CSO hits the snooze button for transitional 2024-25 season

Wed Feb 28, 2024 at 12:00 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Daniil Trifonov will be the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s artist in residence for the 2024-25 season. Photo: Dario Acosta/DG

If anyone wants to know what the potential downside is of not having a music director at the artistic helm, all one has to do is look at the 2024-25 season of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, announced Wednesday.

Even more than usual, next season’s lineup has the look of being assembled by a committee. While there are some intriguing programs, populist standards reign with only two world premieres in the entire season (and one of those rescheduled from last fall). American music rarely strays off the Bernstein-Gershwin-Barber reservation. 

Since there is no music director in place to name a composer in residence, the post will be left empty for the first time in the 34 years since it was initiated. Instead, two yet-to-be-named “Mead Composer Curators” will be “shaping the programs” for the season’s MusicNOW series. 

Rumors continue to quietly percolate that the orchestra may announce its next music director in the spring. A CSO spokesperson declined comment on the topic.

One bright spot is the appointment of Daniil Trifonov as the CSO’s artist-in-residence for the 2024-25 season. (The Russian pianist’s Rachmaninoff Third performance last year led CCR’s Top Ten list for the year.) Unfortunately, he’s only doing one program with the CSO (Brahms’ Second Concerto) and two other events—a solo recital and duo program with violinist Leonidas Kavakos.

The season opens with Hilary Hahn performing Barber’s Violin Concerto September 19 and 20. The rest of the program reflects the prevailing lightness of being in repertoire (and, at times, on the podium). Andrés Orozco-Estrada leads a fluffy lineup of Bernstein’s West Side Story Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and Ginastera’s Four Dances from Estancia. Lang Lang makes a one-night appearance September 21 at the Symphony Ball performing Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2.

Music director emeritus for life Riccardo Muti will conduct four weeks of local concerts and a two-week domestic tour next season. In Chicago, Muti directs an all-Beethoven program Oct. 31-Nov. 3 (“Eroica” symphony and Concerto No. 5 with Mitsuko Uchida). His second fall program Nov. 8-9 will premiere Osvaldo Golijov’s Megalopolis Suite alongside works by Verdi, Donizetti, Chabrier and de Falla.

Principal trumpet Esteban Batallán makes his solo debut in concertos by Haydn and Telemann with Muti (June 12-14) , alongside Haydn’s Symphony No. 48 “Maria Theresa” and Schubert’s Fourth. Muti will close the season June 19-24 with Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust; Marianne Crebassa, John Osborn and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo are the soloists.

For Mahler aficionados there will be three symphonies by the composer in the spring of 2025. Klaus Mäkelä leads performances of the epic Symphony No. 3 (April 24-26). In advance of performances the CSO will take to the Mahler Festival in Amsterdam, Jaap van Zweden conducts Mahler’s Symphonies No. 7 (April 17-19) and 6 (May 8-9).

Here is a novel idea: instead of CSO subscription concerts serving to prepare rep for a European event, why not do a Mahler Festival here?

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads two programs January 30-Feb 8. He will mark the 80th anniversary of the death of Béla Bartók with the Hungarian composer’s Concerto for Orchestra and one-act opera Bluebeard’s Castle (soloists Ekaterina Gubanova and Christian Van Horn). Salonen’s concerts will also include Strauss’s Don Juan and his own Sinfonia Concertante for organ (soloist Iveta Apkalna). 

Manfred Honeck will conduct Haydn’s Mass in Time of War (March 13-15) along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and James Macmillan’s Larghetto. Jakub Hrůša leads the CSO in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 (“The Year 1905”) with Simon Trpčeski in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

In addition to his Mahler 3, Mäkelä directs a program May 1-4 with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 (Trifonov) and Pierre Boulez’s Initiale.

Three conductors will make their CSO debuts next season. Dina Slobodeniuk leads Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony and Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto (Johannes Moser); Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s program includes Sibelius 5 and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Seong-Jin Cho. And Gustavo Gimeno will be on the podium for the belated world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Indigo Heaven with Stephen Williamson as clarinet soloist.

Other returning guest conductors include Donald Runnicles, Mark Elder, Karina Canellakis, Christoph Eschenbach, Marek Janowski, Hannu Lintu, Fabien Gabel, Harry Bicket, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, Jane Glover, Nicholas Kraemer, Lahav Shani, David Afkham, James Gaffigan and Marin Alsop.

Other CSO soloists are pianists Lukáš Vondráček and Francesco Piemontesi; duo-pianists Lucas and Arther Jussen; violinists Anne-Sophie Mutter, Christian Tetzlaff, Randall Goosby, Vilde Frang, and Robert Chen; cellist John Sharp; and violist Antoine Tamestit. Vocalists include Konstantin Krimmel, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Amanda Forsythe, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Josh Lovell, Michael Sumuel, Joélle Harvey, Janai Brugger, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Andrew Haji, and Joshua Hopkins.

Beyond Daniil Trifonov, the Piano Series will present solo recitals by Víkingur Ólafsson, Evgeny Kissin, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Emanuel Ax, Alexandre Kantorow, Maria João Pires, and Mao Fujita.

The sole visiting orchestra will be the Berlin Philharmonic under Kirill Petrenko, which will perform Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 November 26.

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16 Responses to “CSO hits the snooze button for transitional 2024-25 season”

  1. Posted Feb 28, 2024 at 12:37 pm by Carl

    And just two women conductors out of what, 30, 40? (Karina Canellakis and Marin Alsop) And no African-American conductors either.

    I guess some readers will probably feel this is a good thing but to me it’s rather depressing.

  2. Posted Feb 28, 2024 at 2:15 pm by James Weiss

    I’d be absolutely shocked if anyone other than Klaus Makela is named the next music director.

  3. Posted Feb 28, 2024 at 3:30 pm by Richard T

    La damnation de Faust! Wow! I didn’t see that coming. I thought for sure it’d be another Verdi. Was Solti the last time it was done?

  4. Posted Feb 28, 2024 at 3:49 pm by Lawrence A. Johnson

    Three women. Jane Glover too.

  5. Posted Feb 28, 2024 at 7:10 pm by Peter Todd Borich

    I believe the last Damnation of Faust was Charles Dutoit quite a while ago. Should not have gone, as it paled in comparison to Solti’s.

  6. Posted Feb 29, 2024 at 6:13 am by Chris Sheahen

    I agree the season is a bit bland, and still no Music Director! But I’m excited to hear a live performance of Salonen’s new piece for organ and orchestra. He writes good music.

  7. Posted Feb 29, 2024 at 12:24 pm by Ryan

    I think this season is perfectly fine and appealing. I am pleased about Ravel Daphnis et Chloé, the Salonen piece, the Boulez piece, and the abundance of Brahms and Mahler. It’s not as Schumann/Schubert-centric as Muti programs tend to be. One would like even more French music and 20th century classics, as always.

  8. Posted Feb 29, 2024 at 3:58 pm by James Weiss

    What I find “rather depressing” is that someone looked at that list of conductors and all they saw was skin colour and gender. Then proceeded to imply that most posters here were racists.

    Is that necessary? I think most people want to see the best musicians possible and couldn’t care less whether they are black or white or male or female.

  9. Posted Mar 01, 2024 at 4:02 am by Carl

    Even with Jane Glover, who is essentially a period specialist, it’s still a woefully small number of women on the podium. And yes, representation matters, especially if classical music wants to remain even semi-relevant in our society. Other orchestras are gradually learning this. The CSO should read the room.

  10. Posted Mar 01, 2024 at 5:48 am by Susan Prior

    Would love to see Klaus as next director but he’s committed to Amsterdam last I knew… I went to 12 concerts this season. Sadly I only see maybe 3 that appeal to me. I too find the line up to be rather bland. Was really hoping to see Yunchan!!

  11. Posted Mar 01, 2024 at 12:36 pm by Brad

    Some people on the interwebs claim Klaus was chosen as MD months ago and already has a contract signed. Sounds like a fish story to me but we’ll see what happens. He’s a superbly talented young (very young) conductor but my first choice at this time remains Jakub Hrůša. Still rather young but absolutely brilliant.

  12. Posted Mar 01, 2024 at 11:46 pm by Wolken Philips

    Susan——-committed to Amsterdam? He’s the MD of the orchestra de Paris, the Oslo Philharmonic AND the Concertgebouw. He’s also in charge of the Turku Music Festival. Hello?????

  13. Posted Mar 02, 2024 at 8:15 am by greg hall

    I love the CSO. but I am almost 60 and most of the audience on Friday afternoons are older than my parents. Hooray for them for continuing to support such a fine institution, but the new MD must attract a younger audience. Both Detroit and Cleveland (especially Cleveland) attract a much higher ratio of 20s, 30s and 40s.

    To keep the CSO going strong into the next era, I sure hope the board selects someone younger (like Makela) to lead the Orchestra and incorporate more modern composers into the repertoire, with more events designed to attract a new audience to augment those of us who already support the CSO and have for years if not decades.

    Greg Hall

  14. Posted Mar 07, 2024 at 4:37 pm by Subscriber

    The fine arts, like society, are undergoing major generational change. The maestros leading orchestras, until recently, are primarily post-WWII era ones and many have left us. Now, a younger generation of maestros is coming forth. As in any profession, the cream will rise to the surface. Talent, hard work, paying one’s dues, luck and a break (never hurts) will be recognized and rewarded.

    Troubling is the current preoccupation with DEI. DEI does not necessarily reflect talent and competency. One only has to look at government–local, state and national–seeing what DEI has bestowed upon us. SAD!

    Whoever succeeds Muti, must have the talent, acumen and smarts to lead a world-class orchestra. If so, they will earn the orchestra’s respect and support of the audience. CSO should be led by a world-class maestro not a DEI photo op.

    As a MOB subscriber, I look forward to attending Dame Jane Glover’s concert of non-baroque music. She is esteemed by the audience and her MOB concerts well received.

    As for Marin Alsop, she should continue showcasing her talents at Ravinia.

  15. Posted Mar 08, 2024 at 10:16 am by Ezra

    Jane Glover is a period specialist indeed – her period spans 200 years or more.

  16. Posted Mar 10, 2024 at 12:41 pm by Jaime Herrera

    We could surely use good new music but until some miracle occurs, we’ll have to wait a long time. In the meantime, even if orchestras are still playing music which has been around a long, long, time, there are still millions of people who have yet to hear any of it. What we have in the repertoire now should be more than enough for them, but for the rest of us who have heard Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, et al for dozens of years, we’ll have to wait for that miracle.

    As for DEI, let’s see how that works when applied to the ranks of the CSO (or any other world class orchestra.)

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