Irina Shostakovich, widow of distinguished 20th-century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, will attend the season-opening subscription concert Sept. 21 of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featuring her husband’s landmark Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar), conducted by Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti. She will join Muti for a post-concert conversation on the Orchestra Hall stage.
The program, which also features Prokofiev’s Sinfonietta, will be repeated Sept. 22 and 25. Babi Yar also features the Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Chorus Director Duain Wolfe and guest soloist Russian bass Alexey Tikhomirov. This run marks the CSO’s fifth set of performances of Shostakovich’s pioneering work, which recalls the horrific slaughter of 34,000 Jews in a ravine near Kiev, Ukraine, on Sept. 29, 1941. The symphony was last performed in 2006 at the Ravinia Festival under James Conlon and previously at Orchestra Hall in 1999 under Mstislav Rostropovich, in 1995 under Music Director Laureate Sir Georg Solti, and in 1979, in its CSO premiere with Gennady Rozhdestvensky on the podium.
Muti first led performances of Babi Yar in 1970 in Rome in an Italian translation of the work with the RAI National Symphony Orchestra, a male chorus and Italian bass Ruggero Raimondi. Muti’s singular history with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 includes a connection to the composer himself, who received a tape of Muti’s 1970 performance. He was greatly moved by this performance, and by the sound of the Italian language. Shostakovich kept the tape of Muti’s performance in his personal library until his death. Several months ago, Irina Shostakovich brought the tape to Muti as a gift.
Previously, Irina Shostakovich attended performances during a Shostakovich Festival led by Mstislav Rostropovich in 1999 at Symphony Center. She also heard the CSO led by Muti in Moscow during the CSO’s 2012 international tour to Russia and Italy.
The symphony, which received its world premiere in Moscow in 1962, is in five movements whose musical character and mood closely follow the text from vivid poems by distinguished Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko: “Babi Yar,” “Humour,” “In the Store,” “Fears” and “A Career.”
TOP: Irina Shostakovich and Riccardo Muti backstage at Pritzker Pavilion after the Concert for Chicago. | Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018