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On May 5, 2008, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association president Deborah Rutter Card announced that Riccardo Muti would become the Orchestra’s tenth music director, beginning with the 2010–11 season.

Barbara Frittoli sings the final "Libera me" with Riccardo Muti leading the Orchestra and Chorus on January 16, 2009 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Barbara Frittoli sings the final “Libera me” with Riccardo Muti leading the Orchestra and Chorus on January 16, 2009 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Muti’s first appearances as music director designate were on January 15, 16, and 17, 2009, in Verdi’s Requiem. Soloists were Barbara Frittoli, Olga Borodina, Mario Zeffiri, and Ildar Abdrazakov, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus was prepared by chorus director Duain Wolfe.

“From the moment he walked out onto the stage of Orchestra Hall until the last notes of the Verdi sounded just over ninety minutes later, Muti showed us the summary of nearly every possible positive quality a great conductor can possess,” wrote Andrew Patner in the Chicago Sun-Times. “The CSO played on the edge of its collective seat throughout. . . . When has the CSO Chorus sounded like this? Not since founder Margaret Hillis at her peak. Some 170 voices singing as one, powered from the bottom ranges, standing and delivering on cue with equal parts passion and precision, and investing the softest passages with the greatest musicality.”

CSOR Verdi Requiem

Regarding the subsequent release of the Requiem on CSO Resound, Robert Levine for wrote, “Muti still brings Toscanini to mind more than any other conductor, but he is more pliable in this performance than that other great Italian maestro or his earlier self. The Chorus, like the Orchestra, moves from fortissimo to pianissimo on a dime; their singing is effortless, precise, and filled with attention to the text. The quieter, spiritual sections are remarkable for their aura of stillness and meditation and their outbursts thrill and terrify. It’s breathtaking.”

On February 13, 2011, the recording received Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

This article also appears here.



Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Morton East High School in Cicero on September 18, 2013

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Morton East High School in Cicero on September 18, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

On September 18, 2013, Riccardo Muti led the Orchestra in a free community concert at Morton East High School in Cicero. Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association president Deborah F. Rutter welcomed the capacity crowd (with Spanish translation provided by CSO horn Oto Carrillo). Following the performance, Muti thanked the 2,400 people in attendance, adding that music is “among the few things that can bring people together.”

With the Orchestra, Muti conducted Brahms’s Second
Symphony; selections from Verdi’s La forza del destino with soprano Barbara Frittoli, bass Luca Dall’Amico, and men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus; and selections from Verdi’s Nabucco: the overture and “Va, pensiero” featuring community choruses City Voices, Kol Zimrah, North Shore Choral society, and the Wicker Park Choral Singers, along with men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

Riccardo Muti and Chicago Symphony Chorus mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Gray at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville on September 27, 2010

Riccardo Muti and Chicago Symphony Chorus mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Gray at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville on September 27, 2010 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

In addition to free performances at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Muti also led a community concert on September 22, 2011, at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, conducting the Orchestra in Verdi’s Overture to Giovanna d’Arco, Ibert’s Flute Concerto with principal flute Mathieu Dufour, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. With musicians from the Orchestra, Chorus, and guest artists, Muti also has brought music to the residents of the Illinois Youth Centers in Warrenville and Chicago and the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

This article also appears here.


On May 31, 1977, a news conference was held at Orchestra Hall to announce plans for the upcoming 1977-78 season. Recently, Sir Georg Solti had been criticized for concentrating too much on recording and touring, implying that he was “manipulating the Chicago situation purely for his own gain—financial or otherwise.”

Chicago Tribune – October 12, 1987

With humor and “more than a trace of seriousness,” Solti replied: “The city should erect a statue to me.”

Fast forward ten years.

The day following Solti’s seventy-fifth birthday concert, on October 10, 1987, a bust was dedicated in the formal gardens in front of the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Commissioned by C. Geraldine Freund—longtime generous supporter of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—the bronze bust was sculpted by Dame Elizabeth Frink.

Press coverage of the event is here and here.

Lady Valerie Solti, Deborah Rutter, Maggie Daley, and Bob O’Neill

In October 2006, the bust was moved south—closer to Orchestra Hall—in what is now Sir Georg Solti Garden in Grant Park. The statue distantly faces The Spirit of Music, a memorial to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s founder and first music director, Theodore Thomas.

The re-dedication was attended by members of the Orchestra, patrons, and staff, along with Lady Valerie Solti, Deborah F. Rutter (president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association), Maggie Daley (wife of then-Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley), and Bob O’Neill (representing the Grant Park Conservancy).

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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The CSO and Maestro Muti perform a program featuring Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) at the historic Teatro di San Carlo for a capacity audience. Taking the podium to announce the evening’s encore—Giordano’s Intermezzo from Fedora—Muti noted “although, I’m 100% Italian, I’m 200% Southern Italian.” After the concert, Maestro Muti and his wife hosted the musicians of the Orchestra and distinguished guests for a post-concert dinner featuring traditional Neapolitan cuisine. On Sunday morning before the concert, Maestro Muti and three CSO musicians—Jennifer Gunn, piccolo; Charles Vernon, trombone; and Gene Pokorny, tuba—share an informal performance with young men and women at a juvenile justice center in nearby Nisida. The program was presented by the Negaunee Music Institute with assistance from the administrative staff of the Teatro di San Carlo. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto
Musicians and staff travel from Paris to Naples. Called Napoli in Italian, its name is derived from the Greek word Neapolis meaning "new city.” The city is the birthplace of Riccardo Muti, as well as the birthplace of pizza! This tour stop includes the CSO’s first return to the world renowned Teatro di San Carlo with Maestro Muti since 2012. That appearance marked its first European tour appearance in Naples. 📸@toddrphoto
Riccardo Muti and the CSO spend less than 24 hours in Paris for a concert at the Philharmonie de Paris with a program featuring works by Wagner, Hindemith and Dvořák. The last time they performed in this hall was during their most recent tour to Europe in January 2017. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto


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