The radio series “From the CSO’s Archives: Maestro’s Choice,” featuring archival Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances and commercial recordings and broadcast on Tuesday nights, has been extended through June 30.
Curated by Music Director Riccardo Muti, the series was launched April 7 in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. The Tuesday-night series, which airs at 8 p.m. Central Time, supplements the CSO’s Sunday-night nationally syndicated broadcasts on WFMT-FM (98.7). Along with the over-the-air broadcasts, the “Maestro’s Choice” series will be streamed on wfmt.com and on the WFMT app, and will be available on CSO Radio.
The additional programs are:
May 19, Riccardo Muti and Italy: Charpentier’s Impressions of Italy, which received its U.S. premiere in 1893 by the CSO under founder/first music director Theodore Thomas, opens this program that also features a suite from the score to the 1963 period drama Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Nino Rota, one of Muti’s mentors. A 2013 performance of Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Chorus Director Duain Wolfe, concludes the program.
May 26, Riccardo Muti and Soloists from the Orchestra: Notable performances featuring CSO principal players as soloists on this program consist of Concertmaster Robert Chen in Hindemith’s Violin Concerto, Principal Cello John Sharp in Schumann’s Cello Concerto, and former principal players David McGill and Christopher Martin in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto and Panufnik’s Concerto in modo antico for trumpet and orchestra. A 2015 performance of Ravel’s Boléro concludes the program.
June 2, Riccardo Muti conducts Dvořák and Mussorgsky: This program features an April 2018 performance of American music and music inspired by America with works by Pulitzer Prize–winning composers George Walker and Aaron Copland. Walker’s Lyric for Strings opens the program, followed by Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with award-winning actor John Malkovich as narrator and Antonín Dvořák’s ode to America, the New World Symphony. The program concludes with a 2016 performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures From an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel), a work Muti led in his 1973 CSO debut at the Ravinia Festival.
June 9, Fritz Reiner conducts Copland, Hindemith and Prokofiev: This program features live performances led by the CSO’s sixth music director Fritz Reiner, many of which have not been broadcast in decades: Kodály’s Dances of Galánta from 1954, Reiner’s first season as music director; the 1958 world premiere of the suite from Copland’s opera The Tender Land; a 1957 performance of Hindemith’s Cello Concerto featuring principal cello János Starker as soloist, and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony from 1958.
June 16, The CSO in Debussy, Faure and Ravel: Several CSO eras are represented in this program of French repertoire, such as Debussy’s La mer, led by guest conductor Erich Leinsdorf in 1978 and Fauré’s Requiem, led by the CSO’s seventh music director Jean Martinon in 1968, when the Chicago Symphony Chorus marked its 10th anniversary. Music by Ravel under three former music directors completes the program with Le tombeau de Couperin with Rafael Kubelík in 1983, the second suite from Daphnis and Chloe under Sir Georg Solti in 1987 and La valse with Fritz Reiner in 1960.
June 23, Sir Georg Solti conducts Mozart, Strauss and Wagner: Performances from Solti’s tenure as music director are highlighted in this program that opens with the overture to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, followed by Mozart’s C Minor Mass with the Chicago Symphony Chorus (featuring mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter in her U.S. debut) from 1985 and a 1977 recording of Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration. The program concludes with the finale from Wagner’s Das Rheingold from 1983, the year Solti made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival.
June 30, Riccardo Muti at the Opera: Widely recognized as today’s leading interpreter of Verdi, Riccardo Muti has regularly featured works by him and other major Italian opera composers during his tenure as the CSO’s 10th music director. This program opens with two selections from Muti’s 2007 residency, his first concerts with the orchestra in more than 30 years, the overture to Verdi’s La forza del destino and arias by Verdi and Puccini with soprano Barbara Frittoli. Overtures to Rossini’s William Tell and La scala di seta follow as well as “Va, pensiero,” from Verdi’s Nabucco, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Rounding out the program are selections from the CSO Resound “Italian Masterworks” release, including the intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and the overture to Verdi’s I vespri siciliani. The program concludes with the first act of Otello, recorded in 2011, and later released by CSO Resound, a set that was recognized with an International Opera Award.
“During these times of uncertainty, and with the absence of live music in our concert halls, I hope that people everywhere will remain connected to the wonderful artistry of the Chicago Symphony through these special programs,” said Muti, the CSO’s music director, referring to the closure since March 12 of Symphony Center and other concert halls worldwide due to the coronavirus crisis. The series, titled “From the CSO’s Archives: Maestro’s Choice — For All Music Lovers in These Difficult Times,” will consist of CSO concert programs conducted by Muti, CSO Resound recordings led by Muti and other maestros, as well as archival CSO concert performances and commercial recordings.
The Tuesday-night series, which will begin at 8 p.m. Central Time, will supplement the CSO’s Sunday-night nationally syndicated broadcasts on WFMT-FM (98.7). Along with the over-the-air broadcasts, the “Maestro’s Choice” series will be streamed on wfmt.com and on the WFMT app, and will be available on CSO Radio.
“Chicago Symphony Orchestra audiences are extremely dedicated and enthusiastic about the orchestra, and the absence of live concerts represents a difficult time for all of our audiences,” said CSOA President Jeff Alexander. “We are grateful to Riccardo Muti, the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and to our cultural partner, WFMT, who have made this series possible.”
Among the performances selected for the series are Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2 with Yo-Yo Ma; Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with Kirill Gerstein, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, as well as archival recordings of Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, led by Fritz Reiner, CSO music director from 1953 to 1962.
From CSO Resound, the orchestra’s house label, the series will feature Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, led by Bernard Haitink, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar), both led by Muti. A link to full program information for the series is available here.
“We know many of our listeners in Chicago and around the world are looking to us during this uncertain time for a moment of beautiful music and companionship, for connection with an art form that is timeless and enduring, and for music that raises spirits and offers refuge,” said Sandra Cordova Micek, president and CEO of WFMT and WTTW. “Providing access to the artistry of Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra not only fulfills our purpose to enrich lives, engage communities, and inspire exploration but is also an incredible gift to share with our audience.”
“Maestro’s Choice” will continue through May 12, with the possibility of an extension. WFMT personality Kerry Frumkin will host the series, and supply commentary for featured selections. For more information, go to WFMT.com and cso.org.