Absent from Chicago since February 2020 due to the pandemic, Riccardo Muti walked into Orchestra Hall and started to rehease Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.”
“It was a very, very emotional moment when I walked on stage and I went to the podium because the orchestra was united for the first time with their music director in the concert hall,” Muti said during a telephone interview Thursday, two days after the first rehearsal and before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s opening night of the season. “We played immediately the `Eroica,’ which I dedicated to the musicians of the orchestra and all the musicians in the world that have been separated and been in suffering because of the virus.”
Muti was to lead the CSO’s season-opening performance Thursday night, which included Joseph Bologne’s overture to “L’Amant anonyme (The Anonymous Lover)” and Florence Price’s andante moderato.
Muti and the CSO announced he has extended his contract as music director by one year through the 2022-23 season. The 80-year-old Italian became music director of the CSO in 2010, succeeding Daniel Barenboim.
“From the first moment I loved the orchestra. They love me,” he said. “For 12 years, we have made music always in happiness and in mutual respect. So practically this is a second family, my musical family and the second family.”
Muti had been conducting in Europe with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, which he took to Armenia. He led his Italian opera academy in Japan in May.
He told the Chicago musicians he hopes “music will heal the pains of the world.”
“In this moment, we have realized that culture is much more important than we always thought,” he said. “At this time in a world full of tragedies, of wars, of children that die, of people that have to leave their countries, only the possibility of culture, increasing culture, of beauty, harmony, brotherhood, all the beautiful things that the mankind seems to to forget, can help and cure the world.”
Muti will lead 10 weeks of concerts in Chicago in 2022-23 and four weeks on tour, which will include a trip to China, Japan and Taiwan.
The CSO said Muti’s 2022-23 season will include performances of Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass)” in June 2023 — a work he conducted last month with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival — and the world premiere of a work commissioned by the CSO from Jessie Montgomery.