Over the Fourth of July weekend, while Americans are celebrating a national holiday, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Riccardo Muti is commemorating another significant occasion: the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

To honor the occasion, Muti will lead three special performances of Verdi’s Requiem in Italy and Slovenia. Joining Muti at these concerts are CSO musicians Charles Vernon (trombone) and Tage Larsen (trumpet), along with L’Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini (which Muti founded) and the European Spirit of Youth Orchestra. The performances are part of Muti’s long-standing project, Le vie dell’Amicizia (“The Paths of Friendship”), with Italy’s Ravenna Festival.

“These performances honor the hundreds of thousands who died, no matter what their national origin,” Muti said in a statement. “It is a symbolic gathering of musicians from the nations that took part in the war, from all political sides, and who seek unification in this hymn to the future that arises from the peace-making embrace of music.”

The concerts are:

Saturday, July 5, at Palazzo Mauro de André in Ravenna, Italy, presented as part of the 25th anniversary season of the Ravenna Festival, for which Cristina Mazzavillani Muti, serves as president and artistic director.

Sunday, July 6, at Fogliano di Redipuglia, Sacrario Militare in Gorizia, Italy. Built between 1935-1938, this sacred place is a memorial to more than 100,000 soldiers killed during World War I. The July 6 concert will be broadcast live on the Italian network RAI 3. Giorgio Napolitano, president of Italy, along with leaders from Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary, are expected to attend this performance.

Monday, July 7, in Congress Square in Ljubljana, Slovenia. This concert commemorates the 10th anniversary of the death of conductor Carlos Kleiber, a mentor and close friend to Muti, and also honors Italian Republic Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Along with Muti, the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, Vernon and Larsen, participants at all three concerts include soprano Tatiana Serjan, mezzo Daniela Barcellona, tenor Saimir Pirgu and bass Riccardo Zanellato; musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestra del Teatro Verdi di Trieste, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Symphonique du Théatre Royal de La Monnaie (of Belgium), Philharmonia Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic.

The participating CSO musicians enthusiastically support this symbolic gathering. “To be a part of these spectacular events is very powerful and emotional,” Vernon said. “To sit among musical colleagues who 100 years ago, or even 70 years ago, might be enemies and are now united in promoting continuing reconciliation, healing and peace is truly a privilege.”

Larsen added, “As members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, we feel we are part of the most fortunate orchestra in the world. We are privileged to follow the musical leadership of our maestro, Riccardo Muti, at home in Chicago throughout the year and here in Europe this summer in these special international concerts for promoting peace.”

Meanwhile, funds raised at a dress rehearsal on July 4 will support the children of the Little Prince school in Nairobi, Kenya, who previously performed in a Paths of Friendship concert with Muti. The Ravenna Festival provides scholarships with funds raised through concerts and open rehearsals.

PHOTO: The World War I memorial Fogliano di Redipuglia in Gorizia, Italy. | Photo credit: Engramma of Italy.