Riccardo Muti returned to the podium of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 17-18 to lead an all-Schubert program featuring Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (Unfinished), the Overture in the Italian Style in C Major and Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major. Muti, the Zell Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has maintained close ties with the BRSO and its exceptional chorus, the Bavarian Radio Chorus, since his 1981 debut there, when he conducted Verdi’s Requiem.

Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E-flat Major is the composer’s final setting of the mass, written six months before his untimely death in 1828 at age 31. It is classified as a missa solemnis, a more elaborately scored style of mass setting with extensive Latin text, as opposed to the missa brevis. The Mass in E-flat also represents Beethoven’s influence on Schubert in the sophistication of its orchestration, but the inventiveness the treatment of the texts for soloists and chorus reflects Schubert’s exceptional talent for lyricism and harmony.

This quality was enhanced by what Robert Braunmuller of the Abendzeitung noted as “Muti’s strength … to transform all the emotional aspects of the music into sound.”

Joining Muti and the BRSO in this work was a critically acclaimed quintet of soloists: soprano Ilse Eerens, mezzo-soprano Henriette Gödde, tenors Nicholas Phan and Maciej Kwaśnikowski and bass Gianluca Buratto.

In reference to the Overture in the Italian Style that opened the program, as well as the Unfinished Symphony and Mass, Klaus Richter of the Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote: “[Muti] interpreted Schubert through the lens of Rossini with elegant delicacy and refinement.”

In March 2018, Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and a roster of distinguished soloists in acclaimed subscription performances of Schubert’s Mass in E-Flat Major. Among the soloists at Symphony Center were soprano Amanda Forsythe, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong, tenors Paul Appleby and Nicolas Phan, and bass Nahuel di Pierro.