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Posts Tagged ‘Muti’

Riccardo Muti (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Riccardo Muti, former music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and future leader of the Chicago Symphony, is famous for his fiery temper and his rather old-fashioned autocratic approach to music making. Compromise is not often part of his repertoire; just ask the musicians at La Scala, where his directorship disintegrated in discord 3 years ago (2005).

A few days ago (7 November) Muti walked away from an engagement over a dispute with none other than the Queen of England.

Muti was to have conducted a concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra today (Thursday 13 November 2008) in honor of the Prince of Wales’s 60th birthday, a performance explicitly requested by Queen Elizabeth II. Charles is an ardent supporter of the Philharmonia, and the Queen was apparently an admirer of the conductor. She’d attended performances Muti conducted in La Scala and had nominated him for a knighthood. Furthermore, Muti has a history with the Philharmonia; he was their principal conductor from 1973 to 1982.

However, both Queen and Prince expressed concern about the length and "appropriateness" of Muti’s program. After some discussion, he bailed. The Philharmonia has been tight-lipped about Muti’s original plans; but according to Muti, "For ceremonial reasons that I don’t know, the program was shortened and it was decided that the orchestra would only play God Save the Queen and another piece by a British musician."

British conductor Christopher Warren-Green stepped in to replace Muti.

This coming Saturday Charles will throw his own celebration at his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire. The musical entertainment will be provided by Rod Stewart. Even the 63 year old rock singer couldn’t avoid royal editing, though. Stewart was reportedly asked to omit Do Ya Think I’m Sexy from his set as "too raucous."

Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony in Europe, 2007Yesterday (Monday 5 May) the Chicago Symphony confirmed what the rumor-mongers have been speculating about for weeks. A voyage begun over 3 years ago has reached port with Riccardo Muti named as the orchestra’s next music director.

Muti was music director at La Scala for 19 years. In 2005 he resigned from that post in a swirl of controversy and announced that he was he was considering an offer from the Chicago Symphony.

Nothing developed that year, however. As of last autumn Chicago’s short list was reported to include Muti and Riccardo Chailly as the top contenders, along with Antonio Pappano, David Robertson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin and Michael Tilson Thomas. Some writers were betting on Chailly, in part because Muti’s relationship with La Scala was not his only contentious one. Chailly also had a good long-term relationship with the orchestra.

But a widely acclaimed 2007-08 season opener and a a very well-received European tour boosted Muti’s musical capital with the Chicago Symphony board, and yesterday they gave him the nod. He will be the orchestra’s 10th music director.

In the US, many music lovers remember Muti for his years as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra (1980-1992). There he was credited with (or blamed for, depending on your perspective) considerably toning down the lush "Philadelphia Sound" originated by Leopold Stokowski and amplified under Eugene Ormandy.

Muti has also been a frequent guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic. His name came up as a possible successor to both Kurt Masur and Lorin Maazel, but Muti indicated that he wasn’t interested.

Chicago, former home of such legendary conductors as Fritz Reiner and Georg Solti, has been without a full-time music director since Daniel Barenboim retired in 2006, relying on principal conductor Bernard Haitink and conductor emeritus Pierre Boulez to tide them over. They’ll go a while longer, too; Muti won’t take over until the fall of 2010. However, he’ll give the city a preview of his style next January, when he conducts the Verdi Requiem.

CSO’s Official Release

Chicago Tribune story


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