Maestro Muti made a rare December appearance in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, due to some problems surrounding a guest conductor for CSO (http://music.newcity.com/2015/12/03/muti-to-make-rare-december-appearance-with-cso/), so it was obvious that I had to go see him during reading period. Plus, he was conducing Beethoven’s 8th symphony, and I had never seen him conduct a Beethoven symphony live (I had only seen videos, in combination with listening to his recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies with the Philadelphia Orchestra).
In addition to the 8th, Muti was also conducting Scriabin’s Prometheus with soloist Kirill Gerstein at the piano. Gerstein played with the right amount of expression and drama required for this “Poem of Fire” and in combination with the orchestra and chorus under Muti’s baton, the piece proved to be a great highlight.
Additionally, Muti celebrated his 250th concert with the CSO. They presented him with the program from his first concert with the CSO (during Ravinia) and the program from his 250th concert in a commemorative frame. He also gave a speech about the absolute greatness of the CSO, in which his opinion (where he emphasized that his opinion is the opinion) was that the CSO was the best orchestra in the world. It was refreshing to hear this statement of affirmation for the CSO, as he usually lumps in the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic when asked about the best orchestras in the world – but then again, the CSO wouldn’t have become the best orchestra in the world without Muti’s leadership! Now that Muti has conducted 250 concerts, it’s only natural to look forward to another 250! (Time to look at the CSO calendar and see what Muti is doing for 2016.)