The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s latest recording is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar), with Music Director Riccardo Muti, on its own CSO Resound label. Recorded live in Orchestra Hall in September 2018, the release is available at international retail outlets, including the CSO’s Symphony Store and symphonystore.com, and in North American retail outlets, for digital download and streaming worldwide. The recording is available now at symphonystore.com, Amazon, Apple Music and Spotify.
The CSO Resound release of Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar) captures a masterwork by 20th century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich with Muti leading the assembled musical forces of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Chorus Director Duain Wolfe, and renowned Russian bass Alexey Tikhomirov, who made his CSO debut in these performances. The work reflects on the Word War II tragedy in which German forces massacred more than 33,000 Jews over two days in September 1941 at Babi Yar, a steep ravine outside Kiev, Ukraine.
Muti has a long-standing connection to the work. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 was performed for the first time on Dec. 18, 1962, in Moscow with distinguished conductor Kirill Kondrashin on the podium. With only a handful of additional performances taking place in the years that followed, Muti led a performance of Babi Yar in 1970 in Rome — the first performance of the symphony in western Europe — in an Italian translation of the work with the RAI National Symphony Orchestra and acclaimed bass Ruggero Raimondi.
Shostakovich obtained a cassette tape recording of the 1970 performance, and according to his widow, Madame Irina Shostakovich, he “loved very much this performance, not only for the performance in itself, but he liked the sound of the Italian language.” In 2018, Madame Shostakovich sent Muti the cassette tape, which the composer had kept in his personal library for many years. She also attended the CSO’s opening performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, which formed the basis for the CSO Resound recording.
In reflecting on these CSO performances, Muti said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, “The symphony reminds us that all the wars against religion, against differences don’t make any sense. The statements of Yevtushenko remind us that we need to go back to simplicity, to brotherhood and to freedom, and to help people.”
The recording was produced, edited and mixed by 16-time-Grammy Award winner David Frost, and mastered by two-time Grammy Award winner Silas Brown. The recording engineer was Charlie Post.