Chicago’s little Italy, New York’s plain Dutch

Chicago’s little Italy, New York’s plain Dutch


norman lebrecht

September 13, 2019

There was a time when it seemed Claudio Abbado or Riccardo Chailly might succeed Georg Solti in Chicago. Why that never happened is still hotly disputed, but Chicago got 15 years of Daniel Barenboim and missed out on the pizza.

In the 1990s, the New York Philharmonic went in pursuit of Riccardo Muti. That, too, never happened.  It got Kurt Masur and Alan Gilbert.

Then, ten years ago, Chicago landed Muti. Yesterday, it signed Enrique Mazzola for the Lyric Opera. Chicago has gone all-Italian.

And New York? Dutch at the Phil, Quebec at the Met.




  • We privatize your value says:

    So what??

    • Petros LInardos says:

      The Boston Symphony went from Japanese to Latvian, with a US interlude. And for a long time with some dutch cocoa spicing (until recently the venerable Haitink had been one of the most regular and, of course, respected guest conductors). I’d better stop writing, because this is getting very silly.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Abbado was lucky he missed out on Chicago, for he ended up following a path that suited his particular talents much more instead. I mean the path that led to Berlin Philharmonic and then to his best work, with the orchestras that he himself have founded. A conductor who did not care much about traditions (he stopped conducting Vienna Philharmonic in late 1980’s, and was the least likely candidate to bother with the Berlin Philharmonic sound passed on from Karajan), all he cared about was the composer and the work itself. In this respect, Muti (and also Chailly it must be said) is more conservative, in that he takes heed of traditions, but in a way that is still concerned with fidelity to the score.

    • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

      Abbado and Chailly are both more interesting to my ear than the calculated interpretations that lack excitement that Muti brings to the table.

      • Barry says:

        I agree. In fact, looking back at the Philadelphia Orchestra lineup of guest conductors during the late 60s and 70s, I’ve wondered if Ormandy would have been better off selecting Abbado for his successor than Muti. I recently came across a list of Abbado’s guest appearances in Philadelphia starting in the late 60s and was surprised by how much time he spent there until the mid 70s. Muti was popular in Philadelphia for most of his tenure, but in retrospect, from a purely musical standpoint, I am not so sure he was the right pick to replace Ormandy given the other options that may have been available then, including Abbado (I doubt they could have enticed Giulini, who also guest conducted in Philadelphia during that period, but had a closer relationship with Chicago).

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    Mazzola is one of the great musicians/conductors of our time. Anyone that saw his Daughter at last season’s MET production, could for sure attest to that. It is exciting to have a wonderful musician in the pit for a change! LOVE HIM!

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Was Carlo Maria Giulini ever considered for Chicago? He did a long term guest conduction stint there.

    • SEATAC says:

      He didn’t want the MD job. Agreed to be principal guest conductor during the first part of Solti’s tenure.

    • MacroV says:

      The CSO supposedly pursued Karajan, but that didn’t go far, as I recall hearing the story, because of unrealistic expectations of how he could work with an American orchestra (his only US gig was a single stint with the NYPO about a decade earlier). Then they went after Solti. By that time Giulini had been guest-conducting with them for 15 years. I suspect he wasn’t interested in an MD job, but was willing to be a principal guest conductor. Then a few years into Solti’s tenure LA hired him, which by convention then (and perhaps still now) prevented him from working with the CSO. He conducted the CSO regularly from about 1955 to 1976. And made a number of wonderful recordings with them for DG and EMI from about 1970-75.

    • ilio says:

      I’ve seen comments that Giulini didn’t want to be an American style MD with it’s non musical duties at the time.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        So what did he do in LA? His personality didn’t fit with LA stereotypes, but he certainly made some memorable recordings with them.

  • Pedro says:

    Non c’è piu virtu. Tutto declina.

  • Mark says:

    Mazzola, judging by his work at the Met, is a first-class opera conductor. But NYC is stuck with two mediocrities …

  • Edgar Self says:

    Gaffney Feskoe,– Giulini in Chicago? Possibly. They must have considered him at some point, but he was busy in Los Angeles for many years, and was said to have had a relatively small repertoire. Great conductor when “on”. One reason he gave for leaving Los Angeles was his wife’s health.

    Many CSO players are said to have voted for Abbado, but Solti and the board were set on Barenboim.

  • John Rook says:

    If you want to stick with the food analogy, you’ve got Putin at the Met.

  • Dean says:

    The idiot here is Fogel, the incompetent who stuck us with 17 years of mediocre crap and then believes he’s good. His proper name is Boringboim. GOD, he sucks. (At least I know what to play while I die.)