Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti withdraws, cites illness

By Karen Hawkins, AP
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicago Symphony director withdraws, cites illness

CHICAGO — The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has announced that music director Riccardo Muti is withdrawing from the rest of his fall residency because of illness, but officials hope he’ll be back this winter.

The Italian conductor is suffering from “extreme gastric distress” and has to fly back to Milan to consult with his doctors, according to a statement Sunday from the CSO Association.

Muti, 69, was scheduled to conduct fall concerts from Sept. 19 to Oct. 17, return for a winter series Feb. 3 through Feb. 19, and then conduct two sequences of spring concerts between April 7 and May 14. A New York tour is scheduled from April 15 through April 17.

“I have had the privilege of making marvelous music together with this great Orchestra, and I am confident that we will continue to do so when I return again,” Muti said in the statement. “I want to thank the Chicago public that has given me such a warm welcome, one that I have felt in my heart. This has touched me very deeply.”

The orchestra hopes that Muti will be able to return for the rest of his residency, orchestra spokeswoman Raechel Alexander said.

Illness forced Muti to miss Saturday night’s annual Symphony Ball. The orchestra performed the sold-out show without a fill-in conductor. Guest soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter assisted in conducting while she was playing, her first performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in nearly 20 years.

Most of the programming for the remaining performances in the orchestra’s fall schedule are unchanged, and other conductors will step in for Muti, the orchestra said.

Muti’s open rehearsal of works by Mexican composers with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago has been postponed. A new date hasn’t yet been set, Alexander said.

The rehearsal was to be part of Muti’s outreach efforts in Chicago’s predominantly Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood. The first half of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s season will be studded with Mexican-composed and -inspired pieces.

Muti first conducted the orchestra when he was in his 30s, and his return to the city had been highly anticipated. He referenced his earlier stint with the orchestra during an interview with The Associated Press earlier this year.

“Then, you had a young man, and now I hope you won’t get the ruins,” he said, laughing. “But I think I am like the best Italian wine — with the age, it becomes better.”

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