Interview with Riccardo Muti & Jeff Alexander (Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

2016年01月16日 (土) 16:15

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Riccardo Muti, Music Director, Chicago Symphony Orchestra


--- It has been 7 years since the CSO last visited Japan. Without doubt, it is a much anticipated concert tour for classical music fans in Japan. How do you feel about coming to Japan and leading the CSO and what are your aspirations for this tour?

I have great expectations coming to Japan this time after so many visits with so many great orchestras. But this time I come back for the first time with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the three greatest orchestras in the world. I think it will be interesting for the Japanese people to see the result of our music-making, one that since the first time we met in 2007, after my long absence from Chicago, was special already but has with every year become a musical relationship deeper and deeper.

--- This season the CSO celebrates its 125th anniversary, which we suppose an important turning point. How do you feel about playing such an important role in the CSO’s long history?

It is an honor and a privilege to lead this orchestra as its Music Director at this significant moment in the CSO’s distinguished history. I owe debt to my predecessors including the CSO’s first Music Director Theodore Thomas who established the Orchestra’s legacy of performing symphonic music at the highest artistic level. I feel it is my responsibility as the musical caretaker of the Orchestra not to lose sight of the responsibility we have to perform at the highest level, and to keep focus centered on presenting the great repertoire of symphonic music to the musical public around the world.

--- Five seasons have passed since you joined the CSO as its tenth music director, and we no doubt your bond with the CSO has deepened during those years. Please tell us about the most memorable concerts or events and happenings since you joined the CSO.

There have been many memorable events. For example, the very first free concert I did with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the City of Chicago’s beautiful Millennium Park where more than 25,000 people attended. And then in that same venue in subsequent years where there was, two times, pouring down rain and thunderstorms and yet when I looked into the audience all I could see were thousands and thousands of people outside holding umbrellas listening to our concert.

In October 2013, we celebrated Verdi’s 200th birthday with a free live stream of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, which previously we had recorded and won 2 Grammy awards. Performing the Requiem, in a way, could seem to be a contradiction for a celebration of a birthday, but, certainly, we could not perform Happy Birthday because the man is dead. So it was the celebration of the life of Giuseppe Verdi.

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I will also remember the concert performances of Verdi’s Otello, the first opera we did together, which demonstrated the CSO’s ability to play opera music extremely well, followed by Macbeth and then now in a few months Falstaff for the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare death. There is also the performances of Berlioz Symphonie fantastique and Lelio, narrated by the great actor Gerard Depardieu, which was just released on CD.

There are so many important events that I cannot name them all here. But, because I know of the love for baseball in Japan. I will say that throwing the first pitch at Wrigley Field for the Chicago Cubs was also a particularly memorable event for me.

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--- We believe you may have passion for the music from your homeland, Italy. Do you have any upcoming plans to record an Italian opera with the CSO?

Although I am passionate about all kinds of music, not just that of my homeland, Italy, around the world, I am most known for my love of Verdi operas. Every opera of Verdi speaks to our feelings as human beings. His music is universal and relevant to people all over the world from the United States to Australia, South America, Japan etc. Unfortunately, performances of Verdi are still an open problem because most of the the performances around the world don’t do justice to Verdi. Conductors conduct Nabucco in the same way that they conduct Otello not realizing that Verdi’s catalog of music covered practically an entire century and there are three different periods in his music. So when we play Nabucco or we play Ermani it is not in the same way as when we play Don Carlos or we play Otello. And these operas are different from Falstaff which I will do with the Chicago Symphony in April and I hope we will release as a live recording.

--- We hear that you are passionate about teaching young musicians. What is the message you most want to give to young upcoming talents from your own experience?

It’s not easy to answer because many times especially politicians around the world when they want to have more votes they speak about old people and young people. Like the rest of the society doesn’t exist. So when you say that we have to help the young, we have to take care of them… and they say of the old people they think that people in general are stupid and they will vote for them. And then after they do nothing, not for the young, not for the old. But about music we have a mission and because we know that for sure that society that is more culturally more advanced becomes a better society.

Every conductor should know compositional technique very well. Unfortunately, it is very rare now. I studied composition for 10 years. Young conductors of today are generally more interested in the external, the outward show that people make on the podium than they are in spending time deeply studying harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, etc. It is too easy to go from playing an instrument to starting to wave the arms. As Toscanini said, “to beat time, every donkey can do. But to make music beating time is very difficult.”

--- You have visited Japan several times. Do you have any favorite places in Japan?

A. Since my debut in Japan with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1975, I have visited Japan 23 times. I love the Japanese public and I have only the highest respect for Japanese civilization and the great people of Japan. I have visited many places in the north and in the south and every place has been important and has impressed me. Places like Kyoto and Nara are very special, not just for me but for everyone in the world.

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Jeff Alexander, President, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association


---Congratulations on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra celebrating its 125th anniversary this season. We believe it is an important turning point for the CSO. Please let us know your vision this season for leading the CSO.

As we celebrate the 125th season of the CSO, we honor the past. For the 2015/16 season, we have put on every program in Chicago a work that has been premiered by the Orchestra. We are pleased to be undertaking this important tour of Asia, the 59th international tour for the CSO. We celebrate where we are now as an institution and we also look ahead to the coming decades to continue to enrich and transform lives through music here in Chicago and around the world.

--- It is almost one year since you joined the CSO. Please let us know any challenging points as well as the unique points of leading such a prestigious orchestra.

It is a privilege to serve this great institution and carry on the extraordinary tradition of artistic excellence that the CSO embodies. This high standard means that we must continue to cultivate strong financial support from a wide variety of sources. What I find unique about the CSO is the extremely consistent, high quality performances week after week in Chicago and around the world. What is also unique about the CSO as an institution is its broad ranging educational activities including the fact that we operate a training orchestra (the Civic Orchestra of Chicago). We also manage our own chorus as well as a presentation series, and we own and operate the concert hall.

--- It has been 5 years since Maestro Muti became the music director of the CSO and his contract renewal has also been announced. What kind of period is the CSO currently experiencing in comparison to its own 125 year history?

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has always been focused on achieving artistic excellence, but at this moment in our history, the musicians of the CSO have a particularly deep and satisfying artistic partnership with Riccardo Muti. This is clear when you attend a performance led Maestro Muti, and our audiences in Chicago eagerly anticipate this extraordinary musical experience.

---As one of the world’s leading orchestras, what role do you think the CSO is expected to take on?

I believe the CSO is an important ambassador for the value of classical music in our culture today. Music has the power to transform lives and this is especially important to contemporary audiences. The Orchestra has a long tradition of sharing music performed at the highest artistic level with a broad range of audiences and this remains a core part of our mission.

--- No doubt you have a deep understanding of Japanese culture through your wife Keiko. What do you think of the classical scene in Japan?

I have been traveling to Japan on a regular basis for over 30 years and have always been extremely impressed with the enthusiasm the Japanese public, of all ages, has for classical music.

--- The average age of classical fans is increasing in Japan. In order to attract younger generations, what kind of activity do you think is necessary in Japan?

In Japan, as in North America, it’s important to remove barriers to hearing great classical music. In Chicago, we reach younger audiences through our affordable student program, as well as annual free community concerts and our innovative MusicNOW contemporary music series which provides a more informal concert experience that encourages discovery of today’s composers and their music. If it doesn't already exist in Japan, I would encourage the creation of a ticket program for young adults at a reasonable cost.

--- Please let us know about any upcoming releases and recordings of the CSO RESOUND.

Our latest release is the CSO Resound recording of Berlioz’s Lelio and Symphonie Fantastique with Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSO. We do have plans for our next release and we hope to announce those later in 2016.

--- Apart from new recordings, do you have any plans to release any old recordings? We hear that many Japanese fans are hoping for the chance to listen to old recordings and please consider it in the future.

There are no immediate plans to re-release old recordings of the CSO. However, this is always something we like to consider, and it is good to know such an idea would be welcomed in Japan.


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