The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Riccardo Muti took a blow to their pride last night when principal flute Mathieu Dufour ended a period of prolonged vacillation by announcing he was leaving next month to join the Berlin Philharmonic.

Dufour is a central attraction of the Chicago band and his decision was greeted with some bafflement. He will probably earn less in Berlin where, aside from deep public subsidies, commercial and media fees have dried up. He will need to find a new home, new friends, new fans in a foreign language. And he will be moving from an orchestra with a powerful and charismatic music director to one with an open podium and no certainty of its future direction.

So why?

Mathieu is saying nothing.

mathieu dufour


As a Frenchman, formerly at the Paris Opéra, he may feel the tug of his home continent. As a cosmopolitan, he will embrace Berlin’s dazzling diversity. And as an artist, he is ever ready to take risks.

He was, in any event, never the most settled member of the Chicago ensemble, having flitted off to Los Angeles for six months in 2009 when the CSO was between music directors. Appointed in 1999, Dufour belonged to the Barenboim era and never struck deep roots.

But his departure leaves Chicago with three big holes in the woodwinds – no principal flute from November, no principal bassoon since David McGill resigned in the summer and a big question over principal oboe Eugene Izotov who has successfully auditioned for the same post in San Francisco. Will he stay or, like Dufour, go?


After months of cogitation Mathieu Dufour, Principal Flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has submitted his regination, effective November 4, 2014, in order to join the Berlin Philharmonic in the same position in the new year. We hope he’s made the right choice.

Press release follows.  UPDATE: Why would he do that?


CHICAGO—Mathieu Dufour, Principal Flute, the Erika and Dietrich M. Gross Chair, of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has resigned his position with the CSO, effective November 4, 2014, in order to accept the position of Principal Flute at the Berlin Philharmonic. His tenure there begins in 2015.  

Dufour began his tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as principal flute in 1999, appointed by then-music director Daniel Barenboim. Since then, Dufour has appeared numerous times as soloist, most recently in March 2014, giving the world premiere performances of Guillaume Connesson’s Flute Concerto, which was commissioned by the CSO.

Vanessa Moss, Vice President for Orchestra and Building Operations of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, said, “In the 15 years he has been with the CSO, Mathieu Dufour has made an extraordinary contribution to the artistry and musicianship of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We wish him a long and successful career with the Berlin Philharmonic.”

Riccardo Muti’s back – well ahead of schedule and on top of his game.

He tells Andrew Patner in the Sun-Times that seven weeks was quite long enough to get over heart surgery and a broken jaw. He has been left with a pronounced sibilance in his speech, but has been assured that it will fade in due course. If I were a player in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I wouldn’t ask the maestro in rehearsal where that hissing noise is coming from.
The full interview will appear at the weekend.
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photo: Tom Cruze~Sun-Times, all rights reserved

The Montreal conductor Yannick Nézét-Séguin has issued a short statement, explaining his decision to cancel Chicago concerts this month.

 ‘Due to an overly taxing fall schedule, I made the extremely difficult decision to create additional time in my schedule for rest and study.’

That’s it. No apology, no direct communication with Chicago, its musicians and media, no promise to make good – no, the statement was issued by the Philadelphia Orchestra, via the New York Times. Andrew Patner gives the local reaction here. 

This is a very bad start for a young conductor. I hope he does well next season in Philadelphia, because he won’t be welcomed many places else for a very long time.

In any other business, Yannick and his new band would face a lawsuit for breach of contract.