2020-2021 Chicago Symphony Season Announced!

Typically, season announcements are a happy time of the year (for me at least!), as we finally get to see what great music is in store for the upcoming months ahead. However, as I write this, a strange tinge of sadness is in the air. Kobe Bryant, one of my all-time favorite athletes, tragically passed away this past Sunday. It was wholly unexpected—my parents and I were watching some live coverage of the US Figure Skating Championships on NBC on TV and the program was suddenly interrupted by a breaking news announcement, stating that Kobe was found to be one of the victims of a helicopter crash in LA. Later that day, we and the whole world found out that there were a total of 9 victims from the crash, including Kobe’s daughter, Gianna Bryant, who also happened to be a talented basketball player in her own right. Basketball is a sport that’s very close to me, as I played it all throughout my childhood and even represented my junior high and high school teams as a power forward (and occasionally as center…I was considered to be pretty tall those days!). I really looked up to Kobe as a basketball player, especially because of his relentless intensity and drive for excellence both on and off the court. Besides basketball, he had a love for classical music, having learned how to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata by ear (no teachers at all!), and even tuned his game to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. The world has lost another great maestro…RIP Kobe #24.

However, I don’t want this post to be a complete downer, and to lift spirits, the 2020-2021 Chicago Symphony season was announced yesterday! And there’s definitely a lot to look forward to. First, I’d say that the biggest thing to look forward to is Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in September. This mass is considered to be one of Beethoven’s greatest masterpieces (he apparently considered it to be the best of all his works), and it’s an incredibly challenging piece to pull off, due to the deep, philosophical, and intellectual complexities and nuances that pervade the work. It is, indeed, for that reason that Maestro Muti hasn’t yet conducted this piece. But, lucky for us in Chicago, we’ll get to hear Maestro Muti conduct this piece for the very first time, capping off the end of Beethoven 250 celebrations. I’m sure it’ll be quite a moving experience for everyone.

Other parts of the season for which I’m very much in eager anticipation:

  • the storied Berlin Philharmonic will be performing in Chicago in November 2020, with their new chief conductor, Kirill Petrenko! I’ve always wanted to hear Karajan’s old orchestra live in concert, and it’ll definitely be very exciting to finally hear this orchestra. It isn’t too often that these top orchestras visit Chicago, so one definitely has to savor these rare moments as they come.
  • the annual Concert for Chicago, which will be held back in Millennium Park and will feature Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade. It’s easy to say that these pieces are overplayed, but to be honest, these pieces are way better than a lot of the so-called “new” pieces that are being performed nowadays, and I think it’s a pretty helpful reminder why it’s so easy to love classical music in the first place.
  • Yefim Bronfman in Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 w/ Maestro Muti (also Wagner’s Overture to Tannhäuser is on the program)…the Brahms 1 is one of my favorite piano concerti, and I absolutely loved it when Kirill Gerstein played it a couple of seasons ago with Maestro Muti. Bronfman’s Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 w/ Maestro Muti a couple of seasons ago remains one of the highlights of my memories at Symphony Center, so it’ll be great to hear him play again with Maestro Muti. Plus, another Wagner overture on the docket! This current season, I got to hear how Maestro Muti tackled the Flying Dutchman overture, and it’ll be great again to see how he approaches Tannhäuser. (Maybe we could see some pieces from Meistersinger in the future?…because hey, it was loved by Toscanini too 🙂 )
  • Respighi’s Feste Romane and Schifrin’s Theme from Mission Impossible…Respighi’s Pines of Rome has been sort of a signature piece for Maestro Muti and the CSO, so it’ll be great to hear the third of the works of Respighi’s “Roman trilogy”. And with the Mission Impossible piece on the program as well…I think it’ll definitely be a very fun concert 😀
  • Maestro Muti conducting Anita Rachvelishvili in Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody. For those who don’t know, Maestro Muti recorded this piece in Philadelphia with the late mezzo-soprano, the great Jessye Norman, and so to have this performance with one of the great mezzo sopranos today, Anita Rachvelishvili (whose Amneris is hands down one of the best operatic performances I’ve ever witnessed live), will be a treat to experience. Cherubini’s Mass for Coronation of Charles X is also on the program, and considering the brilliance of Cherubini’s Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn, I’m pretty sure that the mass will be great as well (it isn’t any coincidence why Beethoven considered Cherubini to be his greatest contemporary!).
  • A night of Italian opera to close the season, featuring Maestro Muti conducting soloists Krassimira Stoyanova and Francesco Meli. Similar to how the 2016-2017 closed, featuring the program of “Italian Opera Masterworks” (from which a CSO Resound recording was produced), Maestro Muti will lead this program as the finale for the ’20-’21 season. There hasn’t been a program listed yet, but I’m hoping there’ll be Verdi and maybe some Bellini / Donizetti on the program. Or maybe some Puccini / Leoncavallo / Giordano / Catalani? Nevertheless, it’ll be a befitting end to the second-to-last season of Maestro Muti’s tenure as MD here 😦

Also, the CSO will be visiting summer festivals in 2021! I believe the Salzburg Festival is on the docket, as well as the Lucerne Festival and one in London, but more details will be coming on that soon :). It would be absolutely amazing to hear the CSO perform in the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg, so maybe a trip to Salzburg might be in the future (though, I’ll have to consider my impending PhD candidacy exam…)!

Unrelated to the CSO, but with regards to future seasons, Maestro Muti is planning on conducting Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 2021 (Teatro San Carlo) and Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra in 2022 (Maggio Musicale di Fiorentino)! I do wish that he would also conduct these in Chicago, but hey…we’ll be getting Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera in Chicago, also in 2022, so I think that’ll suffice 🙂

Anyways, that’s it for this post! I’m headed back to Symphony Center next week as we’ll soon be starting rehearsals for Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana!!! Will report back on the final performances next week 😀

The 2020-2021 season begins with another Concert for Chicago at Millennium Park!

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