The orchestra's 2013-14 concert schedule, which was announced along with related programming on Wednesday, will mark Riccardo Muti's fourth season as music director. Much of the Italian maestro's time in Chicago will find him concentrating on music by two composers close to his heart, Giuseppe Verdi and Franz Schubert.
Muti, today's greatest Verdi conductor, will wrap up the CSO's observance of his countryman's bicentennial with four programs, including a concert version of the opera “Macbeth” in late September and early October, and a performance of the Verdi Requiem to be given on the composer's 200th birthday, Oct. 10.
In January, Muti will embark on a Schubert symphony cycle that will extend through the end of the season in June and include other orchestral and choral works.
The Schubert focus will carry over into several Symphony Center Presents series offerings. A three-concert vocal series will feature Schubert's song cycles “Winterreise” and “Die schone Mullerin,” as performed by German baritones Christian Gerhaher and Matthias Goerne. Soprano Susanna Phillips and bass-baritone Eric Owens will present a duo recital featuring songs with obbligato clarinet and horn; those parts will be taken by CSO members John Bruce Yeh and Daniel Gingrich, respectively.
Another major anniversary to be honored is the Benjamin Britten centennial, which the CSO and Chicago Symphony Chorus will mark with performances under Charles Dutoit's direction of the English composer's landmark “War Requiem.”
The orchestra will bring its season to a close in May and June with a three-week survey of important orchestral works from the 1930s and '40s, “Truth to Power,” directed by Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden and anchored by masterpieces of Shostakovich, Britten and Prokofiev. Shostakovich's Fifth, Seventh and Ninth symphonies, Britten's Violin Concerto and “Sinfonia da Requiem,” and Prokofiev's Symphonies No. 5 and 6 make up the bulk of the repertory.
CSO conductor emeritus Pierre Boulez will lead two weeks of subscription concerts focusing on the 20th century giants Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, whose music he has long championed. These programs in February and March 2014 will integrate solo pieces and works for small ensemble with large orchestral scores, such as Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements.
New music next season will include the world premieres of two CSO commissions from Italian composer and cellist Giovanni Sollima and French composer Guillaume Connesson. Muti will conduct Sollima's Double Concerto for two cellos, with cellist/creative consultant Yo-Yo Ma and Sollima as soloists. CSO principal flute Mathieu Dufour will introduce the Connesson work.
CSO resident composers Mason Bates and Anna Clyne will wrap up their tenures next season by contributing several works to the subscription series and the MusicNOW contemporary series. Anne Akiko Meyers will debut with the orchestra in Bates' Violin Concerto, with Leonard Slatkin conducting. Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead Clyne's “<<rewind>>” in addition to his own “Nyx.”
The “Beyond the Score” series of explorations of symphonic works, conceived by creative director Gerard McBurney, has done wonders to open up the live experience of these works to symphony regulars and nonregulars. Next year's presentations center around Berlioz's “Symphonie Fantastique,” Haydn's Symphony No. 100 (“Military”) and Charles Ives' Symphony No. 2.
The roster of returning conductors looks to be as strong as any the orchestra has fielded in recent seasons. Back again, along with those mentioned above, will be Semyon Bychkov, Stephane Deneve, Mark Elder, Christoph Eschenbach, Bernard Haitink, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Vladimir Jurowski, Bernard Labadie, Susanna Malkki, Nicholas McGegan, Michael Tilson Thomas and Christoph von Dohnanyi.
There also will be plenty of familiar faces on the instrumental roster. These include Emanuel Ax, Kirill Gerstein, Richard Goode, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Paul Lewis and Jorge Federico Osorio, piano; Robert Chen, James Ehnes and Leila Josefowicz, violin; John Sharp and Alisa Weilerstein, cello; Eugene Izotov, oboe; and Paul Jacobs, organ.
Ax has invited composers Nico Muhly, Anders Hillborg, Brett Dean and Missy Mazzoli to write new pieces to be presented alongside various songs and chamber music of Johannes Brahms. The pianist's three-concert Brahms Project gets underway in January; Muhly's new work will share the bill with Brahms' “Four Serious Songs” (sung by mezzo-soprano Annie Sofie von Otter) and other songs and solo piano pieces played by Ax. The pianist will join longtime partner Yo-Yo Ma for a program that holds the two Brahms cello sonatas.
Next year's Piano Series will comprise recitals by Jeremy Denk, Andras Schiff, Daniil Trifonov, Evgeny Kissin, Mitsuko Uchida, Leif Ove Andsnes, Katia and Marielle Labeque, Nikolai Lugansky, Vladimir Feltsman and Ax.
The Chamber Music Series will expand from five to six concerts. Highlights include a sonata program by Christian Tetzlaff, violin, and Lars Vogt, piano; Joshua Bell, violin; the Australian Chamber Orchestra; and a duo recital by violist-violinist Pinchas Zukerman and pianist Yefim Bronfman.
Visiting orchestras include the Mariinsky Theater Symphony Orchestra (formerly Kirov Orchestra) under Valery Gergiev; the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov; and the Israel Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta conducting.
The “CSO at the Movies” series will present a salute to composer John Williams, including his Violin Concerto as played by Gil Shaham; and Charlie Chaplin's classic silent film, “City Lights,” with Chaplin's own score performed live in honor of his 125th anniversary.
“I'm just really excited about this season,” CSO Association President Deborah Rutter said. “It's got something for everybody, but it's got really deep content, and I'm proud of it. And to start the season with Verdi is just going to be a smash. Just imagine the electricity of doing Verdi at the beginning of the season with Muti.”
Not included in Wednesday's announcement are plans for touring in the upcoming season.
Rutter said she will get together with Muti upon his return, and more plans will be revealed at that time. Muti missed his January residency and the orchestra’s current Asia tour due to health issues, but is recovering well from his surgery and is expected back in Chicago for his April concerts, a CSO spokeswoman said.Tribune reporter Mark Caro contributed.