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Muti wants the CSO to boost its global presence

CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti announced several key initiatives projects for 2013/14 seasTuesday April 9 2013  | John H.

CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti announced several key initiatives and projects for the 2013/14 season, Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Chicago SYMPHONY
ORCHESTRA

WITH RICCARDO MUTIWhen:

3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan

Tickets: limited availability,
upper balcony, $50

Info: (312) 294-3000; cso.org

Updated: July 24, 2013 6:27AM



As Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra wrap up their third full season together, the Italian-born music director is very much looking to the future, one he sees as tying him to Chicago for years to come and boosting the CSO’s presence around the world.

In a wide-ranging interview in his dressing-room suite at Orchestra Hall, Muti expanded on his statement earlier this week that he hopes to extend his current CSO contract beyond its conclusion in summer 2015.

“When I returned here six years ago, having not conducted this orchestra since 1973, I did not know that a new chapter in my musical life was going to start,” said Muti, who turns 72 in July (and who wraps up his June residency this weekend). “But I became in love with the orchestra from the first moment then, as they were ready to do anything I was asking musically — not because everything I was asking was right, but because they believed in my approach in concerts. And in fact we made a tour that was extraordinarily successful and this relationship became even tighter.”

That was the hope of CSO Association President Deborah F. Rutter in extending invitations to the much sought after Muti for residencies with the orchestra in 2006 and 2007. While Muti and Rutter have a very positive working relationship, the maestro emphasizes his connection with the musicians here.

“I like to underline the orchestra’s role. If the players don’t want someone ... I am very proud of the fact that my career — I have to use this horrible word — was made by the orchestras in Florence, in London, in Philadelphia, in La Scala, in Chicago. [In those places] were the musicians that asked me to come.”

Three years into his tenure, he believes “my way of communicating with them here became very, very interesting and very mutually enriching.”

He also points to the variety of works programmed under his watch. “We have touched a very, very wide repertoire from the Baroque and Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Vivaldi, and Wagner, Verdi, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, to the contemporary, the brand-new. And everything that we have done, we have never lost the energy and the great heart and affection that we started with six years ago.

“We have a symbiosi — a symbiosis,” Muti said, lacing the fingers of his two hands together.

A part of the symbiosis, Muti thinks, is a blending of two different styles and types of sound.

“I feel that when I come back here each time, the sound comes back to what is my ideal of sound. That is, a mixture — not scientifically studied, but naturally conceived — a mixture of the concept of sound of [the] Vienna [Philharmonic], that is the most regular connection with an orchestra I have in my professional life, together with the strength, the power, the energy, physical energy of Chicago. These two things — of Old World and New — coming together tighter make this orchestra unique in the world today.”

In expressing both admiration and “love” for Chicago as a city, Muti was moved recently to send a letter to the New York Times Book Review, criticizing an attempt in that publication to denigrate his adopted hometown. Though he enjoys his time here, he admitted to an increasing “homesickness, as I get older.”

So Muti sees the CSO spending more time in Italy — he mentions Florence and Sicily — and other places he identifies as “cradles of Western civilization,” including Paris and England. He wants to take the orchestra for the first time to Israel, “as in one way or another, something of all of us comes from there.” That was a goal, too, of his predecessor Daniel Barenboim that was thwarted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also wants to return to Latin America, because “Chicago is the logical connection to Mexico and the continent south of there,” and Far East Asia.

Furthermore, he would like to see Chicago and Rome, where he now directs the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma part of each year, designate each other as Sister Cities. (That Chicago has had such a relationship since 1973, at least on paper, with Milan, home of the famed La Scala opera house, which Muti left after 19 years after an acrimonious dispute, goes unmentioned.)

“In the future, I see only a small number of major orchestras functioning on a competitive level with funding and touring opportunities, that will truly exist as ambassadors of Western music: Vienna, Berlin, maybe one of the London orchestras, maybe someday a Russian orchestra, Chicago, and one other American orchestra,” he said. “This is my hope, that Chicago will actively represent both the best of American and European culture, in the world and to the world.”

Andrew Patner is critic at large for WFMT-FM (98.7). To hear his interview with Muti, go to http://wfmt.com/criticalthinking.



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