Muti’s triumph at La Scala: “I came back home”

Trionfo di Muti alla Scala: “Sono tornato a casa mia”

– by Flaminia Bussotti | January 23, 2020

Inside the article you can find the free translation of a few sentences in red

IL CONCERTO
Dopo Napoli e Firenze, tocca a Milano chiudere il cerchio di questo viaggio della memoria che Riccardo Muti ha compiuto, con tre tappe in Italia, sul podio della sua Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Europa, l’ammiraglia fra le orchestre americane di cui è a capo dal 2010. Le tre città ricostruiscono l’itinerario artistico e sentimentale del maestro a Napoli è nato, ha studiato e si è formato, a Firenze ha preso il via, giovanissimo, la sua ascesa professionale – ma è a Milano, alla Scala, dove ha trascorso il capitolo più lungo della sua carriera, e dove ha regalato al pubblico in 20 anni un carnet fulminante operistico e sinfonico.

APPLAUSI
Ed è alla Scala che il pubblico si è lasciato prendere dal trasporto, riservandogli un’accoglienza da figliol prodigo. Scrosci di applausi e standing ovations, urla di bravo e ben tornato maestro. «Come tornare a casa – ha detto dopo il concerto – Tornare sul palco lasciato da tanti anni è stato come continuare un cammino interrotto perché il mio amore per questo palco e questa città non è mai terminato». Il programma scaligero era lo stesso eseguito due sere prima a Firenze l’Ouverture dall’opera di Richard Wagner L’Olandese Volante, la Sinfonia Mathis il pittore di Paul Hindemith e nella seconda parte dopo l’intervallo la Sinfonia n. 3 di Serghei Prokofiev, un colosso sinfonico dove l’orchestra ha potuto dispiegare tutta la maestosità degli ottoni e degli archi.

It is at La Scala that the audience let itself be overcome with emotion, welcoming [Riccardo Muti] like the prodigal son with a burst of thunderous applause and a standing ovation, shouts of Bravo and Welcome back, Maestro. “It felt like coming back home – he said after the concert – Going back on the stage I left many years ago was like keeping on a path I never strayed from, because my love for this stage and this city never faded.”

Flaminia Bussotti, Il Messaggero, January 23, 2020

 

The great (and touching) return of Muti «I was hugged by the entire Scala»

Il grande (e commosso) ritorno di Muti «Sono stato abbracciato da tutta la Scala»

– by Piera Anna Franini | January 24, 2020

Inside the article you can find the free translation of a few sentences in red

Quando Riccardo Muti si rivolge al pubblico della Scala per annunciare il bis, la voce tradisce l’emozione. Quello di mercoledì scorso non è il Muti visto a Firenze o a Napoli, per citare le precedenti tappe del tour chiuso ieri a Lugano. È commosso. Ha appena diretto la Chicago Symphony, da dieci anni la sua orchestra e con la quale è puro idillio. Sono i vent’anni al timone della Scala a provocare l’emozione che la voce, vero specchio dell’anima, ci riconsegna. Anche i musicisti suonano con una partecipazione e un calore particolari: sentono il significato della tappa milanese. Nel parterre, il ministro della Cultura accolto dal sovrintendete Dominique Meyer che spera di avere di nuovo Muti alla Scala «perché è tempo di rappacificamento e di chiusura di vecchie ferite». Quindi il sindaco, il pianista Maurizio Pollini, l’architetto Mario Botta. Quanto all’imprenditoria, fra gli altri Miuccia Prada e Massimo Perotti della Sanlorenzo. Finito il concerto, un successo, Muti rimane in teatro per un’altra ora e mezza. Incontra i ragazzi di Un Coro in Città, progetto dell’Accademia scaligera e Tim. «Vi raccomando. Cantate ascoltando gli altri. L’armonia è quella che ci guida nella nostra so…?». E i bimbi: «…cietà!». Il direttore prosegue: «La musica è importante non per fare do re mi fa, ma perché cantare e suonare insieme, in armonia, è l’esempio che dovrebbe avere una società civile. Purtroppo molti ancora non l’hanno capito, e non solamente adesso ma da generazioni e generazioni: parlo delle persone che dovrebbero guidare il Paese. Per questo crediamo nel vostro lavoro, nell’amore per la musica. Ci vedremo più avanti, io sarò un po’ più corto e voi un po’ più grandi».
Nel foyer, coda per la firma dei dischi. Un respiro. E la confessione. «Sono stato abbracciato dal teatro. Accolto da musicisti, membri del coro, macchinisti, tecnici e portieri con un affetto e un calore come se fossi andato via ieri. Sembra una frase retorica, ma la realtà è che per me è stato un ritorno a casa. Questo affetto mi ha dato una grande gioia. Quando sono salito sul palco, era come se stessi continuando un cammino mai interrotto, come se non fossero trascorsi 20 anni. Del resto, nel mio cuore l’amore per questo teatro non si è mai interrotto. Non rinnego neanche un giorno. C’è una storia di 50 opere, dischi, concerti. Vent’anni di vita di un artista non si dimenticano. E il fatto che alla fine l’orchestra non si sia voluta alzare, cosa che non fa mai, è stato per dire al pubblico di Milano: “Questo è il nostro direttore. Voi lo amate, noi lo amiamo”».

“I was hugged by the entire theater. Welcomed by musicians, members of the chorus, stagehands, technicians and janitors with such an affection and warmth as if I had left yesterday. This might seem rhetoric, but the truth is that to me it was like returning home. This fondness brought me great joy. When I went on stage it felt like walking along a path I never left. As if 20 years had never passed. After all, in my heart the love for this theater never died. I do not disown a single day. Our history counts 50 operas, discs, concerts. Twenty years life of an artist can’t simply be forgotten. And the fact that in the end the orchestra decided not to stand up, which they never do, was to tell the audience: “This is our conductor. You love him, we love him.”

Robert Chen, da 21 anni primo violino della Chicago Symphony, lo ammette: «Siamo tristi all’idea che il mandato di Muti si concluda nel 2022. Però, il Maestro ha un’età in cui può permettersi di dire: “Adesso basta”, liberandosi dal gioco delle responsabilità. Lascerà un’orchestra in ottima forma, senza rimpianti e frizioni». Già si è costituita una commissione per individuare il successore, «ma è difficile trovare un così grande musicista. A Chicago siamo grati a Muti: avrebbe potuto fare tante cose, e accettò di lavorare con noi. È stato un bel decennio, siamo molto legati a lui. Si presenta alle prove sempre super-preparato. Chiede tanto, affronta ogni situazione con estrema serietà, ma sa anche sciogliere la tensione».
Chi è Muti? «Una combinazione di intelletto, brillantezza, capacità di comando. E carisma: tanto carisma». Non lo dice l’appassionato di musica o il critico (spesso) ignaro di studi musicali. Lo dice Robert Chen, numero uno di un’orchestra nella top 5 al mondo.

Piera Anna Franini, Il Giornale, January 24, 2020

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Muti: Tour to the Italy that I love; Back to La Scala, the theater of my heart

– by Valerio Cappelli | January 02, 2020

Ten years after his appointment as Music Director, on the 9th of this month Riccardo Muti starts a European tour with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO): on the 11th there’s a stopover in Vienna, where he will eventually conduct the 2021 New Year’s Concert. The tour will touch Italy: on the 19th at the San Carlo of Naples, on the 20th at the Opera of Florence, and on the 22nd at La Scala.

 Maestro, how did you choose the Italian cities?

«Those are the fundamental ones for me: the first one is the city where I was born and graduated in piano; the second is where, in 1968, at the Maggio in Florence, everything started, and they talk of a Boccanegra directed by me. Milan is the city of the long La Scala period of which I don’t regret anything, not even one day; the memory of important things is very much alive in me and nobody can erase it. »

In Chicago, you’re only the tenth Music Director in 129 years of life of the CSO.

«I’ve inherited a great orchestra, maybe the most charismatic and famous in the US. It’s had an essence of very important directors, of a German mold. It was created in 1891 by Theodore Thomas».

Is it true that they used to speak German before English?

«The CSO programs that I’ve seen in the archive were printed in German. Frederick Stock, Thomas’ successor, was his fellow countryman and directed the world first performance of Casella’s Third Symphony, after meeting him in Venice. Many premieres in the US took place in Chicago. The CSO had as Music Directors not talented artists at the beginning of their career but Kubelik, Solti, Baremboim and, during a transition period, Haitink and Boulez -all giants of interpretation. »

And your appointment?

«I didn’t want to have steady institutional commitments after London, Florence, Philadelphia and La Scala. I had declined the leadership of the New York Philharmonic twice. In 2007, after a 34 year long gap, I directed the CSO in a tour. It was an extraordinary match… on the artistic and human level. I received sixty letters from musicians of the Orchestra in which they expressed their joy. I went back there soon for a concert and then I agreed to become their director.».

And the work in Chicago?

«The Orchestra is famous for its brass section, and Solti pushed it towards the vigor and the emphasis of powerful sound. Barenboim developed more balance with bows and woodwinds. Through the Italian opera that the orchestra loves so much (we did Macbeth, Falstaff, Otello and in a month we’ll do Cavalleria Rusticana), I have added the phrasing and clarity of sound lacking in the past.».

Chicago paved the way to many women musicians.

«The first African American director, Harris, made her debut in ’71 in Chicago; in ‘41 the horn player Helen Kotas became first horn, which had never happened before. Although in the cinema Chicago is identified with gangsters, it’s the heart of America, modern, dynamic, where great architecture and universities were born. And it’s extremely clean, if I think of Rome…».

Speaking of Italy, are you strengthening your relationship with your Naples?

«I speak the Neapolitan dialect quite well, I attended the Vittorio Emanuele high school where, in the entrance hall there’s a commemorative plaque with some famous alumni; I’m among them, too. The doorman told me: Maestro you’re in front of me, every day. At school they taught us to bad-mouth the Bourbons who were extraordinary for culture. The San Carlo Theater was built in nine months. Opening up to the future, one shouldn’t forget about one’s roots. In Naples there’s a cultural center, a theater, the Conservatory where there are thousands of forgotten music scores waiting to be discovered, the Girolamini library: they can be connected to create a great art center. The past can become the driving force of the future. It’s the city where Mozart wanted his genius to be recognized. In a letter to his father, he writes: even if they don’t pay much, a performance in Naples is worth one hundred in Germany.».

They talk of your Don Giovanni at the San Carlo.

«Next November I will conduct a concert in 2021, Don Giovanni with the artistic direction by Chiara, my daughter; who, though having her own independence and freedom, will never do anything provocative, since she grew up in Strehler’s artistic world. It’s the most enigmatic, mysterious opera, even obscure in some points. During the dress rehearsal, in 1987, at La Scala theater, Strehler told me, disheartened: we didn’t do Don Giovanni. And nobody will ever do it! ».

And an opera in Milan?

«I highly respect Dominique Meyer, the new director, whom I’ve known for many years; it’s important that he continues along an international path and I wish him the best for his work. Will I go back for an opera? For now, I’m going back with the Chicago Orchestra. I spent twenty years of my life in Milan, I love the Milanese audience and I’m saying it without any sycophancy. In the infamous ranking of applause, the opera that deserves the first place was Gluck’s Armida, not Verdi. I’m going back to La Scala very happily, taking the orchestra of my heart to the theater of my heart.».

In the USA you’re bonded until 2022: would you rule out the possibility of a third renewal?

«One should never rule out anything. I’ve already extended it, on their request. In ’22 we will come back for the festivals: Salzburg, Lucerne, London. I’d like to be free, too, despite the fact that’s an extraordinary relationship. There are other ways to remain bonded.».

Valerio Cappelli, Il Corriere della Sera, January 02, 2020

A World Class Orchestra in Cologne The Ultimate in Orchestral Art

– by Wolfram Goertz | January 10, 2020

Translation by M. Falkenberg

There are very good orchestras. There are excellent orchestras. There are great orchestras. And then there is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

It is a rarity in the international classic jet set to find an orchestra of sometimes almost uncanny competence; an occasion for hysteria even among seasoned fans. The CSO could play the two-hour suite “The Gates of Tashkent” by the Uzbek composer Rustam Yanovski, and the concert would still be sold out.

This time it was at the Cologne Philharmonic—the CSO’s first concert there in 20 years—where the musicians from Lake Michigan played Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3 in C minor, a tough, seemingly impenetrable work that you are not likely to put into your CD player at home. It was a revelation in concert because two things came together that gave the interpretation a huge boost.

On the one hand, there was the orchestra’s icy coldness—fueling enthusiasm in the audience—which did not miss a nuance of the timbres, rhythms, or the brittle melodic structure. The scherzo’s almost phosphorescent sound was overwhelming (it could undoubtedly function as a soundtrack for the shower scene in “Psycho”).

At the same time, you were able to experience the suggestiveness resulting from the calmness of the great Riccardo Muti conveyed at the stand. The performance was uninhibited, it was not as if it had the label “thriller” attached to it; instead, it was as if you were standing in a mountain stream, enjoying the music, which flooded imperceptibly until you suddenly stood up to your neck in the water. The cinematographic force of this approach was overpowering in a humane way.

Before the break—it was an all-Prokofiev evening—”Romeo and Juliet” was given, of which there is a brilliant, five-year-old recording with CSO and Muti. Again, Muti did not perform like an actor who wants to prove to the audience how fit and agile he is at 78, but rather, he demonstrated through sovereignty that the story about Romeo and Juliet also has a noble side and is not only dripping with heartache or vibrating with passion.

The CSO, once again spectacular with luxury and brilliance, moved through the story highlighting countless precious details that you would like to tell your grandchildren or godchildren about on the morning after the concert. Already the beginning with the cilia-fine chords from the strings or the moments of perfectly absorbed violence in “Tybalt’s Death” made it clear how high the bar had been set in Verona that evening. Applause by a profoundly shaken audience was followed by an encore of Scriabin’s “Rêverie.” Yes, we will dream of this concert for a long time.

Wolfram Goertz, RP Online, January 10, 2020

The original article:

Köln. Das Chicago Symphony Orchestra gastierte unter Riccardo Muti mit einem reinen Prokofieff-Programm in der Kölner Philharmonie.

– by Wolfram Goertz | January 10, 2020

Es gibt sehr gute Orchester. Es gibt exzellente Orchester. Es gibt grandiose Orchester. Und es gibt das Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Es ist eine Rarität im internationalen Klassik-Jet-Set, ein Orchester von bisweilen fast irrealer Kompetenz, Anlass für Hysterie selbst unter hartgesottenen Freaks. Das CSO könnte im Konzert die zweistündige Suite „An der Stadtmauer von Taschkent“ des usbekischen Komponisten Rustam Yanovsky spielen, es wäre trotzdem ausverkauft.

Diesmal in der Kölner Philharmonie – dem ersten Konzert des CSO dort seit 19 Jahren – spielten die musizierenden Kapitäne vom Michigansee nach der Pause die Symphonie Nr. 3 c-Moll von Serge Prokofieff, ein zähes, undurchdringlich wirkendes Werk, das man sich daheim kaum freiwillig in den CD-Player legen würde. Im Konzert war es eine Offenbarung, weil zwei Dinge zusammenkamen, die der Interpretation einen gewaltigen Schub verpassten.

Zum einen war da die den Hörer schier erhitzende Eiseskälte des Orchesters, das sich keine Nuance der Klangfarben, der Rhythmen, der spröden Melodik entgehen ließ. Der fast phosphoreszierende Sound des Scherzos überwältigte (das fraglos als Soundtrack für die Duschszene in „Psycho“  funktionieren könnte).

Zugleich erlebte man die Suggestivität der Gelassenheit, die der große Riccardo Muti am Pult vermittelte. Das Musizieren krampfte nicht, es hing nicht das Etikett „Thriller“ dran, vielmehr stand man in einem Bach, genoss die Musik, die aber derart unmerklich anflutete, dass man plötzlich bis zum Hals im Wasser stand. Die cinematografische Wucht dieses Zugriffs war auf humane Weise niederschmetternd.

Vor der Pause – es war ein reiner Prokofieff-Abend – erklang die „Romeo und Julia“-Suite, von der ein bravouröser, fünf Jahre alter Mitschnitt mit CSO und Muti vorliegt. Abermals gab Muti nicht den Schauspieler, der dem Publikum beweisen will, wie fit und wendig er mit 78 Jahren noch ist, sondern machte durch Souveränität klar, dass die Geschichte um Romeo und Julia auch eine noble, adlige Seite hat und nicht nur vor Herzschmerz trieft, vor Leidenschaft vibriert.

Das CSO, abermals überwältigend durch Luxus und Brillanz, durchmaß die Story mit zahllosen kostbaren Details, von denen man den Enkeln oder Patenkindern am Morgen nach dem Konzert sofort erzählen möchte. Schon der Beginn mit den flimmerhärchenfeinen Streicherakkorden oder die Momente der perfekt abgefederten Gewalt in „Tybalts Tod“ machten klar, wie hoch die Laternen von Verona an diesem Abend hingen. Erschütterter Beifall, als Zugabe Skrjabins „Rêverie“. Ja, von diesem Konzert werden wir noch lange träumen.

Wolfram Goertz, RP Online, January 10, 2020

For the Echo Chamber of the Soul

– by Malte Hemmerich | January 11, 2020

Translation by M. Falkenberg

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra start their tour in Cologne.

Seldom does a beginning captivate in such an unconditional way: at the moment at which Riccardo Muti lifts the baton in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall, smiles quietly but surely, and a dissonant and stratified chord hits the pit of the stomach in a manner both well prepared and unexpectedly, the audience is completely banned.

Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” is played here in a relatively free succession, highlights from the suites that the composer put together from his ballet music. And even if it is a bit lurid: it is not just the exuberant savoring of composed effects that makes this first half of the concert so attractive. Prokofiev’s ballet suites offer a lot of possibilities to play with contrasts, to switch to other tempos, colors, moods at lightning speed. The musical sections themselves are fleeting. If you have just grasped them with your ear, the individual movements are usually already over.

At the start of their European tour, which will take them to Paris next, Muti and his musicians don’t build small fires. Their warmth is more permanent than that of a smoldering piece of coal and wanders from the madrigal, into the minuet, and then into the mask dance. And yes, the musicians from Chicago play the suite in a mercilessly late romantic style. At the climax, the movement at which Shakespeare’s balcony scene can be imagined, “melting” can be experienced in all its complexity: almost dripping with sound, emotionally tear-inducing, but also structurally transparent. It is the themes of the lovers themselves that merge here – and this can be heard with captivating clarity.

Right from the start, every affect is placed right where it belongs, grows with the individual instruments, it is enjoyable to follow the changes in character of the woodwinds, like those of a fleeting but sympathetic acquaintance, because as such the clarinet had already been introduced in “Juliet as a Young Girl.”

With this European tour, Riccardo Muti is also celebrating his tenth anniversary as chief conductor of the orchestra, one of the, if not the top American orchestra. And like many famous predecessors, he shaped his musicians to new excellence, and even drilled them. Control is part of the concept for success.

Freewheeling is only granted for fractions of a second: A step forward on the desk is a recurring process.

Equally striking is the intense look at the soloist during solo passages or the restarting after general breaks. Then you can see an impulsive shake of the head when the cellos in the Andante of Prokofiev’s third symphony start too roughly, but mostly a generous smile, during the viola solo or when the orchestra’s infamous brass section can get started: fruits of years of collaboration can be harvested now with a loose flick of the wrist or with raising of an eyebrow, and it is a pleasure to listen.

Far from the intention of making a name for themselves with programs or even promoting them, the orchestra and Muti in Europe will perform Hindemith’s symphony “Mathias the Painter” or a pure Prokofiev program, like here in Cologne. His third symphony, premiered in 1929, deals with themes from the opera “The Fiery Angel” which did not make it to the stage during the composer’s lifetime but is currently often staged. Muti actually makes the symphony the main attraction of the evening after the tasty bait of ballet music. The first movement combines a cross section of the opera motifs into a classic sonata form. That might sound bulky if it were not for the violins, which can release melodic magic at almost every turn. But not only the charm, also the lucidity of making music is a blessing for the ears, even if, at the beginning of the first movement, the desired experience of being overwhelmed by this expressive conglomerate is somewhat lost. Towards the end of the beginning of the symphony, there is more and more experimentation with expansions and contractions of time, and boisterous moments of bringing sounds into clearer focus, which, however, appear self-evidently true after the fact.

In general, it seems that Muti needs to exude positive tension, especially during the quieter parts: when the effect of the music can be carried less naturally by the effect of the brass coming to the fore or the virtuoso strings. But even in the third movement—there is no closed melody, only two diffuse gestures—the piece moves us: through the sound. Horns, trumpets and trombones that appear again and again out of the string figures, crowning them like spray in the surf, cause goose bumps. Hardly anyone in the hall will not want to get further to the bottom of this work by Prokofiev afterwards, and the music will reverberate in each one of them for quite some time. What more can a concert evening do?

Malte Hemmerich, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 11, 2020

The original article:

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Cologne, January 9:

 

Vienna, January 11, 13 and 14:

 

Florence, January 20:

 

Photo by Todd Rosenberg and Silvia Lelli

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