Il Direttore Musicale della Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, racconta la vita in Italia e il ruolo della musica in questo momento
– di Howard Reich | 23 marzo 2020
The last time Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti conducted a concert, Feb. 23 in Orchestra Hall, few of us realized that the music was about to stop.
By March 12, Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered a halt to large gatherings in the wake of the deadly coronavirus, shutting down large Chicago venues such as Symphony Center. A few days later, Pritzker expanded the moratorium to bars and restaurants, meaning that live music went silent across Illinois.
After Muti’s last CSO concert, in which he performed Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5 and Nicolas Bacri’s “Ophelia’s Tears,” the conductor returned to his home in Ravenna, Italy – and has been there ever since.
Italy now stands as the coronavirus’ epicenter. And Muti marvels at the country’s heroes and grieves for its dead.
“The Italians have shown in this difficult, difficult time a great sense of discipline and courage,” said Muti, speaking by phone from his home.
“In questo momento difficile, gli italiani hanno dimostrato un grande senso di rigore e coraggio.”, racconta Muti, parlando dal telefono di casa.
“For people that generally are considered extroverts, we are giving an image of a country that when it’s the moment – when the moment becomes very serious – we are like one person. So, of course, there are a few people that still don’t obey the rule, but this is a very small minority. To see the Italians to stay outside the pharmacy or market – all in line, distant, at least one meter, it’s something that we – it’s a new experience for us.”
“Per essere un popolo generalmente considerato “estroverso”, stiamo dando dimostrazione di un Paese che, quando le cose si fanno serie, diventa come un’unica persona. Ovviamente c’è chi non segue ancora le regole, ma è una piccola minoranza. Vedere gli italiani fuori dalle farmacie o dai supermercati, tutti in fila, distanti almeno un metro gli uni dagli altri, è per noi un’esperienza nuova.”
“Because generally people know that in the past, even when we have to go to a bus, instead of having an English line full of discipline, we have an assault. But now, in this moment, everybody is trying his best.”
“Perché generalmente si sa che in passato, anche quando dobbiamo salire sull’autobus, invece di formare una fila lineare e disciplinata, lo prendiamo d’assalto. Ma adesso, in questo momento, tutti stanno cercando di fare del proprio meglio.”
Still, as the casualties mount and the disease spreads, there’s no escaping the pandemic’s toll. Especially in Muti’s homeland.
“Italy, where many people die in the hospital, they cannot even have the comfort of the relatives,” said Muti. “The husband or the wife or the father or the son cannot go to say the last goodbye, to hold the hand.
“So people die in absolute solitude. And the other day, I saw on television, Bergamo – one of the cities more in trouble – in the evening a long line of (Army) trucks full of coffins, a long line going to the cemetery. And now the cemeteries are full. And people don’t know where to put (the dead).”
“If we start to analyze the situation, in every detail, it’s so tragic that we should really be more than desperate. Where do you find comfort? Where?”
For Muti and for listeners around the world, some comfort and consolation, escape and hope, can be found in music. This is why, he said, we all have seen so many videos of Italians singing together outside their apartments – physically separated but united in song.
“Napoli, the city where people were outside the balconies singing – that is not a sign of superficiality,” said Muti. “It is the typical way of the Italians, and especially for the Neopolitans, to find a way through the music, through singing, to push away the evil.
“…i canti sui balconi non sono un segno di superficialità. Sono il classico modo degli italiani, soprattutto dei napoletani, di trovare una via di uscita attraverso la musica, attraverso il canto.”
“In any case, we remember the phrase that I told you one evening: St. Augustine, he said: ‘Cantare amantis est,’” which roughly translates as “singing belongs to one who loves.”
Or as Muti interpreted it, “If you love mankind, if you love nature around you, you feel that you can sing the glory.”
So the conductor – whose post-Chicago concerts in Japan, Vienna and Paris were canceled – also turned to music. Now he can spend time at the piano playing Schumann, Chopin and Debussy, he said. More important, he has immersed himself in one of the most profound and mysterious works ever penned: Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis.”
Muti is scheduled to conduct the CSO in the massive composition Sept. 24-26 in Orchestra Hall, toward the beginning of the next season. He finds that the current grave moment – in which millions, including himself, are confined to home – may be ideal for trying to understand an epic work that ponders nothing less than humanity’s place in the universe.
“Now my mind is completely in ‘Missa Solemnis,’” said Muti. “Going back to the score after so many decades – I started to look at the score in 1970. Then I left because it was too complicated.” To clarify, he then said, “Not complicated, because I was a very good student of counterpoint, and ‘Missa Solemnis’ is the triumph of counterpoint.
“But it was too mystical, too deep, too high. I was not able to – to conduct is one thing, to move the arms. (But) to go deeply into this kind of mysterious music, where counterpoint becomes not just an exercise but all these lines so full of intensity. It’s clear that Beethoven in the ‘Missa Solemnis’ has reached the highest level not only of inspiration, but also the craft. His technique as a composer – using the counterpoint and winning against the rules of the counterpoint itself!”
“Now that I’m studying the score, after having for years conducted so much music of different composers, I am approaching this score with a new perspective, with a deeper understanding.”
“In questo momento sono completamente assorto nella Missa Solemnis