For his 10th season as music director, Riccardo Muti leads 10 weeks of subscription programs in 2019-20. In addition, he conducts the annual Symphony Ball gala program and a free community concert, tour performances and makes a return appearance at Wheaton College as part of the orchestra’s fourth concert series at that venue.
As a focal point of the orchestra’s season-long Beethoven 250th birthday celebration, Muti’s programs include a complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies performed across the season, as well as the Violin Concerto with Leonidas Kavakos, and the Consecration of the House and The Ruins of Athens overtures.
Muti’s concerts offer wide-ranging repertoire by Nicolas Bacri, Brahms, Grieg, Mascagni, Missy Mazzoli, Mendelssohn, Florence Price, Bernard Rands, Suppé, Schumann, Scriabin, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, William Grant Still, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Wagner.
Muti explores lesser-known works, leading the CSO’s first performances of Florence Price’s Symphony No. 3 and William Grant Still’s Mother and Child. He also leads the world premiere performances of new works by Nicolas Bacri, Missy Mazzoli, and Bernard Rands.
Continuing his survey of opera and choral works, Muti leads the CSO, the Chicago Symphony Chorus and soloists in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
This season, Muti works with soloists Leif Ove Andsnes, piano; violinists Leonidas Kavakos and Julia Fischer; mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili and baritone Luca Salsi. Joining him will be several artists in their CSO debuts, including tenor Piero Pretti; soprano Elena Stikhina; mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano, tenor Daniel Johansson and bass Franz-Josef Selig.
Sept. 19-20, season opener: Riccardo Muti opens his 10th season as music director with a program that includes Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, followed by a performance of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto with acclaimed Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. Scriabin’s Rêverie and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6 complete the program.
Sept. 26-28, beginning of the Beethoven cycle: Muti’s second week inaugurates the orchestra’s season-long Beethoven celebration. It unites two of the composer’s revolutionary early symphonies with a late overture. The ambitious, youthful First Symphony is paired with the Third Symphony (Eroica). The program opens with Beethoven’s Consecration of the House overture, a work with political overtones.
Nov. 1-2 and 5, Rands premiere: Muti collaborates with celebrated violinist Leonidas Kavakos in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. He also leads the world premiere of a CSO-commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands. Completing the program is Stravinsky’s colorful Divertimento from the ballet The Fairy’s Kiss.
Nov. 7, 9 and 12, German Romanticism: Muti’s second November program links three of Germany’s most renowned Romantic composers: Brahms, Wagner and Schumann. Two paint musical portraits of different bodies of water — the windswept Norwegian coastline in Wagner’s Overture to The Flying Dutchman and the river Rhine in Schumann’s Symphony No. 3. CSO Associate Concertmaster Stephanie Jeong and Assistant Principal Cello Kenneth Olsen are featured in Brahms’ Double Concerto.
Feb. 6-8, Cavalleria rusticana: Muti returns in February for a concert performance of Pietro Mascagni’s one-act operatic masterpiece Cavalleria rusticana. A sensation at its 1890 premiere, Mascagni’s work ushered in the Italian verismo style of opera and its power and popularity remains undimmed. Muti and the CSO are joined by the Chicago Symphony Chorus and a cast of distinguished international soloists including Anita Rachvelishvili (mezzo-soprano), Piero Pretti (tenor) and Luca Salsi (baritone).
Feb. 20-23, Ophelia’s Tears: For his second February program, Muti continues his exploration of Beethoven’s symphonies with two contrasting works, the Second Symphony, inspired by Beethoven’s mentor Haydn, and the Fifth Symphony, with its famous opening chords. The CSO’s J. Lawrie Bloom performs the world premiere of Nicolas Bacri’s Ophelia’s Tears, a concerto for bass clarinet commissioned by the CSO.
April 23-25 and 28, works by Price and Still: Muti is joined by renowned violinist Julia Fischer for Brahms’ Violin Concerto. The rest of the program features two CSO premieres. The CSO gave Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1 its world premiere in 1933, and in 2020 Muti leads the orchestra’s first performances of the composer’s expressive Third Symphony. William Grant Still’s work for string orchestra, Mother and Child, also is featured on this program.
April 30 and May 1-3, Orpheus Undone premiere: The following week, Muti’s Beethoven symphony cycle moves closer to its apex with performances of the Fourth and Seventh Symphonies. Opening the concert is the world premiere of Orpheus Undone by CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli.
June 11-13, more Beethoven: Muti returns in June to complete his cycle of Beethoven symphonies, with Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) paired with Symphony No. 8. The concerts mark Muti and the CSO’s first performances together of the Sixth Symphony. The rarely performed overture to The Ruins of Athens completes the program.
June 18-21, Beethoven’s Ninth: Muti concludes his Beethoven cycle in a season-finale run of the Ninth Symphony. Since its premiere, the work has resounded throughout the centuries, and Muti returns to the work with the CSO and Chicago Symphony Chorus for the first time since 2014. Renowned singers Elena Stikhina (soprano), Jennifer Johnson Cano (mezzo-soprano), and Daniel Johansson (tenor) make their CSO debut, with bass Franz-Josef Selig in his subscription concert debut.
In addition, Muti conducts two special concerts:
Sept. 21, Symphony Ball: Riccardo Muti’s 10th Symphony Ball program highlights music from Europe and Russia. Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes performs countryman Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto. Completing the program are works including Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, along with overtures by Verdi and Suppé.
Sept. 24, Community Concert at Lane Tech: Riccardo Muti and the CSO, demonstrating their commitment to bringing great music to different corners of the city, perform an all-Prokofiev program in a free community concert at Lane Tech College Prep High School, their second appearance at the school. (September 24)