The conductor Riccardo Muti is the subject of a feature article by Andrew Clark this week in the Financial Times. Muti has been one of my favorites for a long time: a intelligent, principled musician whose interpretations are thoroughly considered and executed. His technique is extraordinary.
Muti, now thriving in his native Italy, conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra for twelve years. In Philadelphia he made a number of recordings with the orchestra and played a leading role in securing a new concert hall. He was often distressed, though, with the consumeristic misunderstandings Americans tend to hold about art. As he describes it to Clark:
'I always felt the accent was more on entertainment than the cultural experience,' says Muti. 'When I made tours around the US, I was shocked to find reviews written on a page called 'entertainment': topless shows next to Bruckner Seven. That says it all. It says culture is something to consume, not to engage with. When I go to a concert or opera, my attitude is to go to a place where I make my mind work. But in some theatres these ladies sit and wait for an Italian singer to bring an atmosphere of pizza and tomato and sunshine. E un lavoromusic is a work of the mind. That's why I don't like programmes with a selection of arias and choruses. This has nothing to do with culture.'Muti will be conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra's 60th Anniversary Concert this week in London. In February he will conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in a benefit concert.
(Quoted by Andrew Clark: 'Muti's Way,' Financial Times, 2005 January 21)
UPDATE: Read about Muti's return to Philadelphia in Andante Music News.