Just in: Muti picks Missy

Just in: Muti picks Missy


norman lebrecht

June 26, 2018

The Chicago Symphony has signed up America’s most sought-after composer.

Press release:

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) is pleased to announce that Missy Mazzoli has been selected as its new Mead Composer-in-Residence. Appointed to the position by Music Director Riccardo Muti, Mazzoli begins a two-year term July 1, 2018 continuing through June 30, 2020. 

Acclaimed American composer Missy Mazzoli is the recipient of a 2015 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award, four ASCAP Young Composer Awards and a Fulbright Grant. She previously held positions as Composer in Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Gotham Chamber Opera. She attended the Yale School of Music, the Royal Conservatory of the Hague and Boston University, where her teachers have included David Lang, Louis Andriessen and Aaron Jay Kernis. 



  • John Borstlap says:

    How could he do that?! From all the available serious American composers like Paul Moravec, Jake Heggie, Pierre Jalbert, Daniel Gilliam, Jennifer Higdon, Stephen Albert, Jonathan Leshnoff, Daniel Asia, etc. etc. he picks someone who merely writes cheap kitschy poppy things for people for whom ‘classical music’ is too difficult and whose mind can only take-in things that don’t go beyond the most primitive format.




    If he needs a PC woman to show that the orchestra has embraced gender justice, he could have picked the mentioned Hogdon or Lera Auerbach. But THIS is just embarrassing, tasteless nonsense. No wonder that Muti complained that of all his many premieres no single one has showed ‘staying power’.

    • Samuel McCoy says:

      John, you are certainly free to feel this way, but perhaps your opinion would be better informed if you were to listen to some of Missy’s more recent work, such as Breaking the Waves(2016), Proving Up(2018), Dark with Excessive Light(2018), Sinfonia(2014), as opposed to your youtube links of a piece from 2011, 2007, and a piece not even by Missy, but by a band called Moon Ate the Dark. It is fair to assume Maestro Muti and the CSO took her most recent work into account when making this most excellent of choices.

    • John’s #1 Fan says:

      I know, I’m still surprised he didn’t pick you.

    • Maximiliano says:

      Please be quiet. You know nothing about how the process was handled, what the criteria were (hint, more than just “good music”), which composers were approached, which were not interested, which composers already have enough exposure (part of the purpose of the position is to highlight up-and-coming composers…look at the previous two), etc. You sound like a child that didn’t get his way. Luckily, no one in Chicago really cares about your opinion.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Criticizing Trump’s election does not necessarily mean that one wanted to be president in his place. Objecting to Hitler’s policies does not necessarily mean one wished to take his position. One can be critical about a dentist’s competence without being a dentist oneself.

        That comment is lazy thinking, trying to exchange arguments with ad hominum attacks.

    • Adista says:

      I’ve heard this before, that Muti complained that none of the premieres he’s conducted have staying power. Not doubting you at all, just trying to find where he said this. It definitely sounds like him, I’d love to read his original quote, can anyone help me out?

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    ‘Play “Missy” for me’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  • Joel stein says:

    Stephen Albert died 25 years ago. I enjoy her music and I am happy she got the appointment.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That Albert no longer lives does not mean his music is suddenly worthless. THe regular repertoire consists of music by dead people.

      • Joel stein says:

        If you are dead you can’t work with orchestra-help curate programs or write new works for the orchestra to perform which I believe is part of the job of being a composer in residence.

        • Dying on the inside says:

          This just in: John Bortslap thinks that composer-in-residence positions should not be limited to living composers!! Man, that’ll show the “PC Police”!!!!

          • John Borstlap says:

            It would be great if Albert would be appointed posthumously composer in residence at some orchestra and his music played over a season. Since the central performance culture is a posthumous affair anyway, that would not make much difference. It seems that being dead is a great advantage for any composer, given the ineffectiveness of living composers in residence.

  • John Porter says:

    I heard her Breaking The Waves and thought it was stellar. Her teaching is also admirable with her Luna Lab for young women composers and her studio of young composers at the Mannes School, though for some reason the Chicago Symphony didn’t think mentioning her teaching was important. Or perhaps they don’t think Mannes and the Luna Lab are good enough to mention.

  • Jack says:

    John, apparently you would denigrate the judgement of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and Maestro Riccardo Muti as “PC”. But you know? I’ve heard of the CSO. It has been a major ensemble for many decades. Maestro Muti has been a major conductor for over fifty years. However, outside this blog, I’ve never heard of you.

    So I think I would rather trust their judgement over yours. And having heard Ms. Mazzoli’s work in performance, I also understand why they made the choice they did.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But isn’t that mere conventional thinking, and lazy thinking on top of that? It is an institution SO I must trust it. I have not been able to inform myself of this or that composer SO he/she must be insignificant. I am entirely ignorant of Chinese antique pottery SO it must be bad. I never heard of renaissance painting SO it’s totally uninteresting. I never went into a museum SO they are superfluous. They have elected him SO he must be a capable president. Etc. etc…..

      I have the greatest admiration for both the CSO and Mr Muti, but that is the reason I’m startled. From a totally mediocre provincial amateur ensemble led by a one-armed ex-trombonist who had some unlucky rehearsel accident it would not be so surprising to find such a choice. Clearly it is the result of superficial PC thinking and not the result of much artistic deliberation. Which, by the way, is not easy at all in these days – but therefore one would expect from such orchestra a more informed choice.

      • Anne says:

        I am writing here though kind of replying to all the submissions. Muti and Missy don’t really have a lot in common. He is a “super musician,” meaning he possesses great power in knowledge and skill. I am not sure what Missy is. I was at talk that Missy gave in NYC where she told us that she “really wanted to be a pianist but wasn’t good enough so” she “turned to composing”. She also told us that she wants to perform so she “writes easy parts for herself to play and gives the harder parts to a pianist”. I found this odd and kind of sleazy. The music I have heard of hers I liked and found authentic. However Norm, to call her the “most sought after American composer” is nuts. Eric Ewazen get 500-600 performances of his work a year and that has been going on for a while. Lowell Liebermann also get 150-200 performances a year. There are others too. Missy isn’t even close and neither are her Brooklyn friends. The real test is will anyone play this music for the music’s sake, not the sake of appearing cool or with it or what not? I think Muti and CSO have make this mistake before with Bates and Clyne. I remember a review of a CSO concert in NYC of a Bates piece from this residency, the reviewer wrote “this is the biggest piece of schlock I have every heard.” my 2cents.

        • adista says:

          “I was at talk that Missy gave in NYC where she told us that she ‘really wanted to be a pianist but wasn’t good enough so” she “turned to composing’.” – That happens a lot. At the college I went to, the performance majors spoke of the composition majors as “all those people that can’t play.”
          “The real test is will anyone play this music for the music’s sake, not the sake of appearing cool or with it or what not?” – Doubtful. She has awards and acclaim but no audience.

        • John Porter says:

          Eric Ewazen and Lowell Lieberman are rarely performed by orchestras and opera companies, but rather solo instrumentalists (Lieberman) and some chamber ensembles (Ewazen is pretty much the king of brass quintet…the brass players may not know there are any other composers who wrote for their ensemble.). Lieberman probably gets 400 of the 600 of his performances alone from his solo flute piece and Gargoyles for solo piano. At this moment Mazzoli may be the most talked about American composer among orchestras and opera companies, not to mention the press coverage. Her operas are being done all over the world with major commissions and performances from the LA Phil, etc. it is clearly her moment. As for whatever she said, I would remind everyone that Steve Reich said he doesn’t like writing for orchestra, but that doesn’t diminish his importance, from an the position of influence or number of performances by many different ensembles.