Chicago extends Missy

Chicago extends Missy


norman lebrecht

January 29, 2021

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has asked Missy Mazzoli to stay on for an extra years as Composer-in-Residence.

Good call.



  • Alexander T says:

    Nothing to write home about.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Here is a covid performance of one of her pieces:

    “I could not believe my ears when I heard it” – I had a comparable experience, but probably for different reasons.

    This is considerably better:

    Meditative process music with a dramatic touch.

    Her ‘Still life with avalanche’:–Missy-Mazzoli/

    … the regular USA process music with touches of pop to make it digestible.

    A clever & talented lady.

  • Chicagorat says:

    Quotes from “The curious case of the ‘invisible’ contemporary composer” (Ivan Hewett, the Guardian)

    ” [..] John Adams is outraged about the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s decision to omit the name of the composer Missy Mazzoli from the headline publicity to one of its own concerts – even though the concert contained a brand-new piece by Mazzoli, which the orchestra itself had paid for. Instead, the headline shouted: “Muti” – meaning the orchestra’s music director Riccardo Muti – “conducts Beethoven 4 & 7” […] we can’t let the Chicago SO off the hook. There is a line to be drawn between a shrewd marketing ploy and downright cynicism and not mentioning the name of a composer the orchestra actually commissioned surely crosses that line. It arouses the suspicion the orchestra only gets involved in contemporary music as a way of pulling in a sponsor, or burnishing its credentials in the eyes of cultural pundits.

    In the case of the Chicago Symphony, that suspicion seems all too plausible. It’s led by an old-style maestro, Riccardo Muti, whose interest in new music is close to zero, if his previous career is anything to go by. It’s a sad decline from the days when Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim brought real passion and curiosity to the orchestra. Indeed, it’s the leader who is crucial to combating this crisis, and there have been great conductor-orchestra partnerships which prove that, when a gifted and charismatic conductor who really believes in new music takes the helm, audiences can be won over.”

    What a difference when journalists tell it how it is (talking to you, Chicago Tribune).

    We can add the total lack of cultural renaissance to Muti’s list of sad achievements in Chicago. He is too busy pontificating about his single annual (as in once a year) concert in a prison – a cunning PR move for dummies-, mocking Americans, and cashing his salary for doing nothing.

    • Maestro5151 says:

      Aptly named Chicagorat, not sure if you heard many of Muti’s concerts in the past few years but if you did, with an open mind and ears, you would have heard an incredible depth of interpretation completely supported and celebrated by the orchestra. When was the last time you saw that orchestra with the 30 to 40 year veterans on the edge of their seats playing with such passion. Yes, Muti touts his performances at prisons and in the suburbs where he is able to reach a new audience and allow these people to hear their GREAT orchestra but he also brings performances to such a high level that many of us cannot wait until we are able to attend again in person. You people are so cynical. What a way to go through life. Get a life!!!

      • Burnham says:

        The last time we saw something like that in Chicago was so long ago we can’t even remember. Certainly not during Muti’s reign: the orchestra is stiff, cold, cool, mechanical and worst of all … controlled! On a good evening, it sounds like a technically impeccable carillon. Muti is so deeply controlling that the musical spirit and rendition reflects his aridity, and nobody else’s. Important critics (all non Chicago based) have noticed that for years. Check out Woolfe and the NYT.

        Muti is a personality cult with a couple of years left in its old batteries. The other reason why we have not seen what you describe is because Muti has BANNED any important director (besides Haitink who preceded him) from setting his/her foot in Orchestra Hall. And he has BANNED young rising stars like Ms Wang because he is afraid they might obscure his twilight. Truly sad and pathetic for Chicago.

        I agree the prison initiative is a stunt. Leaders who try to change their community through Music do that every day, like Dudamel did in Venezuela, not once a year. And they have their initiative organically recognized by the public, they don’t have sycophant Chicago journalists make you swallow it by force in exchange for a fancy dinner.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Hewett is not to be taken very seriously. He is one of those people who are under the impression that advocating indigestible modernism is a signal of being up-to-date.

      “It’s a sad decline from the days when Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim brought real passion and curiosity to the orchestra.”

      Wrong: Boulez’and Barenboim’s passions for contemporary works were of the kind that undermined the art form from within. Their very narrow insights and tastes belonged to a bygone age when ‘progress’ was thought to really exist in the arts. Hewett belongs to that mental little garden. Even a sturdy conservative indifference is better than the inside jobs of those two, at least something is preserved.

      Both Boulez and Barenboim thought about music history as a streamlined, linear development, as if music were a project worked upon by a small group of utopians, trying to get music moving ‘forwards’, like science. A very basic understanding of what music is – namely, its difference from science – always escaped them. What bound these two is: ego cultivation before anything else, including music.

      • Glenn Hardy says:

        “Wrong: Boulez’and Barenboim’s passions for contemporary works were of the kind that undermined the art form from within. Their very narrow insights and tastes belonged to a bygone age when ‘progress’ was thought to really exist in the arts.”
        What an excellent distillation of what was going on in that “bygone age!” “Progress” indeed.

        • John Borstlap says:

          To push music forward as if it were a cart which lost its horse, has always seemed something beyond belief to me, something one would expect with teenagers, not adults….!

  • stickles says:

    All the more important for Chicago to look past Muti and pick the right person for the next MD. From the management side of things, they should offer optional tailored subscription series to all but especially new subscribers by conducting surveys. It can be as simple as asking them to pick an adjective for a dozen composers and compositions. There you have enough information to create a fun, adventurous and maybe even enlightening series of concerts that progress throughout the season, and will have them coming back next year.