Review: Chicago Symphony’s Beethoven Ninth, on evening after Russian invasion of Ukraine

Posted on: March 1, 2022

“The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s set of four performances of Ludwig van Beethoven’s famed Symphony No. 9 … were originally scheduled on what seemed to be ordinary February dates,” writes Kyle MacMillan in Friday’s (2/25) Chicago Sun-Times. “But … Thursday evening’s concert [took] place on the second day of Russia’s horrific attack on the Ukraine. There is no more fitting work for this dark moment than this landmark symphony, which sums up Beethoven’s lifelong belief in hope and freedom…. Music director Riccardo Muti offered a few remarks…. He condemned hate and violence and noted the final movement’s setting of Friedrich von Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy,’ saying that ‘joy without peace cannot exist.’ But perhaps more important than words, Muti and the Chicago Symphony delivered a thrilling, superlative performance.… It was a milestone evening for the Chicago Symphony Chorus, [marking] the final time the singers were prepared by Duain Wolfe, who is retiring after 28 years as chorus director and conductor…. His distinguished work could be heard … in the chorus’ laser-focused unity and precision…. Often, orchestras add a … work before the Symphony No. 9…. Muti [allowed] this timeless masterpiece to stand on its own—an ode to joy at an awful moment of sadness.”