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An Evening with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall

Joyce DiDonato with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, photo © Todd Rosenberg Photography
A thus-far terrific season at Carnegie Hall continued extraordinarily on the evening of Friday, November 15th, with the magnificent appearance of the superb musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the dazzling direction of the inestimable Riccardo Muti, in the first of two concerts on consecutive nights. (The second was devoted to music by Sergei Prokofiev.)
The program, with all three works in it bearing some connection to the city of Rome, opened exhilaratingly with a magisterial account of Georges Bizet’s colorful, mystifyingly undervalued and seldom performed quasi-symphony, Roma, inspiredby his memorable sojourn in that city as a winner of the Prix de Rome. The first movement consists of a dramatic middle section in between a subdued introduction and its unconventional recapitulation, while the ensuing scherzo was charming and ebullient. The slow movement was stately and melodic, and the work concluded triumphantly with a dance-like finale, eliciting abundant applause.
The second half of the evening began with a commanding performance of another rare opus, the powerful, early The Death of Cleopatra by Hector Berlioz—written as his submission for the Prix de Rome—which is notable especially for its brilliant orchestral writing and which here featured the divine presence of the outstanding mezzo-soprano, Joyce DiDonato, who also earned an enthusiastic ovation.
The concert closed stunningly with an unsurpassable reading of the Ottorino Respighi favorite, the exquisite Pines of Rome. The opening “Villa Borghese” section was glittering, succeeded by the somber “Catacombs” movement. The dreamy, impressionistic The Pines of the Janiculum seamlessly transitioned into the glorious and rousing finale, The Pines of the Appian Way, which resulted in an deservedly ardent reception from the audience.
The next appearance of these superlative artists shall be eagerly awaited.

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