Though the symphonies of Brahms have been a touchstone for Riccardo Muti over his career, he has previously led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra only in the Second during his tenure as music director. This month, in one of the season’s most anticipated events, Muti conducts the CSO in a complete Brahms cycle.
The opening program of Symphony Nos. 1 and 2, presented May 4 (and repeating May 5-6 and May 9), received a thunderous audience ovation, and the reviews are equally ecstatic. “Muti seldom gives a standard performance even of standard repertory,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “So it was Thursday night when he began his Brahms fest with Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2, in spacious, imposing, deeply considered performances that went far toward rescuing two cornerstones of German romanticism from numbing routine. … In all, an auspicious launch to a cycle that’s likely to renew an appreciation of Brahms’ musical genius in the minds of many locals.”