Thursday, May 15, 2008

Casual Listening 5-16-08

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

Check out for Jeff’s reviews, including Marcus Shelby, Emmanuel Jal, Vetiver, and more. There’s a reader review of the new Elvis Costello album, and the rules for the new “Style Pandora” contest are there, too. Meanwhile, I’m turning today’s e-mail over to Jerry Pinzino, one of the Stump Pandora winners, and one of the people who most inspired me to love music. He’s also my dad. Here’s his take on one of the classical world’s biggest news stories:

May 16, 2008

Riccardo Muti has agreed to become the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Tiger Woods of orchestral music is coming to Chicago to conduct the CSO, and it is a surprise for many people. This classical superstar turned down the New York Philharmonic and a few months ago even denied he was in the running for the Chicago Symphony position. Hopes are very high, not only that he will stimulate audience attendance with exciting musical performances of the new and the old, but that he will be very good for the orchestra’s bottom line. Muti will conduct at least 10 weeks each season in Chicago, plus tours.

Muti, a Neapolitan, was music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1980-1992, and he made appearances with the Philharmonia Orchestra (London) for many years, beginning in 1972. Most notably, he was appointed music director of La Scala (Milan) in 1986. His tenure there ended in 2005. Muti is coming to Chicago starting in 2010 and is replacing Daniel Barenboim. Interestingly, Barenboim replaced Muti at La Scala, albeit as principal guest conductor. It seems classical musicians play a very serious game of musical chairs.

There will be much interest in Chicago over how the orchestra will sound under his direction. We will not know, of course, until he gets there, but if you are interested in the Muti sound with other ensembles, there are plenty of recordings to choose from. If you are not a classical music aficionado, there are many Muti recordings of classics that have broad appeal. For opera, you might try Mozart’s Don Giovanni. On the other hand, if you are a fan of a particular opera, there’s a good chance he has recorded it – Mascagni, Bellini, Verdi, and others. In the choral music genre there is his Seraphim recording of Orff’s Carmina Burana – a favorite work of mine, though not my favorite recording. It does have its moments, and it’s worth the price of the album just to hear Arleen Augér sing Dulcissime.

On the orchestral side, Maestro Muti has an album of Tchaikovsky later symphonies. It is said Tchaikovsky wrote 3 symphonies, numbers 4, 5 and 6. Apparently it took 4 tries before he got really good at it. If you have not blown out a speaker recently, there is a recording of the 1812 Overture on the album as a bonus. If you like a big, brassy sound, you may want to get his recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition – very exciting.

The Maestro will be 68 when he assumes the CSO podium in his new role, making him the oldest incoming music director ever for this ensemble. He may be getting up in years, but I predict his vibrancy and energy will be compelling for the almost-certain sellout audiences he will attract. I look forward to his coming.

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