Muti Conducts Beethoven 2 / 5…and a Bacri World Premiere

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog (sorry about that!). I, like millions worldwide, have been making the adjustments to working at home, now that school has pretty much all but completely shut down, and so I was kind of occupied these past couple of weeks. However, I did want to give a quick recap of the last program of Maestro Muti’s 3 week residency in February, which is a nice throwback to happier times. I’ll also write some more posts about other performances I got the chance to attend, as well as some thoughts about the current state of the spring seasons, which aren’t quite as happy, but nevertheless, still important to reflect upon.

After the orchestra’s week-long trip to Florida, two Beethoven symphonies and a world premiere piece made up the final (sold-out) program to conclude the last week of Maestro Muti’s February residency! The two symphonies were Beethoven’s 2nd and 5th symphonies, and the world premiere was Nicolas Bacri’s Ophelia’s Tears, a quasi-concerto (or officially deemed as a “concertante elegy”) written for the bass clarinet. The soloist, in this case, was J. Lawrie Bloom (a faculty member at Northwestern!), who has been the CSO’s principal bass clarinetist since the Solti era! I have to admit, it’s pretty cool how Maestro Muti showcases different key members of the CSO as soloists throughout the season, whether in well-known concerti or new pieces like the Bacri. From the piccolo, to the low brass instruments, to the cello/violin, and now to the bass clarinet, many different and important facets of the orchestra have been explored throughout the past couple of seasons, and that always makes these concerts really cool learning experiences.

Delving into the Second Symphony of Beethoven’s, which has risen to become one of my favorites of the 9.

It’s a sad, unfortunate truth that the even numbered symphonies of Beethoven are typically less popular than the odd-numbered ones (save for maybe the 6th symphonie (Pastoral)?), but when you usually think about what constitutes quintessential Beethoven, it’s hard not to escape the presence of the 3rd/5th/7th/9th symphonies, which truly are each their own masterpieces in their own right. However, I honestly think the second symphony of Beethoven deserves its rightful place among the greatest symphonies…like seriously the first and fourth movements comprise some of the best music ever written. Maestro Muti frequently noted during the week that since this symphony is only the second of Beethoven’s, it should still be played with the mentality of playing Mozart…and there are just so many similarities that one can, for example, find with the overtures of Le Nozze di Figaro or Die Zauberflote. Regardless of the similarities to the earlier traditions of Viennese classicism, there is still an unmistakable tinge of darkness and drama that characterizes the works of Beethoven. So, what a treat it was to have this symphony paired up with the well-known 5th Symphony, which is probably the work that most people associate with Beethoven (can’t forget the uber-famous da-da-da-DUM opening 😀 ), which was pulled off with ultimate finesse and cohesiveness—a thrilling conclusion to great music-making in February!

Nice to be with other community members across the city of Chicago for the final dress rehearsal!

Finally, to cap off the residency, after the final program on Sunday finished, Maestro Muti held a CD signing to celebrate the release of the new CSO Resound recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (“Babi Yar”), the performance, of which the recording is derived from, that I was fortunate enough to attend in the fall of 2018. Although I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy of the recording yet, I thought I’d instead bring a book to the signing, as I think the books afford a little bit more room for a signature 😉

A poster in the Symphony Store detailing Maestro Muti’s signing!

Anyways, I picked up this really cool book from Maestro Muti’s Scala years, specifically one that was written on the occasion of Rossini’s Moise et Pharaon being performed at La Scala. The book features a collection of essays on Rossini and his works, written by a number of different authors, including Maestro Muti and the late musicology scholar/UChicago faculty member, Prof. Philip Gossett. I remember Maestro Muti telling us one day that Rossini’s masterpiece isn’t The Barber of Seville, but rather his works like Moise et Pharaon, La Donna del Lago, and William Tell, and so I thought it might be nice to bring this book to the signing. (You can imagine the look of surprise I got when I handed the book to him 😀 ). Anyways, a fantastic conclusion to Maestro Muti’s February residency—little did I know that this might very well have been the last residency for this season 😦 —I’ll get to that in another post. Until now, hope everyone is staying safe and healthy at home…remember #StayHomeSaveLives!

Some pages from my newly signed book…(honestly though, Maestro Muti’s dedications are the kindest)…grazie mille Maestro!

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