honegger’s Symphony No. 3 (Liturgique).

April 27-29: Maestro Muti conducts the women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, along with the CSO, in Liszt’s Dante Symphony, paired with Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with pianist Radu Lupu as soloist.

June 22-25: Maestro Muti leads the CSO, Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Chicago Children’s Choir in an evening of Italian opera favorites, featuring selections from Verdi’s Nabucco, Il trovatore, Macbeth and I vespri siciliani, as well as music by Puccini, Mascagni and Boito. Bass Riccardo Zanellato is the soloist.

TOP: A color-themed floral arrangement commemorates the CSO’s 125th anniversary season.  | Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015