Riccardo Muti will remain Zell Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through the 2021-22 season, extending his contract for two years. The contract extension was announced Jan. 30 by Helen Zell, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, and Jeff Alexander, president of the CSOA. The news coincided with the release of the CSO’s 2018-19 season programming.
“I have a deep respect and affection for the great musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” said Muti in a statement. “Our relationship is growing stronger each year, and this is the reason I have decided to continue for two more seasons. I look forward to making more wonderful music with my CSO and sharing it with audiences in the great city of Chicago and around the world. I also look forward to continuing to tour and record with the orchestra, and to working with the CSOA’s trustees, volunteers and administration in the years to come.”
Named as the CSO’s 10th music director in 2008, Muti began his tenure in 2010-11 under a five-year agreement. His current contract, extended in 2015, continues through 2020. His latest contract extension begins in September 2020 and runs through August 2022. During this period, Muti will continue to lead the orchestra in 10 weeks of subscription concerts, special concerts and community engagement activities in Chicago, along with three to four weeks of touring each season.
“It gives me great pleasure to share this news today, as we celebrate the unique musical artistry of Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” Zell said in a statement. “Having witnessed the remarkable response from our Chicago audiences and audiences around the world to this orchestra led by our music director, we are grateful that Maestro Muti has accepted our invitation to stay with us for more exceptional music-making in the years ahead.”
“Maestro Muti continues to achieve ever greater artistic collaboration with the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” said Alexander in a statement. “The concerts they perform together are simply extraordinary. The entire CSOA family expresses our sincere gratitude to Maestro Muti for his artistic leadership and the gift of his continued commitment to the orchestra, our education and engagement activities and to our community.”
Though Muti made his CSO debut in 1973 at the Ravinia Festival, 34 years passed before he returned to the orchestra. In 2007, he led the CSO in a monthlong residency that consisted of subscription concerts and an acclaimed European tour, which included the CSO’s first appearances in Italy in more than 25 years. Muti and the CSO quickly developed a close relationship.
“The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are extremely happy that Maestro Riccardo Muti will continue to be our music director through the 2021-22 season,” said CSO bass Stephen Lester, chairman of the Members’ Committee, in a statement. “In the last eight years, Maestro Muti has developed a tremendous working relationship with us. He explores familiar and unfamiliar repertoire with energy, depth and a commitment to artistic standards that is unique in the world today. Maestro Muti’s leadership has created a unique synergy among us. That this relationship, and the music-making that results, can continue for years to come is a great gift for the orchestra and music lovers everywhere.”
In addition to his podium responsibilities, Muti also oversees the ensemble’s roster of musicians, participating in auditions for and the selection of new members. In addition, Muti continues the CSO’s legacy of recording with releases on the CSO’s Resound label. He also selects season programming, which regularly features works by the CSO’s Mead Composers-in-Residence. Integral to establishing the CSO’s respected Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprentice Program early in his tenure, Muti remains connected to activities of each apprentice.
For the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO, Muti also will continue to play an active role in several community engagement and training programs, including the annual free Concerts for Chicago; interactive recital programs with CSO and guest musicians at area juvenile justice facilities; CSO open rehearsals for seniors, veterans and school and community groups, and free, open rehearsals at Symphony Center during the annual Youth in Music Festival and with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the CSO’s training orchestra.
During his tenure, Muti, the CSO and the Chicago Symphony Chorus also have reached a global audience through radio broadcasts and projects such as the CSO’s first worldwide live webcast of Verdi’s Requiem in 2013 and an online streaming video of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which has been viewed by more than 9 million people worldwide since its release in May 2015.
Since 2010, Muti has led seven international tours with the CSO including an 11-concert Asia tour in 2016, with sold-out performances in Taiwan, China, Japan and South Korea, and the 2017 European tour, which marked the CSO’s debut in Hamburg, Germany, at the new Elbphilharmonie and concerts at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, which represented Muti and the CSO’s first appearances at the venue together. Muti and the CSO have also made regular appearances together at New York’s Carnegie Hall, including the most recent performances in 2015 of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky with the Chicago Symphony Chorus.
Muti’s CSO Resound recordings total eight so far, including his 2010 debut release of Verdi’s Requiem, which received two Grammy Awards; his 2013 release of Verdi’s Otello, which won the 2014 International Opera Award for the Best Complete Opera; the Grammy-nominated 2016 world premiere recording of Mason Bates’ Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, and the most recent, the critically acclaimed release of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in 2017, which the New York Times named as one of the best recordings of the year.