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Muti Conducts Beethoven 2 & 5

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Chicago / Music

There are maestros who place great trust in period instruments. Riccardo Muti focuses first of all on the score. No one dissects notes more meticulously or reassembles them with greater authority. His season-long survey of the Beethoven symphonies is sure to reach a peak with the Fifth, instantly recognizable in the four-note motif that chases through the entire first movement. What does the motif imply? According to centuries-old hearsay, the master himself said it was the sound of fate knocking at the door, but other answers have been legion. The musicologist Matthew Guerrieri has written a whole book called The First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination, an intellectual page-turner of the first order. Muti’s program on this occasion also includes the world premiere of the French composer Nicolas Bacri’s Ophelia’s Tears, in which, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, the principal solo part goes to a bass clarinet. —M.G.

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