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Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Saturday, November 16, 2019 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Riccardo Muti by Todd Rosenberg Photography
For high-octane energy, sweeping melodies, and kaleidoscopic orchestral colors, the ballet selections and fiery symphony on this all-Prokofiev program has it all. To raise the excitement, the performers are Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, musicians who have a long and glorious history with this music. The Telegraph said of their live recording of the ballet selections, “the orchestra … plays with a radiant spectrum of color,” while the Chicago Sun-Times said “Muti’s concept of Prokofiev’s Third Symphony could not sound bigger, or more modern, or more thrilling.”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra is also performing November 15.


Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, Music Director and Conductor



Selections from Romeo and Juliet

Symphony No. 3

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission. Please note there will be no late seating before intermission.

In honor of the centenary of his birth, Carnegie Hall’s 2019–2020 season is dedicated to the memory of Isaac Stern in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to Carnegie Hall, arts advocacy, and the field of music.

At a Glance

Although no other play by Shakespeare has inspired as many musical treatments as Romeo and Juliet, including more than 20 operas, Sergei Prokofiev’s is the first large-scale ballet. It’s one of his most important works, merging the primitive style of his radical earlier music, a newfound classicism, and the sumptuous lyricism of which he was so proud. During Prokofiev’s last trip to Chicago, in January 1937, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in selections from his new, still-unstaged ballet. He told the Chicago Tribune that his Romeo and Juliet featured the kind of “new melodic line” that he thought would prove to be the salvation of modern music—one, he said, that would have immediate appeal, yet sound like nothing written before.

The Third Symphony is one of Prokofiev’s most intensely modern works. It begins at a fever pitch, with some of the noisiest and most searing music the composer ever wrote, and although the opening slowly dissolves into a big, richly melodic theme, there are more loud, obsessively repetitive, and dissonant passages to follow. The slow second movement, magically colored and delicately orchestrated, brings music of restraint and relief. The third movement is a grotesque scherzo, filled with special effects (the violin glissandos are particularly spooky). This is wild and untamed music that is, nevertheless, constructed with great care. “I worked a great deal on the scherzo between rehearsals,” Prokofiev wrote in his autobiography, “increasing or decreasing the number of bars and trying to find the correct proportion.” A slower, dreamy, waltz-like trio does not dispel a sense of the bizarre and otherworldly. The finale begins tragically, builds through a series of increasingly frantic climaxes, relaxes just long enough to showcase Prokofiev’s melodic flair—and his penchant for imaginative orchestral color—and then lets loose with music of a sheer barbaric splendor that even Prokofiev, among the noisiest of the “moderns,” rarely surpassed.


Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Now celebrating its 129th season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is consistently hailed as one of the world’s leading orchestras. In September 2010, renowned Italian conductor ...

Now celebrating its 129th season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is consistently hailed as one of the world’s leading orchestras. In September 2010, renowned Italian conductor Riccardo Muti became its 10th music director. His vision for the orchestra—to deepen its engagement with the Chicago community, to nurture its legacy while supporting a new generation of musicians, and to collaborate with visionary artists—signals a new era for the institution.

Founded in 1891 by its first music director, Theodore Thomas, the CSO’s other distinguished music directors have included Frederick Stock, Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim. Missy Mazzoli is the CSO’s current Mead Composer-in-Residence.

The musicians of the CSO command a vast repertoire and annually perform more than 150 concerts, most at Symphony Center in Chicago, and, since 1936, in the summer at the Ravinia Festival. The CSO also tours nationally and internationally. Since its first tour to Canada in 1892, the orchestra has performed in 29 countries on five continents during 61 international tours.

Since 1916, recording has been significant in establishing the orchestra’s international reputation, with recordings by the CSO earning a total of 62 Grammy Awards. Its independent label, CSO Resound, was launched in 2007. The 2010 release of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, with the CSO and Chicago Symphony Chorus conducted by Mr. Muti, was recognized with two Grammy Awards. Listeners around the world can hear the CSO in weekly airings of the CSO Radio Broadcast Series, which is syndicated on the WFMT Radio Network and online at cso.org/radio. In addition, the CSO’s YouTube video of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, conducted by Mr. Muti, has received more than 18 million views.

Thousands of patrons, volunteers, and donors support the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association each year. 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.

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Riccardo Muti

Born in Naples, Italy, Riccardo Muti is one of the preeminent conductors of our day. In 2010, when he became the 10th music director of the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), ...

Born in Naples, Italy, Riccardo Muti is one of the preeminent conductors of our day. In 2010, when he became the 10th music director of the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), he had more than 40 years of experience at the helm of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (1968–1980), the Philharmonia Orchestra (1973–1982), The Philadelphia Orchestra (1980–1992), and Teatro alla Scala (1986–2005). He has also had a close relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Salzburg Festival for more than 45 years. He is an honorary member of Vienna’s Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna State Opera.

Mr. Muti has received innumerable international honors. He is a Cavaliere di Gran Croce of the Italian Republic, Knight Commander of the British Empire, Officer of the French Legion of Honor, Knight Grand Cross of the First Class of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, and a recipient of the German Verdienstkreuz and the Russian Order of Friendship. Mr. Muti has also received Israel’s Wolf Prize for the arts, Sweden’s Birgit Nilsson Prize, Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award, and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale and Order of the Rising Sun Gold and Silver Star, as well as the gold medal from Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Presidente della Repubblica award from the Italian government, and the Viareggio Rèpaci Special Prize. He has received more than 20 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

Mr. Muti’s vast catalog of recordings, numbering in the hundreds, ranges from the traditional symphonic and operatic repertoire to contemporary works. He also has written three books, Verdi, l’italiano; Riccardo Muti: An Autobiography: First the Music, Then the Words; and, most recently, Infinity Between the Notes: My Journey Into Music, published in May 2019 and available in Italian.

Passionate about teaching young musicians, Mr. Muti founded the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra in 2004 and the Riccardo Muti Italian Opera Academy in 2015. During his time with the CSO, Mr. Muti has won over audiences in greater Chicago and around the globe through his music making as well as his demonstrated commitment to sharing classical music. Visit riccardomutimusic.com for more information.

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