Conductor Gemma New makes her CSO debut and leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program featuring works by Kernis, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. (Nuccio DiNuzzo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was back on stage at Orchestra Hall, barely a week after the orchestra’s intense three-week tour to 11 cities in Europe. As always, the musicians were in stellar form.

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Schoenberg’s orchestration of Brahms’ “Piano Quartet No. 1.” (Nuccio DiNuzzo Photography)

WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss reviews recent performances from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera and Staatskapelle Berlin.

Conrad Tao makes his CSO subscription debut in a performance of Gershwin’s “Concerto in F Major” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Gaffigan. (Todd Rosenberg)

WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss recommends an evening spent with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, guest conductor James Gaffigan and the extraordinary pianist Conrad Tao.

Baritone Christian Gerhaher performs songs from Mahler’s “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” led by Jaap van Zweden with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was in its usual top form this past week in a concert that was zestily led by Jaap van Zweden, the Amsterdam-born conductor who is in his farewell season as music director of the New York Philharmonic.

Music director emeritus for life Riccardo Muti led the CSO in a performance of Strauss’ “Aus Italien” on Sept. 28, 2023. (Todd Rosenberg)

Although Maestro Riccardo Muti will soon head to New York and embark on a seven-country, 14-concert tour of Europe with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, his concert at Orchestra Hall on Thursday evening was an ideal example of the thrilling bond between him and the CSO’s brilliant musicians.

Music director emeritus for life Riccardo Muti led the CSO's opening concert of the 2023/24 season on Sept. 21, 2023. (Todd Rosenberg)

Something truly magical (and magnificent) happens when Maestro Riccardo Muti arrives on the podium to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The latest proof was on display in two different concerts this past Thursday and Saturday evening.

Alisa Weilerstein, left in gold gown, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are conducted by Joshua Weilerstein on Aug. 17, 2023, at the Ravinia Festival. (Emily Waler / Ravinia Festival)

For the second half of its Ravinia Festival concert this past Thursday the Chicago Symphony Orchestra delivered a bravura performance of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s extraordinary “Symphony No. 5” and it couldn’t have been more timely in subtle way.

Heather Headley performs at the Ravinia Pavilion on July 16, 2023. (Patrick Gipson / Ravinia Festival)

Whether she is performing songs from a Broadway musical, a familiar hymn or a gospel classic, Heather Headley possesses a voice and personality that can easily mesmerize an audience. And so she did with a grand-scale performance at Ravinia Pavilion.

Music director Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program including music by Florence Price and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony at the free Concert for Chicago in Millennium Park. (Todd Rosenberg)

With an audience approaching about 8,500 people, Maestro Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the “Concert for Chicago” in Millennium Park. He ended his 13-year tenure as CSO music director but will continue to conduct some performances.

Riccardo Muti and guest chorus director Donald Palumbo onstage following performance of Beethoven’s “Missa solemnis.” (Todd Rosenberg)

Maestro Riccardo Muti chose Beethoven’s “Missa solemnis” as the work he wished to conduct to mark “the official end” of his glorious 13-year tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has been named music director emeritus for life and will continue to lead occasional CSO performances.

Maestro Riccardo Muti rehearses with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 21, 2022. (WTTW News)

Maestro Riccardo Muti, who turns 82 in July, is scheduled to conduct the CSO for six weeks in each of the next two seasons. His tenure began with the 2010-11 season.

CSO principal tuba Gene Pokorny and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Lalo Schifrin’s “Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra.” (Todd Rosenberg)

The tuba may be one of the largest instruments in a symphony orchestra and an important source of the brass sound, but it is rarely celebrated in a work that puts it front and center by way of a masterful composer and musician.

Guest conductor Jakub Hrůša leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. (Todd Rosenberg)

If one needs any proof that calamity, whether personal and/or political, also has the power to inspire great works of art, Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 9 in D Major” can easily serve as a prime example. 

Violinist Vadim Gluzman joins the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor David Afkhamin for a performance of Shostakovich’s “Violin Concerto No. 1.” (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

GluzmanGuest conductor David Afkham led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Vadim Gluzman, the extraordinary guest violinist, in a riveting performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s fiendishly difficult, emotionally intense “Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor.” Perfomances of works by Ravel and Debussy rounded out the program. 

Principal timpani David Herbert makes his CSO solo debut performing Kraft’s “Timpani Concerto No. 1.” (Todd Rosenberg)

A recent Chicago Symphony Orchestra program juxtaposed works by three masterful yet radically different composers of classical music: Wolfgang Mozart, William Kraft and Ottorino Respighi.

Concertmaster Robert Chen in a performance of Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major.” (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The latest program by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra honors Robert Chen, the orchestra’s invaluable concertmaster and masterful violinist. It also features a glimpse of a rarely revived opera.