|

For the fifth year, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presents “Merry, Merry Chicago!” a celebration of holiday music that features members of the orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

|

What happens when a conductor steeped in the Italian tradition takes hold of three works by quite different 19th century German Romantic composers? The answer could be heard as Maestro Riccardo Muti led the CSO in works by Wagner, Brahms and Schumann.

|
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti performs with violin soloist Leonidas Kavakos. ©2019 Anne Ryan

Together with the brilliant musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Riccardo Muti and violinist Leonidas Kavakos launched into an absolutely spellbinding performance of Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto in D Major.”

|
Pianist Sunwook Kim plays Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in his CSO debut at Symphony Center on Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo by Anne Ryan)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was at its rip-roaring best Friday as award-winning pianist Sunwook Kim made a simply smashing debut with the orchestra. 

|
A community music rehearsal with the Chicago West Community Music Center and Riccardo Muti at the Columbus Park Refectory. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Young musicians and a singer from the Chicago West Community Music Center get a chance to rehearse with Maestro Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

|
Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in an all-Beethoven program on Sept. 26, 2019 in Orchestra Hall. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

When thinking about Beethoven, the emphasis should not be on the fact that he was born two and a half centuries ago. Rather, it should be on the fact that his music remains uncannily timeless – vividly alive and fully connected to the moment.

|
Leif Ove Andsnes performs Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti on Sept. 19, 2019, in Orchestra Hall. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Magnificent. That is the most fitting description of Thursday evening’s program at Symphony Center that marked the start of Maestro Riccardo Muti’s 10th season as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

|
(Ravinia Festival / Russel Jenkins)

Rachmanioff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3” is awash in ravishing melodies and virtuosic thrills, and Denis Matsuev brought such volcanic power, exquisite lyricism and absolute fluidity to the fiendishly demanding work that it felt as if he himself were writing the demonic piece on the spot. 

|
(Credit: Ravinia Festival / Patrick Gipson)

The widely celebrated 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein is now in the midst of a grand-scale finale as the Ravinia Festival moves through its second summer of programs devoted to all aspects of his legacy.

|
Audience members enter Symphony Center on opening night of Verdi’s “Aida.” (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Despite the dire warnings about “the demise of the audience for classical music,” there is a significant audience in Chicago that values this incomparable art form. Two recent, radically different CSO concerts are prime examples.

|
CSO Piccolo Jennifer Gunn is the soloist in Ken Benshoof’s “Concerto in Three Movements” with Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSO. (© Todd Rosenberg)

The unlikely combination of Vivaldi, Beethoven and Gershwin with two contemporary works was full of delightful surprises and unexpected revelations. 

|
Hilary Hahn is soloist in Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with conductor Marin Alsop and the CSO. (© Todd Rosenberg)

Hilary Hahn’s bravura handling of a fire-breathing passage in Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto in D Minor” brings forth a “Wow!” from what was certainly an adult man in the audience at Symphony Center.

|
Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti on the podium during the CSO’s May 9 program of works by Mozart and Stravinsky. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

A concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featuring the transcendent Mitsuko Uchida. A visit by Maestro Riccardo Muti and several master musicians to a juvenile detention center. And a virtuosic chamber concert.

|
Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.” (Photo © Todd Rosenberg)

At the Symphony Center, a palpable sense of relief and joy as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra marked its return to the stage after a bruising seven-week strike.

|
Violinist Itzhak Perlman, left, and pianist Evgeny Kissin. (Credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco, left, Bette Marshall)

How do you bring the music back to the stage of Symphony Center in the wake of an agonizing seven-week strike by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra? With two of the world’s most formidable virtuosos.

|
Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra go on strike and walk the picket line outside the doors of Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue, Monday, March 11, 2019. (Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

The Chicago Federation of Musicians says the five-year deal includes a 13.2% increase in salary and protects retirement benefits. The union says musicians unanimously supported it Saturday.