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Verdi, Britten tributes head up Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2013-14 season

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Updated: March 8, 2013 7:39AM



Following a year mark­ed by cancellations and illness of its music director Riccardo Muti and marquee veteran conductors Pierre Boulez and Bernard Haitink, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra announced on Wednesday its 2013-2014 subscription season with 13 weeks of concerts to be led by these much admired leaders now in their 70s and 80s.

While the Richard Wag­ner bicentenary being mark­ed worldwide this year was basically snubbed this season at Orchestra Hall and will be wholly ignored in the next, Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday anniversary will be celebrated with five different programs, including a free season-launching community concert at a place to be named later, the annual gala Symphony Ball, concert performances of the full opera “Macbeth,” and a reprise of the Requiem on Oct. 10, the exact anniversary of the composer’s birth in Italy in 1813. “Macbeth” will feature young singers who took the lead roles in Muti’s successful Rome Opera production a little over a year ago.

Though Benjamin Britten’s music often has been disregarded here in recent years, the CSO will salute the English composer’s centennial with five programs, including his giant “War Requiem,” led by regular visitor Charles Dutoit in the fall, and in a series of four programs of Britten, Prokofiev and Shostakovich over three weeks in the spring, organized by Dallas Symphony Orchestra music director Jaap van Zweden (who has now emerged as the CSO’s principal guest conductor in all but name.)

Now recovering from a nasty flu that led to two canceled weeks of concerts last month and a hernia surgery that caused him to miss the CSO tour of Asia wrapping up this week, Muti also will present an in-depth series of concerts featuring all eight of Schubert’s symphonies and his rarely heard Mass in A-Flat Major.

The Schubert survey also will include a welcome return of a series of three vocal recitals: the belated local recital debut of acclaimed German baritone Christian Gerhaher in “Winterreise,” Matthias Goerne in “Die Schone Mullerin,” and Susanna Phillips and Eric Owens in a lieder program.

Muti also will lead a commissioned world premiere double cello concerto by Giovanni Sollima, who will solo along with CSO Green creative consultant Yo-Yo Ma in January, and a work by renowned film composer Ennio Morricone written to commemorate the events of Sept. 11. Both Italians are close associates of Muti. Other highlights of Muti’s four residencies featuring 10 weeks of programs include concertos with principal CSO players Robert Chen, John Sharp and David McGill and pianist Mitsuko Uchida, and to conclude the season in June, Mahler’s First Symphony.

Former principal conductor Haitink, who missed one of two weeks this season, is scheduled for one week this fall with Emanuel Ax, in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27, and the Bruckner Fourth Symphony. Conductor emeritus Boulez, who had to cancel his podium engagements here last season due to eye problems, is slated for two full weeks in February with intriguing programs of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, along with chamber rarities by the latter two.

In addition to the March dates of “War Requiem,” which will honor Britten’s intent with vocal soloists from England, Germany and Russia, Dutoit also will conduct the season’s other world premiere commission, a flute concerto written by French composer Guillaume Connesson for principal flute Mathieu Dufour.

The CSO’s Mead composers in residence will have the first CSO performances of respective works: Anne Akiko Meyers will make her CSO debut playing Mason Bates’ violin concerto in April, and composer-conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the only other guest invited to lead two weeks of concerts, will offer Anna Clyne’s rescheduled “<<rewind<<” as well as one of his own works, “Nyx.”

Pianist and curator Ax will share three programs of his four-city Brahms Project in which he pairs Brahms piano and chamber works with new commissions by Nico Muhly, Anders Hillborg, Brett Dean and Missy Mazzoli. Ma and soprano Anne Sofie von Otter join Ax in two of the programs.

No new guest conductors have been invited for next season. Thirteen returning guests, both young and veteran, are on the schedule for one week each, in addition to those mentioned above: Semyon Bychkov; Stephane Deneve, Christoph von Dohnanyi; Mark Elder; an unexpected return by former Ravinia music director Christoph Eschenbach, now chief of the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.; Miguel Harth-Bedoya; Vladimir Jurowski; Bernard Labadie; Susanna Malkki, only one of two women on the guest conducting roster, and music director of the Boulez-founded Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris; Baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan; Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director Leonard Slatkin; San Francisco’s Michael Tilson Thomas, and pianist-conductor Mitsuko Uchida.

The highly popular “Beyond the Score” series, directed by Gerard McBurney, returns with programs examining the Berlioz “Symphonie fantastique” (with Deneve) on Dec. 6 and 8; Haydn’s “London” Symphony No. 100, the “Military” (McGegan) on Feb. 14 and 16, and the pioneering American Charles Ives’ Second Symphony (Elder) on April 25 and 27. The multimedia programs shift their Friday slots from afternoons to evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays remain 3 p.m. matinees.

Muti, Dutoit, Malkki and Jurowski each also lead one early evening, intermissionless “Afterwork Masterworks” program and participate in post-concert discussions during the season.

If over-all programming is not heavily adventurous, one quarter of the works of next season’s concerts are having their first-ever CSO performances. In addition to works already mentioned, these range from pieces by contemporary composers Thomas Ades and Chicagoan Bernard Rands to lesser-heard Baroque works to Stravinsky’s “Elegy for J.F.K.” (to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination) to the Schubert Mass in A and his “Overture in the Italian Style” on Muti’s concerts to the Carlos Chavez Piano Concerto with Chicago area soloist Jorge Federico Osorio and William Schuman’s 1948 Sixth Symphony with American music champion Slatkin.

Additional notable CSO concert solo debuts include the members of the “Macbeth” international cast, English tenor John Mark Ainsley in the “War Requiem,” Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma in the Britten concerto, past CSO League Youth Auditions winner cellist Gabriel Cabezas and Alaska-born mezzo Vivica Geneaux on McGegan’s Baroque program.

Other returning soloists of note include violinists Leila Josefowicz and James Ehnes, and pianists Kirill Gerstein, Richard Goode, Paul Lewis and Marc-Andre Hamelin. Principal oboe Eugene Izotov also has a concerto: the Strauss, with Jurowski.

Plans for domestic and international tours by the orchestra in 2013-14 will be announced this spring.

Under a new name, “CSO at the Movies” returns with John Williams conducting selections from his film music, including “Lincoln,” which featured the composer conducting the CSO on its soundtrack, and his Violin Concerto with soloist Gil Shaham on Nov. 10 (with additional performances on Nov. 8-9). Regular film program conductor Richard Kaufman leads CSO members in Chaplin’s “City Lights” on March 21. Details of a Jan. 24 program are to be announced.

The MusicNOW series, curated by Bates and Clyne and with Cliff Colnot as principal conductor, will take place at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on Oct. 21, Dec. 16, Feb. 3 and May 5, with programs to be announced.

Subscriptions are now on sale online, at cso.org; by phone, (312) 294-3000 and (800) 223-7114, by mail, or at the Orchestra Hall box office, 220 S. Michigan .

Andrew Patner is critic at large for WFMT-FM (98.7).



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