Maestro Muti and the orchestra made a phenomenal shift in attention from a month of Verdi to a perfect performance of other composers on Friday, October 11. That they had made this switch was part of the chatter in the audience around us--- acknowledgement of how this reflects their achievement of superlative artistic professionalism bar none.
Sweet and gentle, the concert opened with a scaled-down string orchestra performing Wolfgang Mozart’s “Divertimento in D Major, K. 136”. This is one of three works for strings written by Mozart in 1772 at the ripe old age of sixteen. Listening to it had the effect of reminding us we were in a concert hall to have our senses delighted—and they were.
With ample contrast, Robert Chen, the Chicago Symphony’s concertmaster, was the soloist in Hindemith’s Violin Concerto.
It is always superb when Mr. Chen performs as a soloist and this was no exception. The three movements of this piece develop into dissonant chords before they move back to consonant tones.
This was complex music that Mr. Chen and the orchestra performed in what stuck as a seamless manner.
Hindemith, a violinist since his childhood, was reported in the program to have advised Stravinsky that his lack of violinist experience would be an asset in getting the music beyond what the usual finger patterns of a trained violinist would suggest. This report seems to be a window into what Hindemith was trying to do, which was make a break into an entirely original form. How perfect that Maestro Muti juxtaposed it to the prior Mozart piece which was all about showing the classic beauty of string music. Perhaps Hindemith was starting a new conversation with this about what that could mean.
The program was crowned with Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.
A performance of the entire ballet music would take over two hours. This was the highlights including the so memorable melody of “Montagues and Capulets”, which began the performance and conjured images of the antecedents of ethnic cleansing, the threatening alliance of the different family clans. Maestro Muti jumped right into the performance with no delay for this selection as with most. The theme of Romeo and Juliet’s love, which we hear again at the close when he is at her tomb, seems to define the longing of young lovers.
The selections enabled every instrument in the orchestra to shine in one or another musical line—from tuba to bassoon to piccolo and all in between. For a focus on the renowned brass section of the CSO, here is a clip to listen to three movements of Romeo and Juliet—
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is no stranger to delivering performances that move you at your deepest levels. This performance of Romeo and Juliet grabbed our hearts as the Shakespearean story does.
Having just seen Maestro Muti conduct Macbeth and then this Romeo and Juliet, it strikes me that he should not only be noted as the greatest living interpreter of Verdi but perhaps of Shakespearean works set to music. All the more reason to await his announced performance of Falstaff in a few years.
Every Chicago Symphony Orchestra seems like magic. You can find the calendar of upcoming events on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra website , consult the Splash calendar for upcoming concerts or call their box office at (312) 294-3000.
Todd Rosenberg Photography