CSO’s 125th season to include a look back, another Asian tour and more standard repertory

Mon Jan 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Founded by Theodore Thomas in 1891, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will spotlight works that received their premieres by the CSO over its 125-year history.
Founded by Theodore Thomas in 1891, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will spotlight works premiered by the CSO over its 125-year history.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra announced the lineup for its 125th anniversary season Monday morning.

Also announced were the CSO’s two new Mead composers in residence: Samuel C. Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek. Both will take up their posts in the fall of 2015 for a three-year tenure. A new work of Ogonek’s will be premiered in February 2016.

In addition to 11 weeks of subscription concerts in Chicago, music director Riccardo Muti will lead the orchestra on a three-city U.S. tour in October (Kansas City, Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill) and a three-week tour of Asia in January 2016. The latter will encompass Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul.

The main domestic event of the 2015-16 season will be concert performances of Verdi’s Falstaff (April 21-26, 2016), which will complete Muti’s traversal of Verdi’s three Shakespearean operas. The cast will be led by Ambrogio Maestri in the title role, with Eleanora Buratto as Alice Ford, Luca Salsi as Ford, Rosa Feola as Nanetta and Saimir Pirgu as Fenton.

The CSO will look to its past in the 2015-16 season by performing several works that the orchestra gave the world or U.S. premiere of. These include Lutoslawski’s Symphony No. 3, Stravinsky’s Symphony in C and Alfredo Casella’s Symphony No. 3, among more familiar items.

Still, those hoping to see more adventurous programs than has been the case in previous Muti seasons are bound to be disappointed again. There is scant contemporary music and all of these works will be directed by podium guests: Anna Clyne’s Masquerade, Detlev Glanert’s Brahms-Fantasie, and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Foreign Bodies. The token amount of American composers are represented largely by short works or populist standards (Rhapsody in Blue, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, etc.).

There are a few offbeat items on the music director’s slate: Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, more Mahler with the Symphony No. 4, Ligeti’s Ramifications, Hindemith’s Concert Music for Brass and Strings and Ginastera’s Harp Concerto.

But for the most part, Muti’s residency weeks adhere to the music director’s by-now-familiar comfort zone of Beethoven, Bruckner, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev.

The season opens September 17 with Muti leading a program of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and Liszt’s From the Cradle to the Grave.

The following night will be the annual free Pritzker Pavilion concert, this time featuring Beethoven’s Leonora Overture No. 3 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. The Symphony Ball on the 19th will offer John Corigliano’s Campane di Ravello, Elgar’s In the South (Alassio) and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Of podium guests, the most welcome new face will be Marin Alsop, who will make her belated CSO debut in a program that includes Clyne’s Masquerade, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, and works by Barber and Gershwin (November 27-29). James Feddeck will also make his CSO bow with music of Haydn, Franck and Rachmaninoff.

Returning guest conductors include Semyon Bychkov, Sir Andrew Davis, James Conlon, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Charles Dutoit, Sir Mark Elder, Bernard Haitink, Bernard Labadie. Cristian Maclearu, Susanna Malkki, Jonathan Nott, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (after a long absence), Donald Runnicles, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Yuri Temirkanov, Michael Tilson Thomas and Edo de Waart and Pinchas Zukerman.

Soloists include pianists Leif Ove Andsnes, Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Till Fellner, and Kirill Gerstein, Evgeny Kissin and Lang Lang; violinists Renaud Capuçon Robert Chen, Julia Fischer, Augustin Hadelich, Stephanie Jeong, Gil Shaham, Pinchas Zukerman; and cellists are Yo-Yo Ma, Johannes Moser and Alisa Weilerstein.

The announcement, as has become tradition, was made at Symphony Center with music director Riccardo Muti and new CSOA president Jeff Alexander presiding, the latter in his first official public appearance since taking the reins from Deborah Rutter.

For complete season program details, go to cso.org.

Posted in News

7 Responses to “CSO’s 125th season to include a look back, another Asian tour and more standard repertory”

  1. Posted Jan 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm by Odradek

    Well, the Lutoslawski should be good in any case…

  2. Posted Jan 26, 2015 at 2:20 pm by Odradek

    “American composers are represented largely by short works or populist standards” – Do you consider Adams’ “Harmonielehre” a populist standard? It’s also being done at Grant Park this summer.

  3. Posted Jan 27, 2015 at 7:07 am by Tod Verklärung

    As Mr. Johnson notes, the standard repertoire is standard at the CSO. One might contrast the orchestra to the New York Philharmonic or the SF Symphony and find that not every major orchestra is unadventurous.

    Our CSO will ignore the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nielsen, not to mention such composers as Pettersson, Berwald, Weinberg (to be played this week at Northwestern), Piston, Diamond, Sessions, Holmboe, Myaskovsky, Roy Harris, Martinu, etc.

    If the timid approach to programming were working to sell-out the hall, at least one could cheer the fiscal success. As it is, even Muti’s concerts (with some exceptions) have empty seats.

    What exactly is the CSO’s mission, beyond curating a museum of past masters, promoting Mr. Muti, and hoping people will come to bask in his glory? It would be nice to hear a coherent response to the question.

  4. Posted Jan 27, 2015 at 9:32 am by Odradek

    Tod: “such composers as Pettersson,” – what wouldn’t I give to hear the CSO rip through a Pettersson symphony. They did it once – back in 1982 (the 8th).

  5. Posted Jan 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm by Roland Buck

    The lack of adventurousness also applies to the lack of programming of music of the 18th century, except, of course, Mozart and Haydn. The Randy and Melvin Berlin Family Fund for the Canon includes Bach as one of the supported composers. Yet in the programming for the upcoming season all one finds is two isolated Bach works in two different programs. Certainly one of the greatest composers of all time deserves more than that. And there were a lot of great works written in both the first and second half of the 18th century that are totally neglected, such as, FOR EXAMPLE, Vivaldi (from the first half) and Boccherini (from the second).

  6. Posted Feb 04, 2015 at 11:39 am by Lillian

    Is it a stretch to connect the dots between the items Tod mentions above, the turnover in the winds, and some of the comments made by New York Classical Review regarding the Carnegie performances? I was at Saturday’s concert and thought it terrific, as did those seated around me from the NY and Boston areas. But while praising CSO, those three reviews held back, as if to parallel something they seemed to imply about the performances. Is there a risk of becoming a little too non-distinctive? (I don’t want to use the word “generic”)

  7. Posted Feb 07, 2015 at 8:53 am by Tod Verklärung

    The announcement of Alan Gilbert’s plans to depart the NY Philharmonic in 2017 throws some light on the questions raised above. The CSO would normally soon be considering guest conductors as unofficially auditioning to replace Muti in 2020. Thus, repertoire and mission decisions made in the next couple of years might well determine the course of the CSO through 2030.

    Thomas Morris, former executive with the Boston and Cleveland Orchestras, is quoted in today’s NY Times about how one proceeds to choose a Music Director. He believes the most important issue is the direction of the institution. Once this is set, a conductor is chosen who can best captain the ship according to the newly established itinerary. A “star” conductor would not necessarily fill the bill. Will the CSO go for a star first or try to figure out what the musical mission is? Of course, they might say they can do both, although the current evidence suggests otherwise. We shall see.

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