To celebrate both the 125th anniversaries of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the University of Chicago, CSO Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti came to the Logan Center about a week before the start of the school year (9/21/15) and had a conversation with Philip Huscher, CSO Program Annotator.
I knew that this event was definitely going to be filled with a lot of people, so I decided to leave work early and get to Logan a couple of hours before the event was about to start. It was a great decision because I got to catch Muti as he was walking into Logan and got a quick “Hello” (or rather “Ciao”) from him! Too bad I didn’t ask for a selfie, haha!
Anyways, I was lucky to get a seat right in the center, front row. The front row was surprisingly not reserved, but the two/three rows behind me were all reserved. The Dean of the Physical Sciences Division, who I saw earlier in the day on the bus, talked to me in the morning about how he was looking forward to the event with Muti, and eventually, he ended up sitting a couple of rows behind me in the reserved seats – how cool it must be to get a reserved seat (things to wish for in the future…).
After a brief intro by President Zimmer, Muti and Huscher came out and started their conversation. The conversation was basically all Muti – Huscher probably only asked 4 questions (Muti at one point interjected, “Don’t worry, I don’t forget you,” which elicited a bunch of laughs)- but it was a fascinating conversation nonetheless. He talked a great deal about “fidelity to the score,” in which he referenced Professor Philip Gossett’s work regarding critical editions of Verdi’s operas (specific example included Rigoletto), as well as the current culture surrounding conducting/classical music as it relates to society in general. The importance of classical music to a society is a critical theme: one that has pervaded many of Muti’s talks and lectures.
His anecdotes were hilarious – at one point, he mentioned an encounter with a woman after a concert in Philadelphia, where he was music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1980-1992. He was conducting the B Minor Mass of Bach, and I think he said that half of the crowd ended up leaving during the performance. After the concert, an upset Muti went back to his dressing room, and usually after his concerts, there would be a lot of fans waiting for an autograph, but this time, there were none. However, after a couple of minutes, he heard a knock on his door, and suddenly got excited again, as this was a fan who surely must have appreciated the artistry of him and the orchestra! He opened the door, and it was this woman who starts walking towards him. (At this point in the conversation, Muti gets up from his chair and starts physically reenacting the scene, shown in one of the photos above.) Eventually she makes her way to Muti, looks at him with “deep eyes” and says in a low voice “Maestro…who does your hair?” Muti was furious! The Philadelphia Orchestra had just performed the great B Minor Mass of Bach and all she cared about was his hair. Muti’s impersonation was the funniest thing all night, but it also shed light into how sad it is that the appreciation of classical music has declined over the years. There were also a couple of jokes that Muti made that probably shouldn’t be mentioned here, but nevertheless, they made for an incredible evening, and solidified my appreciation for Maestro Muti and what he has done not only for the world of music, but for Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.