Verdi, Schubert and Britten in the spotlight for CSO’s 2013-14 season

Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 3:00 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday will be marked by Riccardo Muti and the CSO this fall.

A bicentennial celebration of Verdi, a centennial homage to Britten, a survey of Schubert’s complete symphonies, the return of vocal recitals and the world premiere of a work for two cellos with Yo-Yo Ma will mark the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2013-14 season.

Riccardo Muti, in his fourth season as CSO music director, will lead ten weeks of concerts with appearances in September-October, January-March and June.

The main event of this fall’s Verdi fete will be a concert performance of the composer’s Macbeth September 28-October 6 with Dario Solari in the title role and Tatiana Serjan as Lady Macbeth. Muti will also lead a performance of Verdi’s Requiem on the composer’s 200th birthday October 10 (soloists are Serjan, Daniela Barcellona, Mario Zeffiri and Ildar Abdrazakov).

The season will open with an all-Verdi free community concert September 18 (venue TBA) featuring bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo and soprano Barbara Frittoli in the Act II finale of La forza del destino, along with Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 (a casualty of Muti’s cancellation due to a hernia operation last month). The CSO Ball on September 21 will likewise be an all-Verdi affair with the two singers and the CSO Chorus in an array of choruses and opera excerpts.

Also of note Muti will lead the CSO in Ennio Morricone’s Voices from the Silence, a work written to commemorate the events of September 11, 2001. And, significantly, Muti, who has been ambivalent about conducting Mahler’s music, will close the 2013-14 season in June with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.

Two world premieres will be heard this season.

A yet-to-be-titled work for two cellos and orchestra by Giovanni Sollima will be conducted by Muti with the Italian cellist-composer and Yo-Yo Ma as soloists (January 30-Feb 1). And principal flute Mathieu Dufour will be solo protagonist in the premiere of Guillaume Connessen’s Flute Concerto, like the Sollima a CSO commission.

Muti will lead performances of all the Schubert symphonies in the traditional canon as well as the Mass No. 5 in A flat major. For many, the most heartening news of the Schubert series is the return to Symphony Center of the vocal recital, which has been nonexistent in recent seasons. Symphony Center Presents will offer three Schubert vocal programs featuring Winterreise, performed by baritone Christian Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber; Die schone Mullerin, performed by Matthias Goerne and pianist Christoph Eschenbach; and Susanna Phillips and Eric Owens in Der Hirt auf dem Felsen and Auf dem Strome, respectively.

A three-week festival in May, titled “Truth to Power,” will present works of Britten, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, which have had a broader impact on their society and the world. CSO podium regular Jaap van Zweden will helm the four programs, which will include Shostakovich’s Fifth, Seven and Ninth symphonies, Britten’s Violin Concerto (soloist Simone Lamsma) and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony and Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (Alisa Weilerstein, soloist).

Absent from the CSO podium due to heath issues this past season, Pierre Boulez will lead two weeks in February. Unfortunately, his own music will be completely absent, as the French composer-conductor will instead explore works of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky.

The CSO’s composers-in-residence will be represented with Anna Clyne’s <<rewind>> receiving its belated local premiere in April. Mason Bates’ Violin Concerto will also be heard that month in its local premiere with Anne Akiko Meyers in her CSO debut as soloist. Both works will be conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

American music, conspicuous by its absence at Orchestra Hall in recent seasons, will be somewhat more prominent in 2013-14. In addition to the Bates concerto, Sir Mark Elder will conduct Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2 and Leonard Slatkin will direct an American program offering Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance by Samuel Barber, and the Symphony No. 6 of William Schuman.

Other returning podium guests include Bernard Haitink (Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4), Charles Dutoit (Britten’s War Requiem and Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony), Michael Tilson Thomas (Mahler’s Symphony No. 9) and Susanna Mälkki (Adès, Debussy and Stravinsky). Nicholas McGegan will lead a program centered on Baroque opera arias with mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux. Vladimir Jurowski conducts an all-Strauss program with Dorothea Röschmann in the Four Last Songs). Also returning are Christoph Eschenbach, Stephane Deneve, Charles Dutoit, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Semyon Bychkov and Mitsuko Uchida.

Guest artists are pianists Emanuel Ax, Richard Goode, Marc-André Hamelin, Paul Lewis, Kirill Gerstein, Jorge Federico Osorio, and Mitsuko Uchida. Also appearing are violinists James Ehnes, Leila Josefowicz, Christian Tetzlaff, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and organist Paul Jacobs.

For more information and a complete schedule, go to


The CSO also announced the 2013-14 lineup for Symphony Center Presents. Pianists will include Evgeny Kissin, Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove Andsnes, Nikolai Lugansky, Andras Schiff, Daniil Trifonov, Vladimir Feltsman, Jeremy Denk, and duo-pianists Katie and Marielle Labeque.

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt will team up in a recital next season, and Emanuel Ax will host a Brahms Project series, leading off in a program with Anne Sofie von Otter. Other returning artists include Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma and Ax, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Pinchas Zukerman and Yefim Bronfman.

Visiting orchestras are the Mariinsky Theater Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, Yuri Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic.

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3 Responses to “Verdi, Schubert and Britten in the spotlight for CSO’s 2013-14 season”

  1. Posted Feb 06, 2013 at 5:12 pm by Tod Verklärung

    I would be interested in the critical community’s opinion of the proposed season. To me, it represents a continuation of things as usual. Indeed, despite Muti’s still relatively new Music Directorship (in part, because of illness), he is already repeating things like Brahms 2, Schubert 9, Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet, and Verdi’s Requiem (in a special concert). Were he available for questioning, I might ask him exactly how he defines his job and what vision he has for the CSO.

  2. Posted Feb 08, 2013 at 6:02 am by MarkB

    Muti has never exhibited a large scope of work that he conducts. This was evident in his years in Philadelphia, working at Salzburg and touring with the VPO. His technical skills as a conductor are very high, but he is not known as a particularly great interpreter of Beehtoven Brahms, Schubert, or others. He conducts only a handful of Bruckner symphonies, and perhaps two of Mahler (certainly the 1st and perhaps the 4th). He is a very intelligent person. So he knows what he generally conducts well, which is not the large, and is giving Chicago audiences that. That said, I thought his performance of Schubert’s 9th two years ago was at best pedestrian.

    The fact that he is already repeating works that he has conducted previously in Chicago before should, therefore, come as no surprise. Moreover, the fact that he only spends 7 or 8 weeks a year in Chicago (when he is healthy) impedes his ability to develop a broader repertoire with the CSO. The lack of a strong presence here by a music director has shown a lack of compelling vision. The problems with the brass section has been an institutional problem at the CSO for many years before Muti. However, it is going to take a strong music director who is present more in Chicago to clean this up (it goes beyond the principal horn player).

    The CSO musicians wanted Muti as did the Board. The criteria they based this on appears to have more to do with his notoriety and celebrity and unwillingness to accept a position with another U.S. orchestra than what was needed to be music director of the CSO. Given his age and recent illnesses, the appointment may prove to be a short one. The CSO has been ruderless for way too long even before Muti and it is time to start thinking about another direction despite Muti’s strong muscial gifts at times.

  3. Posted Feb 08, 2013 at 10:28 am by Tod Verklärung

    No disagreement with MarkB’s insightful comment, with the exception of the fact that Muti’s repertoire history (as evidenced by his recordings alone) certainly indicates that he could have avoided repetitions had he wished to. As things stand, consistent with MarkB’s words, I’d say that “Nero fiddles while Rome burns.” This is particularly unfortunate because the CSO’s celebrity under Solti was based (in part) on a brass virtuosity that no longer exists. As to the issue of a new Music Director, there is little time before a renewal of Muti’s tenure would have to be solidified, if indeed Muti is to continue–only two more years on his contract after this one. Unfortunately, the music critics in Chicago appear to be either quite happy with Muti, or unwilling to talk about their dissatisfaction beyond the problems with the principal horn player.

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