NAPLES, Fla. — What a remarkable concert my husband Eric and I experienced Feb. 12 as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Riccardo Muti made their debut performance here at Hayes Hall, anticipating a three-year residency at Artis—Naples. To begin, the striking cultural campus of Artis—Naples, which is home to both the Naples Philharmonic and the Baker Museum, impressed me with its clean, contemporary architectural design. This campus is truly an integrated space for the enjoyment of the visual and performing arts. It immediately set the stage for what was sure to be a very special evening.

As we entered Hayes Hall, the anticipation in the sold-out concert hall was palpable as the orchestra began to tune. Maestro Muti entered the stage with his characteristic authority and to warm applause from the audience. Without hesitation, he launched the orchestra into Verdi’s vibrant Overture to I vespri siciliani. He kept the orchestra moving at an energetic clip in this show-stopping piece that seemed to suggest to the audience: “Here we are Naples, we are Chicago, the best orchestra in the United States, and we are here to bring you the very best in classical music.” This concert was my first experience hearing the CSO on tour, and my eyes were filled with tears of pride and joy as the audience erupted in applause following this great piece conducted by one of today’s most renowned Verdi interpreters.

We were fortunate to hear Jennifer Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto when it premiered at Symphony Center early this month, and it was wonderful to compare and contrast our experience of hearing it in Chicago with hearing it here. The piece showcases the CSO’s world-class low brass musicians in a non-gimmicky manner that allows for wonderful interplay between the soloists and the orchestra. While hearing the piece in Chicago, I was simply thrilled to see the brass musicians showcased, but in Naples, I was more struck by how truly unusual the piece is. How often does a concerto feature four soloists, let alone three trombones and a tuba?! This piece was warmly received by the audience with a standing ovation.

After the intermission, the orchestra gave an elegant performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, which ended with a powerful finish that had the audience on its feet, cheering for an encore.   Maestro Muti then made some charming remarks to the audience. Naturally, he drew a link between his hometown of Naples, Italy, and Naples, Fla. Then he complied with an encore, written by a fellow Neopolitan, Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1906). The piece, Notturno, was a lilting lullaby of sorts and peacefully concluded the evening. With the first year of the CSO’s residency scheduled for 2019, the city of Naples has much great music-making to anticipate from our world-class ensemble.

Melanie Kalnins is director of marketing and business analysis for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. Eric Kalnins is the chairman of the Member Engagement Committee for the CSO’s Governing Members.

TOP: Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform an encore of Martucci’s Notturno after their concert Feb. 12 in Naples. | ©Todd Rosenberg 2018