Chicago Symphony Orchestra Announces 2015-16 Season, New Composers-In-Residence

By Louise Burton on Jan 31, 2015 07:10 PM EST

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra recently announced programming for the 125th Anniversary Season, including a fresh look at many of the works the CSO has premiered over its 125-year history. The 2015-16 season will also include a renewed focus on repertoire that has long been a strength of the CSO: the Austro-German orchestral repertoire, ranging from Handel's Messiah to Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

One of the showpieces of this coming season will be a concert performance of Verdi's Falstaff, the final opera in the CSO's cycle of Verdi operas inspired by the works of Shakespeare. More highlights include special one-night-only appearances by pianists Lang Lang and Evgeny Kissin.

The CSO will present another free Concert for Chicago in Millennium Park on September 18, 2015, featuring music of Beethoven and Mahler. This concert is one of the 125 community events the CSO has pledged to present in greater Chicago during its 125th season.

Information about the complete 125th Anniversary Season is available at

The CSO's World and U.S. Premieres

During a collegial meeting in the Symphony Center Club earlier this week, Music Director Riccardo Muti and Program Annotator Phillip Huscher talked about the decision to revisit the many premieres the CSO has given in its 125-year history. Huscher said that the orchestra was deeply involved in planning the new season when Martha Gilmer, vice president of artistic planning, left the Orchestra to become the CEO of the San Diego Symphony.

"It gave us a moment to stop and reflect, and sort of rethink what we wanted the 125th Anniversary Season to be, and how we thought we should mark this important milestone in the orchestra's life," Huscher said.

"The first thing I remember is that Maestro Muti asked to see a list of all the premieres the orchestra has given since 1891. It's a big list. It's more than 650 pieces that we either gave the U.S. premiere of or the world premiere... And some of them are pieces that we now know very well, pieces that we introduced to the American public, and some of them are pieces, of course, that we have forgotten, or never really knew very well."

Many people are unaware that the CSO gave the U.S. premieres of many works that have become cornerstones of the orchestral repertoire, including Richard Strauss' tone poems Ein Heldenleben and Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Elgar's Enigma Variations, Holst's The Planets, and Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 and Te Deum. The CSO will perform these works during the 2015-16 season.

Perhaps even more interesting is the list of world premieres the orchestra has given. Next season, the CSO will revisit some of these works, including John Corigliano's Campane di Ravello (1987), Witold Lutoslawski's Symphony No. 3 (1983), Alfredo Casella's Symphony No. 3 (1941), and Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in C (1940). These last three works were commissioned by the CSO.

Some of these works are familiar to U.S. concertgoers; others, less so. Alfredo Casella, in particular, is a composer whose music is not often heard in the U.S., although Muti said this is not the case everywhere. "In Europe his name is extremely important," Muti said. "He had a big influence on Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Berg; he was an active composer."

Muti's decision to revisit these world premieres is one way of ensuring that more new music gets heard in the U.S. a second time.

"Many times, new composers write music that is forgotten after the last note is written," Muti said, ruefully recognizing the fact that, after the excitement of a world premiere, many new works do not receive a second performance.

Mead Composers-In-Residence

Muti announced that the young American composers Elizabeth Ogonek and Samuel Adams will be the CSO's new Mead Composers-In-Residence. They will replace the departing Composers-In-Residence, Anna Clyne and Mason Bates, who have served their 3-year terms. Adams and Ogonek will be the new curators of the CSO's MusicNOW series, focusing on contemporary music.

U.S. and Asian Tours

This fall, Muti and the CSO will embark on a U.S. tour with performances in Kansas City, Mo.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Chapel Hill, N.C. The Orchestra will also give a special concert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in October 2015. The Orchestra will depart for a three-week Asian tour in January 2016, including performances in Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul.

Muti said that one of his goals for the future is to take the CSO to Cuba, now that U.S. - Cuba relations have begun to thaw. "The orchestra should be the voice of the culture of the United States," he said. "...This orchestra should go there as an expression of brotherhood and friendship through culture."

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TagsChicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, Phillip Huscher, Elizabeth Ogonek, Samuel Adams, Anna Clyne, Mason Bates

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