Carnegie Hall Live: The Chicago Symphony Plays A Colorful Concert Hear the CSO and its charismatic conductor Riccardo Muti in a program showing the muscle and subtlety of the of orchestra in music by Scriabin, Debussy and Mendelssohn.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a concert of powerhouse orchestral works at Carnegie Hall. AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music hide caption

toggle caption
AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music

Carnegie Hall Live

The Chicago Symphony Plays A Colorful ConcertWQXR radio

Carnegie Hall Live: The Chicago Symphony Plays A Colorful Concert

Audio is no longer available

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra arrives at Carnegie Hall with a program that portrays choppy waters and changing tides, opening with Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture followed by Debussy's La mer.

A stormy seas metaphor may be tempting for the CSO in these anxious times for the orchestral world — and the orchestra has seen considerable change in its front office. On January 12, the CSO welcomed a new president, Jeff Alexander, who comes from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and succeeds Deborah Rutter. A week earlier, the ensemble announced the appointment of a new VP of artistic planning, Cristina Rocca, to help shape its programming.

But most signs point to smooth waters for the CSO, as a string of multi-million-dollar donations have arrived over the last year, along with reports of record-breaking ticket sales (though increasing budget deficits remain a concern). In early 2014, music director Riccardo Muti, now 73, renewed his contract with the orchestra through 2020.

Against this backdrop comes the orchestra's three-concert series at Carnegie Hall. It begins with this program, which NPR Music and WQXR Radio will broadcast live Friday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. ET, featuring the two ocean-themed works plus Alexander Scriabin's Third Symphony, subtitled "The Divine Poem."

Scriabin has been a something of a specialty of Muti's at least since the late 1980s and early '90s, when he recorded all five of the composer's symphonies with the Philadelphia Orchestra. One critic at the time noted that the Russian mystic composer "brings out the conductor's unbuttoned side." The lyrical yet complex "Divine Poem," according to Scriabin, "must unite with philosophy and religion in an indivisible whole to form a new gospel."

If that scenario doesn't illuminate the music, it may be best to simply take in the work's extravagant instrumental colors, harmonic eccentricity and grandiose rhetoric. Set in four connected movements, the piece calls for a mammoth orchestra — including eight horns and five trumpets — which should pack a wallop in Carnegie Hall. The CSO is presenting all five of Scriabin's symphonies this season in Chicago.

"While it would be easy to dismiss 'The Divine Poem' as the work of a madman," Chicago Tribune music critic John von Rhein wrote in October, "it's hard to resist wallowing in its gorgeous orchestral colors and brilliant musical invention."


• Mendelssohn: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture
• Debussy: La mer
• Scriabin: Symphony No. 3, "The Divine Poem"

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Riccardo Muti, conductor

[+] read more[-] less

More From Classical

Jeremy Dutcher performs a Tiny Desk Concert on April 22, 2019 (Michael Zamora/NPR). Michael Zamora/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Michael Zamora/NPR

Jeremy Dutcher

There is no one making music like this 27-year-old, classically trained opera tenor and pianist. Watch and see why.

Ensemble Signal performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 25, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Ensemble Signal Plays Jonny Greenwood

Watch members of the New York-based group give the world premiere video performances of two recent pieces by Radiohead guitarist and composer Jonny Greenwood.

Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider perform a Tiny Desk Concert on March 6, 2019. Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider

Watch what happens when the smoky-voiced jazz singer from Mexico conspires with an adventuresome string quartet for songs steeped in Latin American traditions.

The Calidore String Quartet performs a Tiny Desk Concert on April 5, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

The Calidore String Quartet

The Calidore String Quartet confirms that the centuries-old formula — two violins, a viola and a cello — is still very much alive and evolving.

Carolina Eyck and Clarice Jensen perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 3, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR)/ Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Carolina Eyck and Clarice Jensen

Carolina Eyck, the first artist to bring a theremin to the Tiny Desk, plays the air with the kind of lyrical phrasing and "fingered" articulation that takes a special kind of virtuosity.

Anthony Roth Costanzo performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Aug. 10, 2018 (Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR). Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR

Anthony Roth Costanzo

Watch the ambitious countertenor sing music that spans more than 250 years, connecting the dots between David Byrne, George Frideric Handel and Philip Glass.

George Li performs a Tiny Desk Concert on July 31, 2018 (Eric Lee/NPR). Eric Lee/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Eric Lee/NPR

George Li

Watch the young Harvard grad dispatch some of the most "knuckle-busting" piano repertoire with uncommon panache and precision.

Yo-Yo Ma performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 25, 2018 (Samantha Clark/NPR). Samantha Clark/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Samantha Clark/NPR

Yo-Yo Ma

Watch the 19-time Grammy winner return to his lifelong passion for J.S. Bach, playing music from the Cello Suites and offering advice on the art of incremental learning.

The King's Singers perform a Tiny Desk Concert on April 19, 2018 (Eslah Attar/NPR). Eslah Attar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Eslah Attar/NPR

The King's Singers

The storied vocal ensemble brings close harmony singing to a diverse set list that includes a Beatles tune and a bawdy madrigal from the 1500s.

Back To Top