Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, received an honorary degree in international sciences from the University of Genoa in a ceremony Oct. 5 at the city’s historic Palazzo Ducale.

Instead of delivering a prepared speech, Muti offered brief remarks and then led students from Genoa’s Niccolò Paganini Conservatory in the Funeral March, the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).

Muti dedicated the performance to the memory of two police officers killed Oct. 4 in the line of duty in the northern Italian city of Trieste. He then turned his attention to the young students, celebrating their talents and advocating for the support of Italy’s cultural heritage.

“I think that young musicians know how to express the sense of universal pain that is found in Beethoven, even if they do not have it inside them because they are young,” Muti said. “Music is the only art that can unite such different cultures. Through music, people from different countries — stories, language, age — manage to express the same feelings.”

The ceremony coincided with the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year at the University of Genoa, and given the occasion, Muti addressed the issue of state support of the arts. “I grieve to note that in our country, the cradle of art and music, there are entire regions that do not have an opera house and an orchestra,” he said. “We will have hope for our country only when [the nation supports the importance] of orchestras, theater and opera.”

TOP: Riccardo Muti, wearing ceremonial attire, receives an honorary degree from Paolo Comanducci, rector of the University of Genoa.