Press Room

Riccardo Muti Extends Contract as Zell Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Through 2023

Music Director Riccardo Muti (photo: Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) is very pleased to announce that Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti’s contract has been extended through the 2022-23 season. Muti became the tenth music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in 2010. His tenure was scheduled to conclude at the end of the 2021-22 season, but in light of the many months of canceled performances since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Muti has agreed to the Association’s request to remain as music director through the 2022-23 season. During this period, he will maintain his current commitment to lead the orchestra in ten weeks of subscription and special concerts and community activities in Chicago, as well as four weeks of international and domestic touring activities. Highlights of Muti’s programs with the CSO in the 2022-23 season will include the world premiere of a CSO-commissioned work by Mead Composer-in-Residence Jessie Montgomery, June 2023 performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and a roster of distinguished international soloists, and a January 2023 Asia Tour to Taiwan, China and Japan.

CSOA Board Chair Helen Zell said:

“On behalf of the Association’s Board of Trustees, it gives me great pleasure to share this exciting news today. The unique artistry of Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is recognized as something truly exceptional, not only in Chicago but also around the world. After such a challenging time without the opportunity to connect to the joy of live music, we are grateful that Maestro Muti has accepted our invitation to stay with us to make music that lifts our spirits and inspires us.”

Muti responded with equal enthusiasm:

“I look forward to being in Chicago again with the musicians to bring music back into the city. I am very proud of the musicians of this great orchestra and happy to stay as music director to continue our great artistic collaboration, and to work with our Trustees, volunteers and Administration to keep music an important part of our community and a beacon of hope around the world.”

CSOA President Jeff Alexander also welcomed the news, saying:

“Maestro Muti’s relationship with the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has created an extraordinary artistic partnership. His performances with the CSO in Chicago, across the country and around the world, as well as his commitment to education and community engagement activities, have been deeply moving and meaningful, and we are delighted he has agreed to extend his music directorship for an additional season. The entire CSOA family expresses our sincere gratitude to Maestro Muti for his leadership and the gift of his continued connection to the Orchestra, the institution and our city.”

CSO horn James Smelser, Chairman of the Members’ Committee, agreed:

“Besides Maestro Muti’s wonderful return to Chicago, the first since February of 2020, there can be no greater joy than to share in this news. The musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recognize this important step in the continuation of a significant musical collaboration that can be shared with audiences in Chicago and throughout the world. We are extremely proud to have Maestro Muti as our music director.”

Riccardo Muti’s Role as Music Director
As with his previous contracts, Muti’s role as music director includes a diverse set of responsibilities. In addition to conducting subscription concerts and tours, Muti works to maintain the ensemble’s exceptional roster of musicians, participating in auditions and the selection of new members for the orchestra. He has also continued the CSO’s distinguished legacy of recordings with releases on the CSO’s Resound recording label, and has participated in online digital projects including a YouTube release of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 that has surpassed 32 million views. Muti oversees the season programming process, which includes the selection or commissioning of new orchestral works, and regularly features works by the CSO’s Mead Composer-in-Residence, an artistic position Muti appoints; most recently he appointed Jessie Montgomery to a three-year term through June 2024. He is also involved in the creation of special artistic positions, such as the CSO’s new Artist-in-Residence role, currently held by internationally acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn through 2023, as well as the Creative Consultant role that was held by celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma from 2010-2019. Muti’s commitment to the next generation of young musicians includes his establishment, at the beginning of his tenure, of the CSO’s respected Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprentice Program. Along with a distinguished jury, he most recently selected Lina Gonzalez-Granados to be the fourth Solti Conducting Apprentice, continuing in the role through 2022.

In support of the Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO, Muti will also continue to play an active role in several community and training programs. These include his annual free Concerts for Chicago; interactive recital programs with CSO and guest musicians at area juvenile justice facilities; CSO open rehearsals for seniors, veterans and school and community groups; and free, open rehearsals at Symphony Center during the annual Youth in Music Festival and with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the CSO’s prestigious training Orchestra.

Riccardo Muti and CSO Performance History
Riccardo Muti made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1973 at the Ravinia Festival. In 2007, after an absence of more than 34 years, he led the orchestra in a month-long residency of subscription concerts and a critically heralded European tour, including the CSO’s first appearances in Italy in more than 25 years. Muti’s appointment as the CSO’s tenth music director was announced in 2008. He appeared with the orchestra several times as music director designate beginning in January 2009 and officially stepped into his role as music director on September 19, 2010, leading the CSO in a concert which attracted 25,000 people to the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Throughout his tenure as music director, Muti has been dedicated to creating deeper connections with the city and its residents through the transformative power of music. He has conducted the CSO in more than 450 critically acclaimed performances in Chicago—including the free Concerts for Chicago, a tradition he established as music director—across the United States, and in Europe, Russia and Asia. Recognized as today’s foremost interpreter of the music of Giuseppe Verdi, Muti has helmed the CSO in critically lauded performances of Macbeth, Otello, Falstaff and Aida, as well as Verdi’s Requiem, which was recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and received multiple Grammy awards. His commitment to new music has extended to world premiere performances—in Chicago and on tour—of works by Mead Composers-in-Residence Mason Bates, Anna Clyne, Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek. World premieres planned for 2022 include a new work by Missy Mazzoli, who completed her appointment as Mead Composer-in-Residence in June 2021, and a new work by Mazzoli’s successor in the role, Jessie Montgomery.

Since the start of the pandemic, Muti has provided artistic guidance for radio and online series accessible to local and global audiences. These include the “Maestro’s Choice” series on WFMT and the critically acclaimed “CSO Sessions” digital series, comprising newly recorded chamber music performances featuring CSO musicians, filmed in Orchestra Hall throughout the 2020-21 season and released on the new streaming portal CSOtv. With the opening performances of the CSO’s 131st season in September 2021, Muti begins his twelfth season as music director and reunites with the musicians for the first time since February 2020, when he conducted critically acclaimed performances of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana.

The CSO’s music director position is endowed in perpetuity by a generous gift from the Zell Family Foundation.

Bank of America is the Maestro Residency Presenter of the CSO.

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About Riccardo Muti
Born in Naples, Italy, Riccardo Muti is one of the preeminent conductors of our day. In 2010, when he became the tenth music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he had more than forty years of experience at the helm of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (1968–1980), the Philharmonia Orchestra (1973–1982), the Philadelphia Orchestra (1980–1992), and Teatro alla Scala (1986–2005). Muti’s tenure with the CSO has been distinguished by the strength of their artistic partnership; his dedication to performing great works of the past and present, including thirteen world premieres to date; and the enthusiastic reception he and the CSO have received on national and international tours; as well as his contributions to the cultural life of Chicago with performances throughout the city’s many neighborhoods and at Orchestra Hall.

Muti studied piano under Vincenzo Vitale at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella in Naples and subsequently received a diploma in composition and conducting from the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan. His principal teachers were Bruno Bettinelli and Antonino Votto, principal assistant to Arturo Toscanini at La Scala. After he won the Guido Cantelli Conducting Competition in Milan in 1967, Muti’s career developed quickly.

Herbert von Karajan invited him to conduct at the Salzburg Festival in Austria in 1971, and Muti has maintained a close relationship with the summer festival—celebrating the 50th anniversary of his debut in 2021—and with its great orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic. In addition, he has led the orchestra in its annual New Year’s Day concert from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein on six occasions (1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2018, and 2021), a rare privilege accorded to very few conductors. Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic received the prestigious audience award, the Romy Prize, for their 2021 New Year’s Concert in the TV Moment of the Year category. The event was broadcast in over ninety countries and followed by millions of radio and television viewers around the globe, making it the largest worldwide event in classical music. Muti has received the distinguished Golden Ring and the Otto Nicolai Gold Medal from the Philharmonic for his outstanding artistic contributions to the orchestra. He also is a recipient of a silver medal from the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Golden Johann Strauss Award from the Johann Strauss Society of Vienna. He is an honorary member of Vienna’s Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera. On August 15, 2021, Muti received the Great Golden Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria, the highest honor a civilian can receive from the Austrian government.

Muti has received innumerable international honors. He is a Cavaliere di Gran Croce of the Italian Republic, Officer of the French Legion of Honor and a recipient of the German Verdienstkreuz. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed on him the title of honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship, and Pope Benedict XVI made him a Knight of the Grand Cross First Class of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, the highest papal honor. Muti also has received Israel’s Wolf Prize in Music, Sweden’s prestigious Birgit Nilsson Prize, Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, and Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun Gold and Silver Star and Praemium Imperiale. He also holds more than 20 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

Past awards from his native Italy include the gold medal from Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his promotion of Italian culture abroad, the prestigious Presidente della Repubblica award from the Italian government, and the Viareggio Repaci Special Prize. During the past year, he received the honorary citizenship of the city of Palermo for his commitment to spreading the values of peace and communion among peoples through the universal language of music, as well as the Manna of San Nicola, the highest honor given by the city of Bari. In June, Muti received the distinguished De Sanctis Europa Prize, bestowed on figures of extreme importance in the European cultural, scientific, and literary fields. In July, the Conservatory of Naples San Pietro a Majella presented Muti with the Guido Dorso Prize, acknowledging him as a distinguished “Ambassador of the South” for his great artistic and cultural commitment, and for his particular attention to the new generations of musicians. In July, immediately following celebrations of his 80th birthday, Muti conducted performances in Rome at the Quirinale Palace at the first-ever G20 Cultural Minister’s Meeting, a summit that formally added the cultural sector to the G20 process, recognizing its crucial role in daily life and in the health of the global economy.

Passionate about teaching young musicians, Muti founded the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra in 2004 and the Riccardo Muti Italian Opera Academy in 2015. Through Le vie dell’Amicizia (The Roads of Friendship), a project of the Ravenna Festival in Italy, he has conducted in many of the world’s most troubled areas in order to bring attention to civic and social issues.

Riccardo Muti’s vast catalog of recordings, numbering in the hundreds, ranges from the traditional symphonic and operatic repertoires to contemporary works. He also has written four books: Verdi, l’italiano and Riccardo Muti, An Autobiography: First the Music, Then the Words, both of which have been published in several languages; Infinity Between the Notes: My Journey Into Music, published in May 2019 and available in Italian; and Le sette parole di Cristo—Dialogo con Massimo Cacciari (The Seven Last Words of Christ: a Dialogue with Massimo Cacciari), published in 2020.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: and
Founded by Theodore Thomas in 1891, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. Since 2010, the preeminent conductor Riccardo Muti has served as its tenth music director. Jessie Montgomery is Mead Composer-in-Residence, and Hilary Hahn is CSO Artist-in-Residence.

From Baroque through contemporary music, the CSO commands a vast repertoire. Its renowned musicians annually perform more than 150 concerts, most at Symphony Center in Chicago and, each summer, at the suburban Ravinia Festival. They regularly tour nationally and internationally. Since 1892, the CSO has made 62 international tours, performing in 29 countries on five continents.

People around the globe listen to weekly radio broadcasts of CSO concerts and recordings on the WFMT radio network and online at Recordings by the CSO have earned 63 Grammy Awards, including two in 2011 for Muti’s recording with the CSO and Chorus of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem (Muti’s first of eight releases with the CSO to date). Find details on these and many other CSO recordings at

The CSO is part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, which also includes the Chicago Symphony Chorus (Duain Wolfe, Director and Conductor) and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (Ken-David Masur, Principal Conductor), a training ensemble for emerging professionals. Through its prestigious Symphony Center Presents series, the CSOA presents guest artists and ensembles from a variety of genres—classical, jazz, world and contemporary.

The Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO offers community and education programs that annually engage more than 200,000 people of diverse ages and backgrounds. Through the Institute and other activities, including a free annual concert led by Muti, the CSO is committed to using the power of music to create connections and build community.

The CSO is supported by thousands of patrons, volunteers and institutional and individual donors. The CSO’s music director position is endowed in perpetuity by a generous gift from the Zell Family Foundation. The Negaunee Foundation provides generous support in perpetuity for the work of the Negaunee Music Institute.

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© 21C Media Group, September 2021


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