In 2020, the world marks the 250th birthday of one of classical music’s singular artists, Ludwig van Beethoven. Born in 1770, the composer influenced the development of music in remarkable and definitive ways. Throughout the 2019-20 season, Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSO and a range of guest artists explore the musical genius of Beethoven.
The tribute includes a cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies, conducted by Riccardo Muti. This will include the first collaboration between Muti and the CSO in Beethoven’s First, Third (Eroica) and Sixth (Pastoral) symphonies. The cycle culminates in a season finale performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work that the CSO and the Chicago Symphony Chorus last performed with Riccardo Muti to great acclaim and worldwide attention in Orchestra Hall in September 2014. The live concert video from those performances has garnered so far more than 14 million views on YouTube.
“We should all become brothers and sisters. This is the message of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” Muti said. “For 250 years, we have tried to find the secret behind the untouchable music of this divine architect and to comprehend the enormity of his timeless philosophical, spiritual, and human message.”
The season-long Beethoven celebration also includes performances of the complete cycle of the composer’s 32 piano sonatas featuring renowned interpreters as the focus of the Symphony Center Presents Piano series and three SCP Special Concerts. The piano sonata cycle will be performed by Rudolf Buchbinder, Kirill Gerstein, Igor Levit, Evgeny Kissin, Sir András Schiff and Maurizio Pollini, with Buchbinder and Schiff performing two recitals each. Mitsuko Uchida also appears on the SCP Piano series with an all-Beethoven program featuring the composer’s Diabelli Variations.
Other Beethoven masterworks featured on CSO and Symphony Center Presents programs:
● Sept. 26-28: Muti and the CSO perform Beethoven’s First and Third (Eroica) symphonies, their first performances together of these works.
● Nov. 1-2 and 5: Muti leads the CSO and violinist Leonidas Kavakos in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. A world premiere work by Bernard Rands and Stravinsky’s Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss rounds out the program.
● Jan. 30-31 and Feb. 1 and 4: Guest conductor Sir Andrew Davis joins the orchestra and pianist Paul Lewis for Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4.
● Feb. 20-23: Muti conducts the Second Symphony and the iconic Fifth Symphony, which opens with the most recognizable four notes in classical music.
● April 30 and May 1-3: Muti and the orchestra perform Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies.
● May 28-30: Guest conductor Susanna Mälkki directs the orchestra in Beethoven’s Namensfeier Overture and the concert aria “Ah! perfido,” featuring soprano Camilla Tilling.
● June 11-13: Muti returns to direct Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) and Symphony No. 8. The Ruins of Athens overture completes the program.
● June 18-21: Muti concludes the Beethoven symphony cycle and caps the season with a performance of the mighty Ninth Symphony. Renowned singers Elena Stikhina (mezzo-soprano), Jennifer Johnson Cano (mezzo-soprano), Daniel Johansson (tenor) make their CSO debuts in these performances with bass Franz-Josef Selig making his subscription debut.
Beyond the CSO’s subscription concert programming for this year’s Beethoven celebration, the Symphony Center Presents series will include performances of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas and some of the composer’s most significant chamber music works. Complete Beethoven 250 programming information for CSO and SCP concerts is available at cso.org/Beethoven250.