CSO 2023-24 Season Announced: Myriad Guest Conductors as Muti Era Closes

By Keegan Morris |

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Jakub Hrůša

Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša leads two CSO programs in the 2023-2024 season (Photo: Marian Lenhard)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has announced its 2023-2024 season.

The season will be the first following the departure of Riccardo Muti as music director. But the maestro will be close at hand as he continues his association with the CSO. Muti will lead programs for the season’s three opening weeks and preside over a January 2024 European tour. The release also makes mention of additional US appearances for Muti and the CSO that will be announced presently.

A bevy of guest conductors will take the podium for the CSO — renowned emergent conductors include Gemma New, Jakub Hrůša, Elim Chan, James Gaffigan, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, Klaus Mäkelä, and Lahav Shani. Some of the many veteran names making CSO podium appearances include Jaap van Zweden, Susanna Mälkki, Michael Tilson Thomas, Semyon Bychkov, Herbert Blomstedt, and Manfred Honeck.

The CSO’s season will showcase works by Gustav Mahler across multiple symphonies and songs. One highlight comes in May, Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead soprano Mari Eriksmoen, mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.

Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery (Photo: Jiyang Chen)

On the season lineup are four CSO-commissioned world premieres — the new works will be by Philip Glass, Lowell Liebermann, Christopher Theofanidis, and Jessie Montgomery, the CSO’s composer-in-residence. As part of her role, Montgomery will curate four concerts in the orchestra’s new music series CSO MusicNOW. Montgomery’s music will also be featured in a June 2024 program that contains The Elements, an intriguing piece that will premiere later this year, assembles works by leading American composers Montgomery alongside Jake Heggie, Jennifer Higdon, Edgar Meyer, and Kevin Puts.

The lineup of guest soloists is not lacking for noteworthy names, either. Hilary Hahn continues her role as artist-in-residence with one CSO subscription concert and one appearance in the chamber music series. Leonidas Kavakos makes two flagship series appearances and one chamber concert with Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma. Pianists Conrad Tao, Yuja Wang, Yulianna Avdeeva, Seong-Jin Cho, Daniil Trifonov, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet will take the stage with the CSO. Violinists Joshua Bell, Renaud Capuçon, Gil Shaham, and Josef Špaček will also make solo appearances with the orchestra. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, meanwhile, makes his CSO debut under the baton of Paavo Järvi. Soprano Ying Fang, baritones Christian Gerhaher and Lucas Meachem, and tenor Matthew Polenzani are among the vocalists who will perform with the orchestra this season.

In December, Sir Andrew Davis, the music director emeritus at Lyric Opera, will lead Handel’s Messiah with Polenzani and soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, and bass John Relyea. Thomas Wilkins will lead the orchestra’s annual Merry, Merry Chicago! Christmas concerts. Also in December, Michael Mulcahy will lead CSO’s vaunted brass section in a concert.

In March, CSO concertmaster Robert Chen will be soloist and conductor in an all-Bach family program that features JS Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto and CPE Bach’s Sinfonia in E-flat minor (the CSO’s first performance of the latter piece).

In April, James Conlon will lead Meacham, Issachah Savage, Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, Ashley Dixon, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus in Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

Hélène Grimaud

Hélène Grimaud (Photo: Mat Henneck)

The Symphony Center piano series once again brings a string of keyboard luminaries to Chicago: Sir András Schiff, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Hélène Grimaud, Benjamin Grosvenor, Evgeny Kissin, and Bruce Liu.

Symphony Center will also play host to many world-class ensembles. Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will play dual roles in April: first, in a set as part of the Symphony Center Presents Jazz series and then sharing the stage with the CSO in a subscription series concert under the baton of Giancarlo Guerrero. The Staatskapelle Berlin will make a November appearance under the baton of Daniel Barenboim, the CSO’s ninth music director. The Gateways Festival Orchestra (the subject of a current broadcast series on WFMT), will also appear in April with conductor Anthony Parnther. The orchestra, which strives to uphold classical musicians of African descent, made its Carnegie Hall debut with Parthner in 2022. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle, will also perform on the Orchestra Hall stage.

The chamber music series boasts an enviable lineup: a trio of Jean-Yves Thibaudet, violinist Lisa Batiashvili, and cellist Gautier Capuçon kicks off the series in October. The aforementioned Ax-Kavakos-Ma trio makes a return appearance in February. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra, led from the piano by Mitsuko Uchida, appears in March. Then, Yo-Yo Ma returns in April for a recital with pianist Kathryn Stott. Hilary Hahn appears with friends in June. Other high-profile presentations include sitarist Anoushka Shankar, the Vienna Boys Choir, Chanticleer, and the US Marine Band.

The CSO’s movie series offers the opportunity to see Fantasia (November), An American in Paris (February), and a program of movie music by the prolific Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi (who also conducts the concerts), in June. Two John Williams-penned scores will get performances: Home Alone in December and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in May. The orchestra’s children’s programming will run year-round and features kid-friendly fare like Goldilocks and the The Bears and The Three Little Pigs.

For more information on the upcoming Chicago Symphony Orchestra season, visit cso.org.