For the next stop on their Florida Tour 2020, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti headed to Sarasota, a city known for its bustling arts scene, with a resident opera company, many galleries and more than a dozen museums. At the nexus of this scene is the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, now in its 50th anniversary season, where the CSO and Muti performed an all-Prokofiev program Feb. 12.

The Van Wezel, designed by the son-in-law of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, bills itself as “the world’s only purple seashell-shaped theater.” Its lead designer, William Wesley Peters, wanted the hall to reflect the area’s relationship to nature.

For their one-night-only program, which marked the CSO’s first performance here with Maestro Muti, the orchestra and its music director received rave reviews. “The sound is legend. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra proved in its Sarasota Concert Association performance Wednesday evening that not one bit of that legendary sound has faded,” wrote Gayle Williams for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “In fact, under its current music director Riccardo Muti its famed brass muscle sang with sheer poetry blended in one shimmering sheath of orchestral color.

“Myriad details caught the ear: the indescribable bloom and elasticity of the ensemble, the hypnotic depth of the solo flute tone, the incisive edge of the solo trumpet, and surprising contrasts with layers of color rising, soaring, and yielding again.”

Next stop, Naples, where the CSO and Maestro Muti will perform two programs. The Naples concerts mark the second season of a planned three-year residency presented by Artis—Naples. For more coverage, go to the tour page on cso.org, Sounds and Stories’ CSO on Tour category, the CSO’s Facebook page and other social media outlets, including Twitter and Instagram.

TOP: Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a tour concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2020

Concert in Sarasota

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The CSO and Maestro Muti take their bows after the encore, Scriabin’s Rêverie for Orchestra.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra arrives in Sarasota, palm trees seemingly wave in welcome.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
Stage Manager Christopher Lewis loads in Maestro Muti’s trunk backstage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
Heidi Lukas, director of operations, posts signs for CSO musicians to find their way in the unfamiliar backstage territory at the Van Wezel.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
Welcome to Sarasota, bass clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom! He’s looking forward to his solo turn in the world premiere of Ophelia’s Tears next week.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
The warm weather doesn’t distract trumpet John Hagstrom from getting in some practice before the concert.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
Twilight descends upon the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which is right on the Gulf Coast.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall bills itself as “the world’s only purple seashell-shaped theater.” The lines of its seashell-styled roof gleam in the twilight.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
CSO violin Melanie Kupchynsky poses with Lee Ann Plungis (right) and her daughter, Alesa Chambers. Plungis was a student of Melanie’s father, as well as one of Melanie’s baby-sitters while she was growing up.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
A blue heron, one of the most distinctive wading birds along the Florida coast, perches on the shore near the venue.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
Principal Timpani David Herbert talks with Thomas Akins, former principal timpani of the Indianapolis Symphony. Akins also premiered William Kraft’s Timpani Concerto, which Herbert will perform with the CSO next season.

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
Patrons arrive for the CSO concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary season. 

Photos by Todd Rosenberg.
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