During the 1980s, Riccardo Muti was regarded as the Toscanini of the second half of the twentieth century. But not just a Toscanini-style, taskmaster who preached fidelity to the score and presided over intense, hard-driven performances, Muti insisted on beautiful tone as well as disciplined ensemble, and capitalized on his youthful Italian glamour. Muti initially learned piano and violin under his father, a physician. The boy later enrolled at the San Pietro Conservatory in Naples, where he studied composition with Jacopo Napoli and Nino Rota (some of whose film music Muti would record decades later for Sony Classical), and piano (his major subject) with Vincenzo Vitale. Following a stint in philosophy at Naples University, Muti transferred to the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, to study composition with Bruno Bettinelli and conducting with Antonino Votti. Muti won the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition in 1967. This led to his professional debut with the RAI Orchestra in 1968. In 1970 he was named principal conductor of the Florence May Festival (he was promoted to artistic director in 1977), and the following year became principal conductor at the Teatro Communale in Florence. In 1973 he became principal conductor of London's New Philharmonia, a post he retained until 1982 (being made music director in 1979). Longtime Philadelphia music director Eugene Ormandy effectively selected Muti as his successor in 1980, and Muti soon gave up his posts in Florence and London. Muti's tenure in Philadelphia was marked by cool relations with the orchestra and the press; all parties kept a safe distance from each other, as Muti tightened the orchestra's ensemble while retaining its tonal warmth. He made major changes in programming practices, offering concert operas and commissioning works by such tough modernists as Berio, Davidovsky, Kirchner, and Ran, as well as more iconoclastic Americans such as Bolcom and Rouse. His interests in twentieth century material also extended to the works of Britten, Dallapiccola, Hindemith, Ligeti, Prokofiev, and especially Shostakovich. Muti's heart remained with opera, and in 1986 he agreed to become music director of La Scala (and principal conductor of the La Scala Philharmonic the following year). Muti left Philadelphia in 1992, rarely to return, although his tenure there was relatively free of the public contention that would be routine in the volatile climate of La Scala. In opera, Muti has tended to focus on Italian repertory, using critical editions of scores and discouraging singers from indulging in traditional interpolations. Since 2010, Muti has been the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as the music director of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.
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Classical - Released July 11, 2011 | Warner Classics
Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Robert Schumann is about as interesting you can get when it comes to historical musical figures. From his courtship with Clara Wieck and their subsequent marriage, his relationship with the likes of Mendelssohn and Brahms, the bizarre contraptions he built that eventually destroyed his ability to play the piano, and finally his mental instability that ultimately ended his career, Schumann never fails to disappoint. The same can be said of his symphonies, which provide a relatively good cross-section of his compositional output and delineate his growth and his treatment of the medium. Having all four of the symphonies together in a collection such as this one makes such a comparison easier, although the liner notes are somewhat lacking in providing sufficient historical background. The Philharmonia Orchestra (or the New Philharmonia Orchestra for the Fourth Symphony) under the direction of Riccardo Muti does a suitable job of representing Schumann's search for something new to offer the symphony. While the overall execution in these recordings from the late 1970s intonation, articulation, and ensemble -- is good, their sound quality is not always ideal. The lower end of the orchestra is often muddy and indistinct; this is especially true of the Fourth Symphony, whose sound is overly reverberant throughout. In symphonies No. 1 and No. 3, the tympani is extremely aggressive and sticks out inappropriately. While this collection is generally an acceptable introduction to these four great symphonies, listeners may also wish to consider the Cleveland Orchestra's recordings under Szell for a more well-balanced rendition.
Symphonic Music - Released September 11, 2015 | CSO Resound
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's label, CSO Resound, is noted for its extraordinary sound quality and its exciting performances, many of which are among the finest it has ever offered on disc. This double CD of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and its intended sequel, Lélio, ou le retour à la vie, is a bit of a rarity because they are infrequently paired, due to the different forces required for each. Symphonie fantastique is a five-movement programmatic symphony for orchestra, while Lélio is a melodramatic cantata for narrator, vocalists, chorus, two pianos, and orchestra, which makes mounting a performance of the two works together a bit daunting (quite aside from the fact that Lélio fell into neglect after the Romantic era, while the Symphonie fantastique has always been a hit). For this performance, Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in a rousing, if solidly mainstream, interpretation of the symphony on the first disc, and he is joined on the second disc by actor Gérard Depardieu, tenor Mario Zeffiri, bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, in a performance that conveys the extremes of lyricism and bombast that are so characteristic of Berlioz. It helps to know French, though the texts are provided, and Depardieu's highly dramatic reading communicates the intensity of Berlioz's passionate expressions. But listeners will be delighted by the variety and inventiveness of the music, both of which argue convincingly for Lélio's revival. Highly recommended for Berlioz devotees and collectors of CSO Resound releases.
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