The Chicago Symphony Orchestra under new-ish Music Director Riccardo Muti came to the Musikverein tonight. The orchestra sounded fantastic, performing a concert that could have been scripted by the Philadelphia Orchestra in a happier day: Hindemith’s Symphony in E-flat and a suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.
I have always considered Hindemith more of a painter than a composer, but one who used sound as a canvas. The Chicagoans reinforced this very concept with the rarely-performed Hindemith work (which really deserves more performances). The woodwinds deserved special applause (and got it) for both demonstrating enormous virtuosity in their exposed phrases while also managing to play as a single unit, ensuring that all of the colors from Hindemith’s palette blended correctly.
Although the orchestra continued to sound great throughout the Prokofiev after the intermission, it did not manage to equal its achievement from the first half of the concert. Muti combined movements of two different suites Prokofiev himself had prepared of this ballet. But Muti may have forgotten that, at its base, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet was not a collection of orchestral pieces, but was indeed a ballet. The music tonight, while technically more-than-proficient, simply did not dance like it should have.
So, give the CSO one point for painting and no points for dancing. For sheer technical prowess, give them full points. The brass get extra credit, and the woodwinds earned double extra credit.