At Night of Sheer Brilliance, Bravura musicians from Maestro Muti and CSO prove that Beethoven is still new | Chicago News

Opera music

Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in an all-Beethoven program on January 13, 2022. (Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Maestro Riccardo Muti returned to Orchestra Hall on Thursday evening with an all-Beethoven bravura program to open the 2022 season.

Muti was in stellar form. He is clearly in love with the indomitable musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and they return that passion with a magnificent combination of sound, fury and absolute beauty. This love story also extends to the public, held spellbound by this remarkable concert. With Muti in its most dynamic mode, the impressive packed house erupted into a massive standing ovation at the end of the concert. It could have gone on and on and on but for the Maestro’s playful habit of finally waving a grateful “goodnight.”

It has become fashionable these days to overlook classical music and the great list of geniuses who composed it. By extension, it does not celebrate the musicians who continue to play it with such technical brilliance and emotional ferocity. But listening to the CSO perform Beethoven’s Galvanic Symphonies No. 5 and 8, as well as his brief but magnificent “Coriolan Overture”, there is no doubt that these works escape all the fashions of the time. They feel surprisingly modern and current, flooded with great waves of emotion that are both an evocation of our wildly chaotic current existence and a deep force of hope and healing.

In his program note for the “Coriolanus Overture”, an eight-minute work from 1807, Phillip Huscher, the CSO’s superb program annotator, explains that Beethoven knew of two pieces written about the title Roman general (one by his friend, by the Austrian playwright Heinrich von Collin, and the other by Shakespeare), but that he chose to focus on Collin’s work. Either way, the overture suggests the innate theatrics and emotional warmth of all Beethoven’s music, as well as his ability to drastically shift moods in the most transparent and exciting way.

“Coriolanus” opens with a sonic explosion that establishes instant intensity and dramatic meaning. It then quickly transitions to a lyrical riff through the strings, captures a vibe of great ferocity involving winds, horns and timpani, and finally settles into a softly mournful and introspective mood evoked by cellos and basses. It’s a mood reminiscent of Coriolanus’ suicide.

Zell <a class=Music Director Riccardo Muti pays tribute to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after performing an all-Beethoven program on January 13, 2022. (Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography)” height=”1026″ src=”” title=”Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti pays tribute to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after performing an all-Beethoven program on January 13, 2022. (Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography)” width=”1824″/>Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti pays tribute to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after performing an all-Beethoven program on January 13, 2022. (Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Next on the program is ‘Symphony No. 8 in F major’, written in 1812. A work of immense power and beauty, it is just another testament to Beethoven’s ability to move emotions with clarity. absolute and a wonderful sense of surprise.

There is complete confidence in its declarative opening, with the winds and horns suggesting that there is something in the air. And then, from this dynamism and this force is born an explosion of lyricism with a waltz theme. But there is always a feeling of storm in the air with Beethoven. Indeed, the orchestra caught fire full force before moving into the delicacy of plucked strings and then exploding in palpable excitement with the addition of clarinet and flute and a throbbing mass of all the voices of the orchestra. ‘orchestra.

The second movement of the work is accompanied by the sound of winds and French horns, plucking on the lower strings and a playful teasing quality as the different sections of the orchestra engage in dramatic conversation. with each other. Each “voice” of this orchestra has a crystalline beauty and a unique ability to create beautiful gradations of sound. The final movement of the symphony is frenetic at first and marked by the orchestra’s mixture of precision and levity. The richness of the sound of the timpani, the riffs of the winds and the cellos and the festive character of the finale were only further evidence of Beethoven’s timelessness and immediacy.

Finally, it was the composer’s 1808 work, widely known but still revealing, the “Symphony No. 5. in C minor”. The opening statement is a series of four beats repeated with a kind of Morse code punctuation and urgency, followed by the dynamism of horns, clarinet and timpani that evoke compelling rhythmic drama.

The second movement is set in motion by a magnificent use of the low strings and a kind of call and response of several voices. There’s a beautifully sustained triumphant sound here, with Beethoven’s sense of constructing a startling moment and unfolding the full grandeur of the orchestra — with particularly ravishing use of bassoon and clarinet — in full evidence.

The strings again enter a restrained mood, but then the horns signal that something is afoot. And it is, with Muti’s magnificent signaling of every part of the orchestra as he drives with increasing speed and excitement towards a grand and celebratory knockout finale.

This concert will be repeated on Saturday, January 15 at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit or call (312) 294-3000.

Note: Maestro Muti’s upcoming concerts with the CSO include a program of suites from two of Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballet scores, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake”, as well as the overture to ‘Emil Reznicek at the comic opera “Donna Diana” and John Stauss ‘ “Valse de l’Empereur” (January 20 at 7:30 p.m. and January 23 at 3 p.m.)

This is followed by a program of Baroque masterpieces, including three concertos by Vivaldi and “Water Music, Suite No. 1” by Handel. (January 27 at 7:30 p.m. and January 29 at 8 p.m.)

Follow Hedy Weiss on Twitter: @HedyWeissReview