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Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, made history over the weekend with his Paths of Friendship concerts in Tehran, Iran, and Ravenna, Italy.

Ahead of a joint concert by the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra and the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, Muti praised the musicians. “I want to thank everyone who helped us over the past few days to perform this concert,” said Muti in an article published by the Tasnim News Agency. “I’m very glad to collaborate with the Iranian musicians in performing pieces by the Italian composer [Giuseppe Verdi] and I’m very impressed by the performance. Since Iran and Italy enjoy rich ancient civilizations, we can use music to bridge between the two civilizations.”

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera observed in its account of the event that the last major symphonic concert in Tehran was 45 years ago, when Herbert von Karajan (one of Muti’s mentors) was on the podium. “After the revolution of 1979, music was prohibited as an obstacle between man and God, capable of disturbing minds by impromptu thoughts. … Two cultures with different politics, religions, human rights and the rules of civil co-existence are reunited with music. Today, what joins them is stronger than what divides.”

In its report on the Tehran concert, the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore quoted Muti as saying to his musicians: “Verdi belongs to everyone.” The article went on to note that Verdi’s works were built on a foundation of three themes: patriotism, fraternity and freedom. During the rehearsal, Muti reminded the players that in Verdi, “every note is music.” Later, as the musicians performed a passage from Verdi’s opera La forza del destino, Muti added: “And each note is the universe.”

Tehran Symphony Orchestra conductor Shardad Rohani, who invited Muti and his Cherubini Youth Orchestra to Tehran, said in an article published by the Iranian travel site Top Tourism: “Muti’s visit to Tehran was extremely valuable for us and I hope everything goes well at the joint performance [July 8] in Italy.”

In its account of the July 8 concert, the publication Ravenna News wrote: “Over two millennia [two cultures] flourished thousands of miles away. Two languages ​​of poets, that of Dante Alighieri and that of Omar Khayyam. Two cities, a small gem jeweled with mosaics, the other a metropolis of 15 million inhabitants embraced by everywhere from desert mountains. Only one orchestra and one choir, directed by Riccardo Muti in the universal language and in the sentimental universe created by Giuseppe Verdi. In these [parameters] is gathered the sense [of importance] of the great concert this evening of the Ravenna Festival.”

Meanwhile, the English-language, Iran-based publication IFP News reported that the joint concert July 8 at the Pala de André Centre in Ravenna sent “a message of peace and friendship to the world in a time when conflict and terror have gripped the [Mideast].” Maestro Shardad Rohani, conductor of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, said that “the historic presence of such a great master [Riccardo Muti] in Iran is a turning point in Tehran ensemble’s history.”

Additional coverage:

La Stampa (subscription required): In Tehran, Muti leads Verdi’s message against all tyrannies


Video: From EuroNews, coverage of the Tehran concert. Main photo above, of Riccardo Muti leading the Paths of Friendship concert in Tehran, by Silvia Lelli, courtesy of the Ravenna Festival.

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