Riccardo Muti to remain at Chicago Symphony Orchestra until 2020

  • Article by: JOHN VON RHEIN CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Updated: February 23, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Music director’s contract was due to expire in 2015. The announcement was coupled with details on the 2014-15 season.

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Riccardo Muti wore a Blackhawks jersey as he conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last June while the hockey team was in the midst of a Stanley Cup playoff run. A recording of the performance was presented to the team.

Photo: BRIAN KERSEY • Chicago Symphony Orchestra, via AP,

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– Riccardo Muti has signed a new contract with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as its music director, which will extend until August 2020.

The Italian maestro, 72, made the announcement at a freewheeling news conference at Symphony Center Monday morning when Muti and Deborah Rutter, the outgoing president of the CSO Association, outlined programs and dates for the orchestra’s 2014-15 season, his fifth as music director. His current contract was due to expire in August 2015. Terms of the new contract appeared to be similar to the current one in terms of the number of subscription weeks he is to conduct (10) and tours.

With Rutter leaving at the end of the CSO season and fiscal year in June to take up her new post as president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in the fall, the orchestra’s 2014-15 concert season will be the first to be administered by her successor, whoever he or she might be.

The Symphony Center press conference also announced programs and artists for the coming season.

The season will be light on contemporary music outside the CSO fold but heavy on standard Austro-German repertory, with a particular emphasis on French composers, an area of music not usually associated with an orchestra long grounded in Germanic musical tradition.

As part of Muti’s 10 subscription weeks, divided into the customary fall, winter and spring residencies, he will compare and contrast the orchestral works of two Russian masters, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin. He will lead performances of all six Tchaikovsky symphonies and other orchestral works, along with the four Scriabin symphonies, including “The Divine Poem,” “The Poem of Ecstasy” and, in its CSO premiere, Symphony No. 1. Muti has long championed the Russian mystic’s infrequently heard symphonic works.

The music director also will conduct Beethoven’s iconic Ninth Symphony to begin the subscription series Sept. 18 and, a day later, conduct an all-Tchaikovsky program as the orchestra’s free gift to the Chicago public, this year at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Other choral works on Muti’s agenda, all featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus, include Prokofiev’s cantata “Alexander Nevsky” and Mozart’s Requiem in the Sussmayr completion.

Muti is scheduled to take the orchestra on a three-week European tour in October and November that will include a weeklong residency in Vienna, the CSO’s first appearance in Warsaw, and visits to Paris and other cities to be announced. In addition, he will take the orchestra to New York’s Carnegie Hall for three concerts in January.

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