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Riccardo Muti in 1973

Riccardo Muti in 1973

Riccardo Muti made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on July 25, 1973, leading Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide, Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor (with thirty-three-year-old Christoph Eschenbach, the festival’s future music director, in his Ravinia debut), and Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

The following day Thomas Willis wrote in the Chicago Tribune: “It is easy to see why Riccardo Muti was the first Italian to win the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition. The Neapolitan firebrand, still in his early thirties, can galvanize both audiences and an orchestra with the kinetic energy of his beat. In his Midwest debut at Ravinia last night, he asserted command at the first notes of Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide and sustained it until the last of the procession had marched through the Great Gate of Kiev in the Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition. . . . With the sensitivity to melody of an already seasoned opera conductor, he sets off each tune with a breath, combines short phrases into longer ones, and underlines each high point. Above all, his music is perfectly clear.”

March 20, 21, and 22 1975

March 20, 21, and 22, 1975

Muti’s first Ravinia residency also included Mozart’s Symphony no. 34 and Piano Concerto no. 22 (with Misha Dichter) and Strauss’s Aus Italien on July 27; and Liszt’s Les préludes and Totentanz (with Jean-Bernard Pommier) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 5 on July 28.

Less than two years later, Muti returned to conduct the Chicago Symphony on subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall on March 20, 21, and 22, 1975, leading Vivaldi’s Concerto in A major for Strings and Continuo, Stravinsky’s Scherzo fantastique, Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, and the Orchestra’s first subscription concert performances of Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony.

This article also appears here.

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of Kurt Masur, a frequent guest conductor for thirty years, from 1981 until 2011. Masur died on December 19, 2015, in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was 88.

Kurt Masur

Numerous tributes and obituaries have been posted online, including the websites of the New York PhilharmonicThe New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune.

Masur made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in 1981, and he most recently guest conducted at Orchestra Hall in 2011. A complete list of his appearances with the Orchestra is below (subscription concerts at Orchestra Hall, unless otherwise noted):

August 13, 1981 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Jean-Bernard Pommier, piano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

August 15, 1981 (Ravinia Festival)
MOZART Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525
MOZART Andante for Flute in C Major, K. 315
Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
MOZART Rondo for Flute in D Major, K. Anh. 184
Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
MOZART Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major, K. 314
Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

July 8, 1982 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
André-Michel Schub, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

July 10, 1982 (Ravinia Festival)
GLINKA Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)

July 26, 1984 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Selections from Egmont, Op. 84
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Werner Klemperer, narrator
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

July 28, 1984 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Overture to Fidelio, Op. 72
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major
Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

July 29, 1984 (Ravinia Festival)
BEETHOVEN Choral Fantasy in C Minor, Op. 80
Menahem Pressler, piano
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Benita Valente, soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Jacque Trussel, tenor
John Cheek, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 6, 7 & 8, 1984
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
Annerose Schmidt, piano
MATTHUS Piano Concerto
Annerose Schmidt, piano
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

August 1, 1985 (Ravinia Festival)
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

August 3, 1985 (Ravinia Festival)
BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

June 9, 10 & 11, 1988
BRITTEN Simple Symphony, Op. 4
HAYDN Symphony No. 85 in B-flat Major (La Reine)
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5, Op. 47

February 7, 8, 10 & 12, 1991
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (Classical)
HINDEMITH Concert Music for String Orchestra and Brass, Op. 50
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (Scottish)

November 20, 21 & 22, 2003
GLINKA Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla
SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 77
Vadim Repin, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

March 31 & April 2, 2011
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Louis Lortie, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major

As we all wish Riccardo Muti a very happy birthday, I was reminded that our tenth music director also celebrated his thirty-second birthday with us.

Maestro Muti made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in the summer of 1973, conducting a series of three concerts that also included three up-and-coming pianists: thirty-three-year-old Christoph Eschenbach (in his Ravinia Festival debut), twenty-seven-year-old Misha Dichter, and twenty-eight-year-old Jean-Bernard Pommier (in his CSO and Ravinia Festival debuts).

Muti’s biography in the Ravinia program book that week was quite modest:

    Permanent conductor of the Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra since 1969, Riccardo Muti was born in Naples in 1941. He graduated with honors from the Conservatorio San Pietro a Maiella, where he studied piano, and then completed his studies at Milan’s Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, graduating with honors in composition and conducting. In 1967, Riccardo Muti became the first Italian candidate to win the Guido Cantelli International Conducting Competition. In June 1968, he conducted the Maggio Musicale Orchestra and the same night was asked to become permanent conductor.

    Since his first operatic engagement, at the 1970 Autunno Musicale Napoletano, Riccardo Muti has conducted opera in the major houses of Italy and at the Salzburg Festival. He has conducted the important European orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic. Mr. Muti made his American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony in 1972. He makes his Midwest debut at Ravinia this summer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. During the next two seasons, he will conduct the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia. He recently accepted appointment as principal conductor of the New Philharmonia Orchestra of London.

His three programs at the festival that summer were:

    July 25, 1973
    ROSSINI Overture to Semiramide
    SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
    Christoph Eschenbach, piano
    MUSSORGSKY/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

    July 27, 1973
    MOZART Symphony No. 34 in C Major, K. 338
    MOZART Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482
    Misha Dichter, piano
    STRAUSS Aus Italien, Op. 16

    July 28, 1973
    LISZT Les préludes
    LISZT Totentanz
    Jean-Bernard Pommier, piano
    TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

Thomas Willis’s review of the first concert in the July 26 Chicago Tribune certainly sets the stage: “It is easy to see why Riccardo Muti was the first Italian to win the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition. The Neapolitan firebrand, still in his early thirties, can galvanize both audiences and an orchestra with the kinetic energy of his beat. In his Midwest debut at Ravinia last night, he asserted command at the first notes of Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide and sustained it until the last of the procession had marched through the Great Gate of Kiev in the Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition. Whether one responds or not to the tense muscularity of his approach, there is no gainsaying its power and effectiveness . . . With the sensitivity to melody of an already seasoned opera conductor, he sets off each tune with a breath, combines short phrases into longer ones, and underlines each high point. Above all, his music is perfectly clear.”

Off to a great start, Maestro. Have a wonderful birthday.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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