War, remembrance and “Aida” on tap in CSO’s 2018-19 season

Tue Jan 30, 2018 at 10:06 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I will be marked by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 2018-19 season.
The 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I will be marked by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 2018-19 season.

One thing you can say for the 2018-19 season of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: it definitely has a theme.

November 2018 will be the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. And the CSO will perform several works to mark that historical anniversary as well as a broader theme of “reflection and remembrance.”

“Music is a necessity of the spirit,” said music director Riccardo Muti, in a statement released by the orchestra. “It acts as a balm that allows us to remember, to heal and ultimately to grow.” 

Towards that end, Muti will reprise the Verdi Requiem November 8-10 to mark the anniversary of the Armistice. Joining the CSO Chorus will be soloists Vittoria Yeo, Daniela Barcellona, Piotr Beczala and Dmitry Belosselskiy.

The CSO music director will open the season September 21 with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 “Babi Yar,” which marks the ravages of war, set to poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Bass Alexey Tikhomirov will be the soloist. Prokofiev’s Sinfonietta will open the concert.

An October program led by Marin Alsop October 18-20 will mark the Armistice with Copland’s Symphony No. 3, and a commissioned world premiere, Threnos, by Bruno Mantovani. That program, presented with financial support from Jennifer N. Pritzker and the Pritzker Military Museum, will also include Frank Bridge’s Lament and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, played by Daniil Trifonov.

Other works on the theme of war and peace next season will be William Schuman’s Symphony No. 9 “Le fosse Ardeatine” to be conducted by Muti (in a rare excursion into music of the American 20th-century symphonists) and A Requiem in Our Time by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, led by Mikko Franck.

Possibly of most interest next season is Muti’s return to the highly acclaimed concerts of Verdi operas. Muti will close the 2018-19 season June 21-25 with concert performances of Verdi’s Aida with Krassimira Stoyanova in the title role (rest of cast TBA).

Muti will also conduct Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and Requiem, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Symphony No. 2, Respighi’s The Pines of Rome, Bizet’s Roma, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Apollon musagete. Also on tap from Muti is Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3, Berlioz’s The Death of Cleopatra with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, and the premiere of James Stephenson’s Bass Trombone Concerto with Charles Vernon as soloist.

Of next season’s guest conductors, one name stands out: Daniel Barenboim will lead a performance of Smetana’s complete Ma vlast in his first CSO appearance since the end of his music director reign.

The roster of other 2018-19 podium guests is more striking for who isn’t there. Both Manfred Honeck and Susanna Mälkki, two of the finest and most popular CSO visitors, are  missing in action next season.

Making their CSO podium bows next year will be Fabien Gabel, Edward Gardner, Giancarlo Guerrero, Matthew Halls (Handel’s Messiah), Thomas Søndergård (Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 1) and Simone Young (Liszt, Brahms, and Wagner). Returning conductors are Bernard Haitink (Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6) , Esa-Pekka Salonen (Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra), Michael Tilson Thomas (Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6), Osmo Vänskä (Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3), Marin Alsop, David Afkham (Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7), Mikko Franck (Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2), Jakub Hrůša (Dvorak and Shostakovich), Pablo-Heras-Casado, Emmanuel Krivine, Andres Orozco-Estrada (Mahler’s Symphony No. 3), Mattthias Pintscher (Ravel and Stravinsky), Nikolaj Znaider (Mahler’s Symphony No. 1) and Bramwell Tovey (Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Ives and Copland songs with Thomas Hampson).

Soloists making their CSO debuts next season are pianists Nicholas Angelich, Alexander Gavrylyuk, and Benjamin Grosvenor, violinist Nicola Benedetti and CSO principal flutist Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson. Returning soloists include pianists Daniil Trifonov, Paul Lewis, Simon Trpčeski, Emanuel Ax, Mitsuko Uchida and David Fray; violinists Robert Chen, Vadim Gluzman, Lisa Batiashvili and Hilary Hahn; cellist Gautier Capuçon; and CSO piccolo player Jennifer Gunn and trombonist Charles Vernon.

Returning vocalists are Kelley O’Connor, Daniela Barcellona, Dmitry Belosselskiy, Sasha Cooke, Amanda Forsythe, Nicholas Phan, Thomas Hampson, Michelle DeYoung, John Relyea, Joyce DiDonato, Saimir Pirgu, and Krassimira Stoyanova.

The Chicago Symphony will embark on another Asian tour January 19-February 4 (Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and Osaka) and make a brief trip to Florida (West Palm Beach and Naples) February 28-March 2.

The CSO also announced the Symphony Center Presents lineup for 2018-19

Visiting orchestras next season are the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra led by Semyon Bychkov with cellist Alisa Weilerstein; the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, led by Daniele Gatti; and the San Francisco Symphony led by Michael Tilson Thomas with violinist Christian Tetzlaff.

The Piano Series will present Evgeny Kissin, Maurizio Pollini, Denis Matsuev, Murray Perahia, Cédric Tiberghien, Leif Ove Andsnes, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, and Beatrice Rana and Behzod Abduraimov.

Subscriptions are now on sale. cso.org; 2312-294-3000.

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