Performance Friday, January 30, 2015 | 8 PM

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Its lush harmonies and shimmering orchestral colors makes Debussy’s La mer one of the great musical portraits of the sea and among the most popular works in the orchestral repertoire. Scriabin’s newfound mysticism and fascination with touching all the senses in a musical work is at the core of his Symphony No. 3, “The Divine Poem.” The extravagantly scored symphony has an intoxicating richness of sound.


  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Riccardo Muti, Music Director and Conductor


  • MENDELSSOHN Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture
  • DEBUSSY La mer
  • SCRIABIN Symphony No. 3, "The Divine Poem"

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    Founded in 1891, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. Since 2010, the preeminent conductor Riccardo Muti has served as its 10th music director. Pierre Boulez is the CSO's Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus, Yo-Yo Ma is its Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, and Mason Bates and Anna Clyne are its Mead Composers-in-Residence.

    From Baroque through contemporary music, the CSO commands a vast repertoire. Its renowned musicians annually perform more than 150 concerts, most at Symphony Center in Chicago and, each summer, at the suburban Ravinia Festival. They regularly tour nationally and internationally. Since 1892, the CSO has made 58 international tours, performing in 29 countries on five continents.

    People around the world listen to weekly radio broadcasts of CSO concerts and recordings on the WFMT network and online at Recordings by the CSO have earned 62 Grammy Awards, including two in 2011 for Mr. Muti's recording with the CSO and Chorus of Verdi's Messa da Requiem (Mr. Muti's first of four releases with the CSO to date).

    The CSO is part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, which includes the Chicago Symphony Chorus (Duain Wolfe, Director and Conductor) and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training ensemble. Through its Symphony Center Presents series, the CSOA presents guest artists from a variety of genres-classical, jazz, world, and contemporary.

    The Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO offers community and education programs that annually engage more than 200,000 people of diverse ages and backgrounds. Through the Institute and other activities, including a free annual concert with Mr. Muti and the CSO, the CSO promotes the concept of Citizen Musicianship™: using the power of music to create connections and build community.

    The CSO is supported by tens of thousands of patrons, volunteers, and institutional and individual donors. The CSO's music director position is endowed in perpetuity by a generous gift from the Zell Family Foundation. The Negaunee Foundation provides generous support in perpetuity for the work of the Negaunee Music Institute. Bank of America is the Global Sponsor of the CSO.

    Riccardo Muti

    Born in Naples, Italy, Riccardo Muti is one of the preeminent conductors of our day. When he became the 10th music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2010, Mr. Muti already had more than 40 years of experience at the helm of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (1968-1980), the Philharmonia Orchestra (1972-1982), The Philadelphia Orchestra (1980-1992), and Teatro alla Scala (1986-2005). He continues to be in demand as a guest conductor for other orchestras and opera houses around the world.

    Since 1971, Mr. Muti has been closely associated with the Salzburg Festival and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he is an honorary member. When he conducted the Philharmonic's 150th anniversary concert in 1992, Mr. Muti was presented with the Golden Ring, a special sign of esteem, and in 2001, his artistic contributions to the orchestra were further recognized with the Otto Nicolai Gold Medal.

    Mr. Muti studied piano at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella in Naples, graduating with distinction. He subsequently received a diploma in composition and conducting from the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, also graduating with distinction.

    Throughout his career, Mr. Muti has demonstrated a strong commitment to training young musicians. In 2004, he founded the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini (Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra), and in 2015, he begins the Riccardo Muti Italian Opera Academy to train young conductors, répétiteurs, and singers in the Italian opera repertoire.

    Since 1997, as part of a project of the Ravenna Festival in Italy titled Le vie dell'amicizia (The Paths of Friendship), Mr. Muti has annually conducted large-scale concerts in troubled areas around the world, using music to promote hope and unity and to bring attention to social, cultural, and humanitarian issues.

    Mr. Muti has received numerous honors from Italy, the United States, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Israel, Spain, Russia, Sweden, and the Vatican, as well as more than 20 honorary degrees from universities across the globe.

    His vast catalog of recordings, numbering in the hundreds, ranges from traditional symphonic and operatic repertoire to contemporary works. Mr. Muti also has written two books, Verdi, l'italiano and Riccardo Muti: An Autobiography: First the Music, Then the Words, both published in several languages.

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Debussy's La Mer (Jeux De Vagues, Allegro)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra | Fritz Reiner, Conductor

At a Glance

FELIX MENDELSSOHN  Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, Op. 27

Mendelssohn wrote this concert overture, based on two of Goethe’s poems, in 1828. Like Beethoven, Mendelssohn was not a man of the sea—he had seen the ocean just once—but he understood that the essence of Goethe’s journey was personal, not nautical. In Mendelssohn’s hands, Goethe’s subtext of stasis, crisis, and transformation becomes a grand orchestral narrative. Mendelssohn perfectly captures the “deathly stillness” of the opening and the sudden surge as the winds pick up.


Debussy’s childhood summers at Cannes left him with vivid memories of the sea. Like the great British painter J. M. W. Turner, whose work he greatly admired, Debussy worked from memory, occasionally turning for inspiration to a few other sources. La mer, the set of three symphonic sketches Debussy composed between 1903 and 1905, repeatedly resists traditional analysis. “We must agree,” Debussy writes, “that the beauty of a work of art will always remain a mystery, in other words, we can never be absolutely sure ‘how it’s made.’”

ALEXANDER SCRIABIN  Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 43, The Divine Poem

Scriabin began his musical life as a pianist and his composing career writing only piano pieces. When he wrote a piano concerto in 1896—the first of his works to call for orchestra—he had not yet discovered the voice that would ultimately make his music unique. Three years later, he began his first symphony. With his Third Symphony, Scriabin felt the need for a descriptive subtitle, The Divine Poem, recognizing that his ideas were beginning to outgrow the symphonic model. The Divine Poem is the pivotal work in Scriabin’s output; it is also a transitional work in another sense, for it marks Scriabin’s transformation from a promising composer to a true original.

Program Notes
This performance is proudly supported by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
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