Friday, October 12, 2012

Cervantino 2012: Riccardo Muti, Chicago Symphony Conductor

Riccardo Muti as Adept with the Press as on the Podium

Below, the Chicago Tribune photo announcing the CSO's Mexico Trip

When the Chicago Symphony, arguably one of the three finest symphony orchestras in the world, played Franck and Brahms in Teatro Juarez,  we Guanajuato folks in the elegant venue framing the musicians were as comfortably at home as if in our own salas. I was lucky to have a seat in the second box on the concertmaster’s side so could glimpse the conductor Riccardo Muti at work relaxed but alert. At times I even saw him change expression.

Even so for me Muti’s press conference was as exciting as the crisp, clear sound of the orchestra. First he explained how he had decided  to take the job in Chicago (“A beautiful city and I’m a Neapolitan!”) after the woman on his right in the photo, the President of the Symphony, followed him to many of his concerts, finally inviting him to consider the Chicago Symphony.
Responding to selected questions from reporters, Muti stated firmly that life without music would be barbaric. Asked how he develops his approach to a piece, he quotes Mozart’s comment that music is the space between the notes and a mentor’s advice, not to think too much, adding he studies each score carefully.

Muti believes the human body is adapted for tonal music, but that new composers should be heard. As for present audiences, he said that In Verdi’s time, a day or two after a new opera, people in the streets would be singing the tunes. He laments that our electronic means of hearing music may be dumbing us down.
At least some of the time, Muti would like to see the barriers between performers wearing formal garb and the audience dissolve.[This is just what happens when someone drops in on an OSUG rehearsal.] Muti is clearly proud of concerts he has led to promote peace in Sarajevo, Istanbul, Yerevan (Armenia). Without going into detail, he mentions yearly park concerts in the main Latino barrio in Chicago.

I’ve nearly forgotten to mention Muti’s ready sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself. Here's one example: “I’m glad I’m the age I am, with a whole crop of Chinese conductors on their way up.” Laughter, but Muti sees a woman with a startled expression: “What you’re Chinese?” Pause. “No of course not,” he says. “Mexican.” Laughter once again.