Three world premieres, two domestic tours, the 60th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and salutes to composers Bernstein, Debussy, Gounod and Rossini are among the highlights of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2017-18 season.
Riccardo Muti, Zell Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Jeff Alexander, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, have announced programming for the CSO and Symphony Center Presents, the orchestra’s 127th season and Muti’s eighth as its music director.
“The CSO’s 127th season is one of celebration and exploration,” Alexander said. “Our distinguished music director, Riccardo Muti, brings his unparalleled interpretations to the great works of the symphonic repertoire, while also offering a series of works to be given their world premieres by the orchestra. We are also pleased to welcome so many of the world’s most renowned guest conductors and soloists to our stage, to share the sounds of the CSO during two domestic tours, to reach out to communities near and far through our education and engagement activities, and to present a wide array of concerts as part of our Symphony Center Presents series.”
During the 2017-18 season, Muti will lead 10 weeks of subscription programs in six residencies, with appearances in September, November, February, March, April and June. Muti’s programs offer orchestral and choral masterworks by Brahms, Bruckner, Dvořák, Rossini, Mozart, Debussy, Schubert and Tchaikovsky, as well as works by contemporary American composers.
Three CSO world premieres, all to be conducted by Muti, consist of a brass concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon, whose new piece (supported by Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund) honors the artistic legacy and remarkable sound of the CSO’s low brass section; Three Lisel Müller Settings, a new work for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (supported by a grant from the Poetry Foundation) by composer and CSO violist Max Raimi, and a new work by CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Elizabeth Ogonek (underwritten by the Louise Durham Mead Fund).
Since its founding in 1891, the CSO has embarked on 60 international tours, performing in 29 countries on five continents. Upholding the orchestra’s long tradition, Muti will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on two major U.S. tours during 2017-18. Both tours will showcase new music, with performances of works by Jennifer Higdon, and CSO Mead Composers-in-Residence Elizabeth Ogonek and Samuel Adams. In October, the CSO and Muti undertake an eight-concert tour of California, including the orchestra’s debut at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In February, Muti and the CSO travel to the East Coast, with two performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City, followed by stops at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; the Carolina Performing Arts Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.; two concerts at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach., Fla., and a program in Naples, Fla.
The 2017-18 season also marks the 60th anniversary of the critically acclaimed Chicago Symphony Chorus, founded in 1957 by the pioneering Margaret Hillis, and now under the leadership of Chorus Director Duain Wolfe. To honor this milestone, Muti will lead programs of major choral works, including Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in March and Rossini’s Stabat mater in June. The Chorus also will appear with guest conductors Alain Altinoglu and Charles Dutoit in repertoire including Poulenc’s Gloria and Gounod’s Saint Cecilia Mass.
Among the composer anniversaries to be observed are the 150th anniversary of Gioachino Rossini’s death, the centennial of American composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein, the 150th birthday of Claude Debussy and the 200th birthday of Charles Gounod. With his incredible contributions as a composer, conductor and educator, musical luminary Leonard Bernstein (1918-1991) shaped the cultural life of the 20th century and beyond. Bernstein drew inspiration from elements of popular American music, such as blues and jazz harmonies and rhythms, to create infectious melodies and compositions that pulse with energy. In tribute, the CSO will perform iconic Bernstein works from three genres: film (On the Waterfront), musical theater (West Side Story) and symphony (Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety).
The celebration of Debussy’s 150th birth anniversary culminates in a program of the Nocturnes for Orchestra. The final movement, Sirènes, features the women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Rossini, among the greatest of all opera composers, the CSO will offer the William Tell overture as well as Stabat mater.
The CSO will welcome back to the podium maestro Herbert Blomstedt for the first time since 2007, the Oscar-winning John Williams and Marek Janowski in his subscription debut. Other returning maestros include Alain Altinoglu, Semyon Bychkov, Christoph von Dohnányi, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Kent Nagano and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Making their CSO debuts will be more than a dozen guest artists and conductors including tenor Paul Appleby, violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Gilles Vonsattel, and conductors Giovanni Antonini, Jiří Bělohlávek and John Storgårds.
The CSO’s acclaimed MusicNOW series, curated by composers-in-residence Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek, will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2017-18. Programming details will be announced in the spring.
The programs of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2017-18 complement the CSO’s subscription programs and demonstrate the commitment of Riccardo Muti, CSO Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma and the CSOA to supporting young musicians and to serving the greater Chicago community through music.
TOP: Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. | Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015