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A capacity crowd of 12,000 packs Millennium Park on a beautiful summer evening in the city to enjoy a free Concert for Chicago featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Riccardo Muti performing music by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. The performance marked the first return to Millennium Park for Muti and the CSO since 2018.  (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

An audience of 12,000 people poured into Millennium Park Monday evening to hear maestro Riccardo Muti lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a thrilling performance of works by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky on the Pritzker Pavilion stage.

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(Credit Todd Rosenberg)

Thursday evening’s bravura production was a major event in Muti’s penultimate season as the CSO’s music director. And it was a grand homage to both the composer whose work he has long cherished, and the orchestra he has embraced and nurtured since becoming its music director in 2010.

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The CSO’s Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprentice Lina González - Granados leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

With the pandemic still bedeviling live performance these days understudies have become heroic figures. Now, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its very own “last minute hero” story, too. 

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Conductor James Gaffigan leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program with works by Saint-Saëns, Saint-Saëns Mussorgsky (Orch. Rimsky-Korsakov), and Tchaikovsky. (Photo Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Performed earlier this month, a trio of Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts led by guest conductors and featuring guest violinists deserve to be chronicled.

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 Kelli O’Hara performs with the CSO led by conductor Steve Reineke at 2022 Corporate Night event. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara performed a bravura solo concert Thursday accompanied by that ever dazzling “band,” the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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Conductor Karina Canellakis in her CSO debut led a program featuring music by Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Schumann and Richard Strauss (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Guest conductor Karina Canellakis led the CSO in “Brio” (by Augusta Read Thomas); Robert Schumann’s lushly beautiful “Piano Concerto in A Minor” (featuring pianist Kirill Gerstein); and finally “Ein Heldenlaben (A Heroic Life),” Richard Strauss’ sweeping, fiercely emotional tone poem.

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(WTTW News)

While her residency at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is ending, a New York-based composer hopes her influence on contemporary classical music will be long-lasting. 

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Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’sSymphonyNo. 6 in F Major on April 28, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The world may be in a terrible state of upheaval at the moment, but two different concerts performed during the past week — played brilliantly by the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — were a potent reminder that music is an astonishingly powerful emotional balm.

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Guest conductor Jaap van Zweden leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6 in A Minor” on April 21, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Breathtaking is nowhere near a powerful enough adjective to describe Gustav Mahler’s masterwork, “Symphony No. 6 in A Minor,” or its bravura rendering by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that was led by guest conductor Jaap van Zweden. 

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Conductor Klaus Makela performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall on April 14, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg photography)

If you needed to be reminded of the genius of two groundbreaking early 20th century composers or hoped for an introduction to a fascinating contemporary composer, Thursday’s concert of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra unquestionably lived up to expectations.

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Composer Missy Mazzoli acknowledges the audience following a performance of the world premiere of CSO Commission “Orpheus Undone.” (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Maestro Riccardo Muti and the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featured three very different and extremely challenging works Thursday night that, as always, showcased the brilliance of both the composers and their interpreters.

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Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s “Symphony No.9” on Feb. 24, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The CSO's bravura rendering of this masterwork was, indeed, a temporary balm for the soul and evidence of how great works of art speak to us throughout time.

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Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti and soloist Mitsuko Uchida acknowledge the audience following a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Feb. 17, 2022. (Credit : Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The pairing began with Beethoven’s demonically difficult 1806 “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major,” with Mitsuko Uchida as the incomparable soloist. And it was followed by Philip Glass’ “Symphony No. 11,” which had its world premiere in 2017, and now received a volcanic rendering by a monumental gathering of Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians.

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Conductor Marin Alsop leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Barber’s Symphony No. 1. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Rachmaninov’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor,” is a nerve-shatteringly difficult work. Backed by the full orchestra, which was in its usual sublime form, Lukas Vondracek rendered the extraordinary work with a superb mix of both titanic power and surprising lyricism.

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Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti leads Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Robert Chen, Associate Concertmaster Stephanie Jeong, Assistant Concertmaster David Taylor, and Assistant Concertmaster Yuan-Qing Yu in Vivaldi’s Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins and Cello. (Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra traveled back in time with a program of works by early 18th century Baroque masters Antonio Vivaldi and George Frideric Handel. 

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Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform a program featuring Tchaikovsky’s Suite from “Swan Lake” on Jan. 20, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

What this glorious, superbly performed concert did prove was that listening to these works without the element of dance that ordinarily is a crucial partner of the music, you begin to hear them in a wonderfully fresh and exciting way.