Watch out Muti, the Vienna Phil are snapping you

Watch out Muti, the Vienna Phil are snapping you


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2017

Rehearsal shots for the New Year’s Day from Ben Lea, VPO violinist:


Who’s the fiddle with the Leica, bottom left?


  • Olassus says:

    He was at home in Ravenna for Christmas. Reliable sources there say he battles mild depression, offset by preparing for or making music. It is a little depressing for listeners that he feels it necessary to announce this will be his “last” New Year’s Day concert, Aida was his “last” staged opera, the CSO is his “last” job. But that is where we are.

    • erich says:

      Like the Divas of old announcing their ‘positively final appearance’ and then amazingly returning ‘by popular demand’ .
      He needs something to try and keep himself interesting, since his autopilot performances of a relatively limited number of the same pieces has become increasingly tedious.

      • Olassus says:

        Except that he won’t be “amazingly returning” despite popular demand.

        • erich says:

          …well he is already, apparently by conducting the nepotistic production his daughter is directing of Cosi in Vienna!

          • Olassus says:

            No, he acknowledged that at the time of his statement.

            Not sure what you have against him. He is a great musician, with limits, like all the other greats.

    • Steve says:

      Do you have any more specifics on the “mild depression”? I find it incredibly hard to believe that he would be suffering from this; I myself have seen him in Ravenna recently and I know for a fact that he is in a state of peace and happiness when he’s at home.

      • Thomasina says:

        I can not answer your question but perhaps it’s the reason that he works with his daughter? He would like to work in peace…

      • Olassus says:

        No. But what I was told (in Italian) was stronger than I have it worded. He is, as you imply, relaxed in Ravenna, and wonderfully supported. Happiness in a general sense may be an overstatement though. I certainly hope he is not on some psychiatric medication doing more harm than good.

  • erich says:

    He CAN be a great conductor and certainly was one of the greatest talents in the 70’s with the Philharmonia. His ego – and his talents – were sadly not improved by his move to Philadelphia, where he became seduced by the adulatory idiocies and financial blandishments of the Americans and somehow lost the spark and freshness of his former self.

    And then came la Scala where he was initially lionised, but again failed to take advice, resulting in increasingly dismally staged, miscast productions.

    Rome also went wrong, and listening to the few recordings to have emerged from Chicago (compare the Verdi Requiem with his early Philharmonia or even the Scala one), you will see what I mean by when I maintain that the gilt is off the gingerbread!

  • Ben says:

    The photos courtesy of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Facebook page

  • Mark Stephenson says:

    Muti auditioned me for The Philharmonia cello section when I was 21. I had a fantastic time playing for him in the orchestra. Years later as a guest conductor with the National Orchestra of Washington DC, I found myself chatting back stage with the Principal Cello. Rostropovich had appointed the entire cello section. The cellist’s take on what differentiates a good conductor from a mediocre or bad one was: “A good conductor makes us sound better than we are, a bad one makes us sound worse than we are”! I hoped I had fallen into the former category or at least somewhere in between. He did not say !! Muti polishes an orchestra in rehearsal with amazing precision and skill, his performances are driven and usually outstanding. His recent conducting engagement in Tehran, for which he combined young Italian players with young players from the Tehran Symphony Orchestra must have given him and those involved huge satisfaction. Like Barenboim and a few others, when you have scaled the heights Muti has, he is probably going to gain far more satisfaction from initiatives like his Tehran visit, than repeating programmes in familiar places. Muti is a fantastic Symphony conductor, I must see/hear him conduct in his natural home, the Opera House, one of these days.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Great to read such positive comment as a compensation for so much bitter complaints. Are great conductors not allowed to not be a machine? To be human? I have an incredibly beautiful and sparkling recording of Cosi under Muti, even if he had been able to produce such performance only once, he would be a truly great musician.

      • erich says:

        The live 1982 Salzburg Cosi recording is indeed wonderful – and all artists, great or less so, have the right to have ‘on’ and ‘off’ days. But what must also be permitted, even if essentially subjective’ , is the right to praise or criticise where one feels it to be justified, particularly if, unlike journalists, one pays for one’s own tickets or recordings!

  • Steve P says:

    Muti’s New Philharmonia And Philadelphia years are some of my absolute favorite orchestral eras. Boy, could he whip a group into a frenzy!
    Don’t care much for his La Scala or Chicago stuff (and I really haven’t ever been a big CSO fan, anyway, so it isn’t like he made them worse).

  • Rob says:

    He did a very good In the South.

    • Mark Stephenson says:

      He loves the piece. Pity he has not conducted any other Elgar, to my knowledge. Some of the Russians love to conduct Elgar. I remember playing some Elgar under Svetlanov. Of the Americans, Leonard Slatkin is an Elgar fan.

  • herrera says:

    Where would such bitter critics go if this site didn’t exist? Muttering to themselves at home?

  • William Osborne says:

    Note the women in the photo, and looking so happy. They now represent about 10% of the membership.