The summer of 2014 was extremely busy for Riccardo Muti, who led many notable concerts, several of which were demonstrations of his longstanding commitment to using music to promote unity and to bring attention to humanitarian issues.
In late June, Muti led the youth orchestra that he founded, the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini (Cherubini Youth Orchestra) and the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana (Italian Youth Orchestra) in a program in Ravenna, Italy, of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto featuring pianist David Fray on the first half. The performance was dedicated to the memory of the conductor Claudio Abbado, who also was principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1985.
In early July, Muti led three special performances of Verdi’s Requiem with an international orchestra and chorus of 365 musicians that combined Muti’s Cherubini Youth Orchestra; the European Spirit of Youth Orchestra; individual musicians from orchestras from countries involved in World War I, such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; choirs from Budapest (Hungary), Friuli (Italy), Ljubljana (Slovenia), and Zagreb (Croatia), and distinguished vocal soloists Tatiana Serjan, Daniela Barcellona, Saimir Pirgu, and Riccardo Zanellato. Representing the CSO were Tage Larsen, trumpet, and Charles Vernon, trombone and bass trombone.
The first of the three concerts, in Ravenna, Italy, on July 5, marked the 25th anniversary of the Ravenna Festival. The second, on July 6, was entitled “Requiem for the Victims of All Wars.” Held at the famous Italian war memorial Redipuglia, the performance was attended by the presidents of Austria, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, who sat together and who were joined by many dignitaries and ministers from different countries and by thousands of patrons.
For the third performance, on July 7, Muti conducted the same musicians in a concert in Ljubljana, Slovenia, with the addition of the Slovenia Symphony Orchestra and the chorus of Camera Sloveno. After the performance, Muti addressed the audience, stating that:
The concert in Redipuglia was an amazing experience, which gathered thousands of people in front of the shrine of the fallen from the First World War. This event was made possible by the participation of singers and musicians from many parts of the world.
It was a sign of unity in the name of the music of persons and peoples who want peace and who want to forget the horrors of war. This must also be a signal to all those areas of the world which, unfortunately, are still at war and where the massacres are on the agenda. Music has a power of cohesion.
The concert in Slovenia was dedicated to Muti’s close friend Carlos Kleiber, one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century on the 10th anniversary of his death. Kleiber is buried near Ljubljana.
On July 12, Muti conducted the Cherubini Youth Orchestra in Schubert’s Fourth Symphony and again in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with David Fray as soloist in Muti’s first appearance at the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy. The concert, held in the newly renovated Teatro Caio Melissus, was in honor of Candido Speroni, the late husband of festival patron Carla Fendi.
At the end of July, as part of the closing festivities of the Armonie d’Arte Festival, Muti went to Calabria in southern Italy to conduct young local musicians in a free outdoor concert at the archaeological park of Scolacium in Roccelletta di Borgia. In the last decade, Muti has led several concerts of young people with the theme “Music not only forms but saves” to bring attention to the social and economic difficulties in the region.
Soon after this, Muti went to Austria’s Salzburg Festival for his 44th consecutive summer to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic on Aug. 15, 16 and 17 — concert dates traditionally held by Herbert von Karajan, who invited Muti to conduct at the festival for the first time in 1971 and whose death 25 years ago was commemorated in these concerts.