Friday, November 02, 2007

Stirring things up

In a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times, it was stated that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra just finished having a splendid year. The reason for that seems clear to me - change. Daniel Barenboim, who maintained the high standard of the orchestra after Solti, was here for a long time. There was nothing wrong with his performance as leader, or the performance of the orchestra under his baton. It simply became old news, especially since Barenboim brought with him his own musical interests, particularly the post-Romantic school of Germans: Mahler and Bruckner.

Now that he is gone, Chicago has had the pleasure of hosting multiple conductors doing short stints. We have not only been exposed to the brilliant helmsmanship of Bernard Haitink, but the styles of every conductor of note today. More importantly to me, we have also been exposed to music that was not within Barenboim's repertoire. We opened this years concert's with Riccardo Muti and the Symphony No.3 of Sergei Prokofiev. Tchaikovsky, Respighi, even Adams, have had their turns on our Symphony Center stage. Don't get me wrong - the Giant Germans have a strong showing, but having various conductors, with their various interests, spoils us.

This weekend, the CSO performs a mainstay of this orchestra with Christoph von Dohnanyi: The Bruckner 4. But, it is paired not with a Beethoven piano concerto (all five seem to be performed here yearly). Rather, Bruckner is partnered with the Sibelius violin concerto. Bernard Haitink will also be conducting this weekend, with the CSO's training orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Will he be performing Mahler? Nope. In fact, Beethoven's Leonore Overture No.3 is as much German as we get. The main course is Shostakovich's Symphony No.10. For the record, more Shostakovich symphonies will be performed this year than Mahler symphonies. And if you know Chicago, that's saying a lot.

So here's to the board not finding a conductor too quickly. And when they do find him, let''s hope he doesn't stay long enough for the relationship to become stale. GET THE PICTURE, SEATTLE?

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