This summer, Riccardo Muti continued his long-standing relationship with the Salzburg Festival by conducting concerts Aug. 12 and 14-15 with the Vienna Philharmonic, with which he has appeared regularly since his debut there in 1971 at the invitation of Herbert von Karajan.

Riccardo Muti and chorus master Ernst Raffelsberger, along with vocal soloists soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, alto Alisa Kolosova, tenor Michael Spyres, tenor Maciej Kwaśnikowski and bass Gianluca Buratto, take a bow at the Salzburg Festival. | Photo: ©Marco Borrelli

After Karajan’s death in 1989, Muti succeeded the German maestro in leading the festival’s popular mid-August concerts, which invariably sell out year after year. To say the least, as the Salzburger Nachrichten observed: “The Italian maestro is a magnet for the public.”

The artistic partnership between Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic, which has no permanent music director, is special. “When the Maestro … works with Vienna Philharmonic, it’s almost like a very musical family get-together,” the Kronen Zeitung declared. Or as the headlines of Die Presse put it: “ ‘Sold out’ is not enough — Riccardo Muti is the Philharmonic Maestro par excellence.”

In 2016, Muti’s 250th performance at the Salzburg Festival was celebrated. In these recent concerts, he conducted Schumann’s Second Symphony and Schubert’s Mass in E-flat Major, D. 950 — works also featured on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2017-18 season. At Salzburg, he was joined by soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, who sang with the CSO under Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti in June and will return in the title role of Aida, also to be conducted by Muti, in June 2019.

The audiences of Salzburg Festival delighted in this program of rarely programmed pieces executed at the highest level. “Riccardo Muti leads with few gestures with absolute trust through Schumann’s Second Symphony  … a trust shown in his discreet pat on the shoulder of the concertmaster … a serene routine nevertheless on the highest level,” the Kronen Zeitung said.

“Schubert’s E-flat major Mass is seldom performed. This [performance] is delicate and wonderful,” the Kurier observed. Jay Nordinger of The New Criterion added, “Muti conducted the mass with devotion and understanding.”