Updated: May 12, 2013 2:00PM
Spring brought the return to Chicago of a sprightly Riccardo Muti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eminent and popular music director. Unable to join the CSO administration in February for the 2013-14 season announcement, Muti, 71, led a press conference Wednesday morning in rooms atop the historic Orchestra Hall building.
News items per se were few but interesting, nonetheless. Muti will lead the CSO on Sept. 18 in its first appearance in Cicero: Morton East High School and its landmark 2,500-seat Chobl Auditorium will be the venue for the annual free community concert.
In January, Muti will lead his fifth CSO tour, with standard repertoire and an unusual two-week itinerary: four concerts in Las Palmas and Tenerife for the orchestra’s debut at the Canary Islands Music Festival, followed by single return appearances in the industrial city of Essen, Germany, and in Luxembourg.
The CSO Resound label will issue CD and SACD recordings and a digital download in September of the highly regarded 2011 concert performances of Verdi’s “Otello,” led by Muti at Orchestra Hall. The opera will be the first released by the label. Muti’s previous CSO Resound recording, of Verdi’s Requiem, netted two 2010 Grammy Awards, Muti’s first.
On Oct. 10, the exact 200th anniversary of the Italian composer’s birth, the CSO will offer its first-ever worldwide live video and audio stream with a one-time Chicago performance of the Verdi Requiem. On-demand downloading also will be available.
Muti said he was extending — “with the approval of my colleagues, we are in a democracy here, I think” — the contracts of the the CSO’s two Mead composers-in-residence, Mason Bates and Anna Clyne, for a fifth year, through 2014-2015. Each is commissioned for two more works, one for the MusicNOW series next season and for the full orchestra the year after.
New CSO Association board chair Jay Henderson announced four new major gifts totaling $13 million, as well as a fourth year of worldwide sponsorship from Bank of America through 2013-14. Helen Zell and the Zell Family Foundation have provided $3 million to support Muti and his programs. Trustee Dietrich Gross and wife Erika have endowed the CSO’s principal flute chair and other programming with a $5 million gift. An anonymous donor has done the same for the first viola chair and education and community programs with a $3 million contribution. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, headed until recently by musicologist and former University of Chicago president Don Michael Randel, has made a $2 million grant for new programs, including the upcoming multidisciplinary “Rivers” Festival.
Andrew Patner is critic at large for WFMT-FM (98.7).