In Saturday’s (9/25) Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein writes, “If a major part of Riccardo Muti’s agenda for his Chicago Symphony Orchestra is to treat his audiences to rarities previous music directors have neglected, then bring ‘em on, say I. Of course, some listeners would question the wisdom of his decision to resurrect Hector Berlioz’s obscure melodrama, ‘Lelio, or the Return to Life,’ for the inaugural subscription program of his CSO command Thursday night at Orchestra Hall. No doubt they would have preferred something more popular and familiar to open the 120th season. But Muti doesn’t operate that way, and his judgment had to be respected. Berlioz wrote ‘Lelio’ as a sequel to his popular ‘Symphonie Fantastique,’ insisting that the scores be paired in performance, an instruction seldom heeded in modern times. Muti took the composer at his word, and the result was a fascinating excursion back in time to early 19th century Europe, when wild Romantic ferment ruled the arts. … The Chicago Symphony outdid itself on this occasion. Clearly intent on giving their new boss everything he asked for, the musicians played the ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ with plenty of frisson and a robust yet refined sound that had clarity, rhythmic urgency and coloristic intensity.”

Posted September 27, 2010