Chicago Symphony Orchestra Plays Mendelssohn, Debussy and Scriabin

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ricardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Ricardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Todd Rosenberg/CSO)

Every Tuesday night, we're re-broadcasting a concert from the 2014-15 season of Carnegie Hall Live. Tune in May 19 at 9 pm for this performance, recorded January 30.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in a night out at sea as they perform pieces by Mendelssohn, Debussy and Scriabin.

Muti begins the program with Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, a piece inspired by Goethe’s poems Calm at Sea and The Prosperous Voyage, depicting a more personal rather than literal journey through “deathly” still waters.

The CSO continues the evening with Debussy’s La Mer, a symphonic portrait worked solely from the composer’s memory of summers spent in Cannes. Muti ends the program with Scriabin’s The Divine Poem a four-part tone poem without pause. With the sections translating to “Struggles,” “Delights,” and “Divine Play,” the bridge between a literal and metaphorical journey through ever-changing waters comes to a close.

This concert marks the first of three concerts by the CSO at Carnegie Hall this month. Muti has been music director of the CSO since 2010.

WQXR's Jeff Spurgeon co-hosts the broadcast with fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.


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

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, conductor

We asked you to share your thoughts during the concert on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CHLive. Below is a collection of your tweets and photos.

Comments [5]

Les from Miami, Florida

Note: and three trombones and tuba in the Scriabin Third Symphony

Jan. 31 2015 08:40 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

I was most impressed with the overall balance in "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage". "La Mer" revealed sumptuous tone and great detail, such as the quiet cymbal at the end of "Play of the Waves", the glockenspiel in that and in the "Dialogue of the Wind and Sea". I would have liked much more crescendo in the cymbal at the end of "From Dawn till Noon on the Sea"; and in the "From Dawn..." at 1 before rehearsal number 46 the string pizzicatos weren't at the same fortissimo dynamic called for as well as the timpani stroke they succeed. That seemed a bit off-putting. There was no trumpet part added approximately two minutes until the end of the work. Regarding the Scriabin Third Symphony, I loved the writing for reeds and brass that begins the Second Movement, "Volupte'" (E Major, 3/4) In fact, I was carried away by it. Still, I guess I won't be a Scriabin fan. Despite many violin solos and divided string parts throughout, I found all of the string writing dry and turgid; and I was anything but moved. I think Scriabin was a wondrous orchestrator: sort of a Russian Liszt. Calling for quadruple reeds, 8 horns, 5 trumpets, 2 harps and Wagnerian string complement, there is ample opportunity for all sections to "shine", but I can't say I enjoyed the journey at all. I wonder, based upon the beginning of the Second Movement, why Scriabin didn't embrace writing for wind band as did Miaskovsky in his Symphony Number 19. I, for one, wish he did. The sound of individual as well as massed choirs of the Orchestra is something to marvel about; and Maestro Muti knows what he wants and what to emphasize. I'm one who laments that the traditional seating plan isn't used or favored: first violins to the left of the conductor and seconds on the right, allowing a bass sonority to be heard and reinforced behind them. It's a personal preference, but treble sounds on the left and mid-range and bass on the right just doesn't do it for me. All in all, Maestro Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are international treasures.

Jan. 30 2015 10:28 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boojnton, NJ

Riccardo Muti is one of the best maestri and his choice of programming permits the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to demonstrate its strengths. By bringing so many of the top symphony orchestras to New York Carnegie Hall is doing them and us a great service. Nowadays tourists do not schedule orchestral concerts as much as they do opera performances. To survive the symphonies need large audiences. Maybe their participation at Carnegie Hall will boost their hometown audiences by tourists eager to hear more. I personally have gained much by my solo concerts at Carnegie in terms of other engagements and the sale of my CDs of those concerts recorded live there. Of my 4 three hour long solo concerts in the main hall of Carnegie Hall, the Isaac Stern Audirtorium, two were ALL-WAGNER concerts. On my websites:, and can be downloaded 15 selections of the Wagner heldentenor roles from Rienzi to Parsifal. KUDOS TO CARNEGIE HALL FOR FULFILLING THE ASPIRATIONS OF ARTISTS AND THE PUBLIC WHOSE DESIRE TO HEAR LIVE PERFORMANCES HAS SO BEEN SO SUCCESSFULLY MET !!!

Jan. 30 2015 06:05 PM
Suzanne from New York

That's a FASCINATING bit of information, Les! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. It is pretty amazing to imagine being in a room during a conversation between Toscanini and Debussy as they talked this over.

Jan. 30 2015 10:19 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

a concert eagerly anticipated by this master conductor and virtuoso orchestra ... curious about whether a trumpet part added by Toscanini with Debussy's permission in the final "Dialogue of the Wind and Sea" movement will be played ... Debussy, impressed by Toscanini and Metropolitan Opera soloists when they visited Paris, allowed the change; and the score, if I'm not mistaken, is in the New York Philharmonic Archive.

Jan. 30 2015 08:40 AM

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