Riccardo Muti, after his triumph in Verdi's Requiem the other night in Chicago, gave an interview to "Corriere della Sera" where he explained the reasons behind his admiration for the President Elect, his love for Chicago, the reason why he turned down the Music Directorship of the NY Phil in favor of the CSO and why Verdi's Requiem is so special for him.
Speaking from his 44th floor apartment overlooking icy Lake Michigan, Muti told the paper that
"America wants to be loved once again, and I consider the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, recently selected by Gramophone magazine as the best orchestra in America, as ambassadors of this new hope. Despite the fog over the lake, to me this looks like Spring".
He also endorses the tentative plans to create a Secretary of Culture cabinet position in the USA ("A revolution").
Re: his refusal to become Music Director of the NY Philharmonic Muti opined that
"right after my commitment here in Chicago, I'm going to conduct in New York. In the past, I was happy to be free from commitments, happy to work freely with the four or five orchestras closer to my sensibility (I've been working with the Wiener Philharmoniker for 38 years). Sometimes, there comes a moment when something 'clicks'. I had no other reason. My relationship with the NYPhil is splendid".
More on Chicago (that he feels is "going crazy" with anticipation for the Obama inaugural), Obama and America.
"I have known two Americas. The America I encountered when I took helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra when I was 39 years old: the old glorious America where the American flag was born, the city of Liberty Bell. Chicago is the city of the future, even in its architecture. It's like a Ferrari. Here you find Polish communities, Italians, Greeks, Mexicans: that's why the orchestra is so lively. These days the city is waiting for Obama, who used to be a Senator here. He narrated Copland's Lincoln Portrait, a piece that I conducted in Philadelphia with Michael Jordan as narrator"
And on Verdi's Requiem (that Muti discussed two years ago in London, too):
"I conducted the Requiem all around the world; I recorded it twice. Man and God are almost wrestling, it's much different from anything else in the Austro-German religious repertoire. The Requiem's roots are in our way of demanding, more than asking, that God takes care of us, since he carries the responsibility for our presence on this earth. Here, man does not pray passively, but there's a struggle, the Libera Me Domine scream is a scream of rebellion, that finale in C-major that unsettles you even if it's usually a luminous tonality, see Mozart's Jupiter or Beethoven's Fifth. That's Verdi's genius, he leaves you with a question mark: will I be liberated by you? Will it happen eventually?"