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Absent from Chicago since February 2020 due to the pandemic, Riccardo Muti walked into Orchestra Hall and start- ed to rehease Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.”
“It was a very, very emotion- al moment when I walked on stage and I went to the podium because the orchestra was united for the first time with their music director in the concert hall,” Muti said during a telephone interview Thursday, two days after the first rehearsal and before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s opening night of the season. “We played immediately the ‘Eroica,’ which I dedicated to the musicians of the orchestra and all the musicians in the world that have been separated and been in suffering because of the virus.”
Muti was to lead the CSO’s season-opening performance Thursday night, which included Joseph Bologne’s overture to “L’Amant anonyme (The Anonymous Lover)“ and Florence Price’s andante moderato.
Muti and the CSO announced he has extended his contract as music director by one year through the 2022- 23 season. The 80-year-old Italian became music director of the CSO in 2010, succeed- ing Daniel Barenboim.
“From the first moment I loved the orchestra. They love me,” he said. “For 12 years, we have made music always in happiness and in mutual respect. So practically this is a second family, my musical family and the second family.”
Muti had been conducting in Europe with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, which he took to Armenia. He led his Italian opera academy in Japan in May.
He told the Chicago musi- cians he hopes “music will heal the pains of the world.”