Muti to remain at CSO until 2020

CSO

Riccardo Muti performs at his winter Chicago Symphony residency with cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Giovanni Sollima. (Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune / January 30, 2014)

Riccardo Muti has signed a new contract with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association as CSO music director, which will extend until August 2020.

The Italian maestro, 72, made the announcement at a freewheeling news conference at Symphony Center Monday morning when Muti and Deborah Rutter, the outgoing president of the CSO Association, outlined programs and dates for the orchestra's

2014-15 season, his fifth as music director.

“In 2020 I won't be 80 yet,” Muti quipped to the assembled media representatives. He suggested that youthful vitality in the Muti family runs well into old age. “My great-grandfather remarried at 76!”

The music director, who will conduct the second and final week of subscription concerts of his winter CSO residency later this week, said he is staying on in Chicago for two reasons: his love of the orchestra musicians and the productive and cordial working relationship he enjoys with Rutter and the rest of the administration. He expressed his good wishes to Rutter as she prepares to leave the CSO at the end of the season and fiscal year in June to take up her new post as president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washingtn, D.C. this fall.

When asked which qualities he personally is looking for in Rutter's successor, Muti replied that person should be “an international figure who understands the needs of the institution and the musicians” and can work with the music director.

“There are orchestra managers around the world who would be music directors. This always causes friction,” he observed. “The manager takes care of administration; the music director takes care of the artistic life.” Like Rutter, he added, the next association president should be a hard worker, a musical as well as managerial expert who realizes “the music director and musicians are the heart of the orchestra.”

Muti then went on to discuss further the CSO and Symphony Center Presents programs for the orchestra's 124th season, the first to be administered by Rutter's replacement.

As part of the maestro's 10 subscription weeks, which will be divided into the customary fall, winter and spring residencies, he will compare and contrast the orchestral works of two Russian masters, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin. He will lead performances of all six Tchaikovsky symphonies and other orchestral works, along with the four Scriabin symphonies, including “The Divine Poem,” “The Poem of Ecstasy” and, in its CSO premiere, Symphony No. 1. Muti has long championed the Russian mystic's symphonic works. The music director also will direct Beethoven's iconic Ninth Symphony to begin the subscription series Sept. 18 and, a day later, conduct an all-Tchaikovsky program as the orchestra's free gift to the Chicago public, this year at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Other choral works on Muti's agenda, all featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus, include Prokofiev's cantata “Alexander Nevsky” and Mozart's Requiem in the Sussmayr completion.

Muti is scheduled to take the orchestra on a three-week European tour in October and November that will include a weeklong residency in Vienna, the CSO's first appearance in Warsaw, and visits to Paris and other cities to be announced. In addition, the maestro will bring the orchestra to New York's Carnegie Hall for three concerts in January.

The season will be light on contemporary music outside the CSO fold but heavy on standard Austro-German repertory, with a particular emphasis on French composers, an area of music not usually associated with an orchestra grounded in Germanic musical tradition.

Mason Bates and Anna Clyne will serve for a fifth and final season as CSO composers in residence, contributing CSO-commissioned symphonic works the orchestra will premiere in May and June 2015. Violinist Jennifer Koh will introduce Clyne's Violin Concerto, and Muti will direct Bates' “Anthology of Fantastic Zoology” as part of the season finale in June. Bates and Clyne also will curate the four MusicNOW contemporary programs at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.

French music and composers from Hector Berlioz to Pierre Boulez will come in for particular attention in a season-long Gallic exploration culminating in a three-week May festival under conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen that is to include Olivier Messiaen's “Turangalila” Symphony and concert versions of Debussy's opera “Pelleas et Melisande” and Ravel's opera “L'Enfant et les Sortileges.”

Conductor Boulez will remain absent from the podium roster, as what Muti called “serious” health problems continue to prevent the CSO conductor emeritus from traveling to Chicago. Two of Boulez's colleagues and disciples, conductor Pablo Heras-Casado and pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, will help celebrate his 90th birthday (which falls on March 26, 2015) next season with programs honoring the distinguished French composer-conductor, including a challenging recital by Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich that holds all of Boulez's major piano works.

Boulez's “soul and being are very much in this building,” said Rutter, adding that she found Boulez “very much engaged” in future plans when she and CSO vice president for artistic administration Martha Gilmer spoke with him at his Paris home at the end of the CSO's most recent European tour. But she declined to say whether Boulez, who has suffered eye trouble in recent years, would partcipate even indirectly in any CSO activities next season.The season's Beyond the Score multimedia presentations, overseen by creative director Gerard McBurney, will be devoted to Boulez at 90, Brahms' Symphony No. 3 and a portrait of composer Maurice Ravel.

Semyon Bychkov's two subscription weeks in April will offer the eighth symphonies of Shostakovich and Bruckner. Charles Dutoit will devote a pair of programs to Gallic repertory, including Lalo's Cello Concerto, with Yo-Yo Ma, the CSO's creative consultant, as soloist. Former CSO principal conductor Bernard Haitink will direct Mahler's Symphony No. 7.

Other returning conductors include Harry Bicket, Manfred Honeck, Nicholas Kraemer, Cristian Macelaru, Ingo Metzmacher, Ludovic Morlot, Vasily Petrenko, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden. Pianist Mitsuko Uchida will make her annual appearance, leading two Mozart concertos from the keyboard.

Newcomers to the Symphony Center Presents Piano Series include Cedric Tiberghien, Alexandre Tharaud and Orli Shaham. Returning pianists will be Maurizio Pollini, Garrick Ohlsson, Olli Mustonen, Andras Schiff, Murray Perahia, Evgeny Kissin and Aimard, who will play Book I of Bach's “The Well-Tempered Clavier.”

Violinists appearing on the Chamber Music Series include Hilary Hahn; Anne-Sophie Mutter, playing Vivaldi's “The Four Seasons” with her chamber orchestra; and Gil Shaham, who will present Bach's complete solo Sonatas and Partitas, accompanied by video projections.

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