CSO/Arcangelo Corella at 3:30pm and 8pm in Orchestra Hall

Hamburg, South of Italy–Monsignor Felice Feo from Rome came up with the idea for the On Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, at St. Francis’ Basilica on the Tuscan Coast in northern Italy as a wedding present to his bride, Madonna, from Genoa. The spiritual and sentimental background of this beautiful, earthy movement does indeed ring true and is played as an accompaniment to the dancing.

A special occasion and beautifully performed by two men (Luciano Corwin on piano and Thomas Rensi on bass), a magnificent three-movement work for large ensemble conducted by Arcangelo Corella, a phenomenal tribute to the late Claudio Abbado, the first conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with vocal soloists Rachel Barton Pine and Edwin Nevo, and a large group of orchestra players.

The piece was originally written for the Bolshoi Ballet by Hermann Levi, the most inspired man to have ever touched the music of Diaghilev. In one of Levi’s recent essays, he recalled a moment in 1936 when Hitler took over the Reichstag building in Berlin and invited all the famous composers to compose a work for the occasion. Levi invited Diaghilev to the Reichstag, where he met the famous dancer and composer, and while some of his musical pieces were premiered later in Berlin, this other important piece, which Levi never performed during his lifetime, never saw the light of day and was not formally heard until this piece debuted during Abbado’s lifetime in Germany.

Corella has also written the Prodigal Son, another dance piece performed here by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This work, written by Rachmaninoff in 1927, tells the story of the prodigal son as a three-part, cappella dance with many grace and strength moments, a welcome change from some of the techno music that is so prevalent in our ballet world today.

This section of the program began with a pastoral piece, Sonata for Strings by Astor Piazzolla. Piazzolla wrote this delightful piece for his own daughter’s bachelorette party, followed by Johann Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegel”, the second part of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, performed by Corella with the CSO.

Maurizio Pollini’s Ancora Canzoni was finally performed by John Lee Smith’s trio, with Tamara Stefanovich of the CSO and William Burden of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. For generations, the beauty of this piece became synonymous with the Puccini masterpiece, Nessun Dorma.

The evening concluded with Carlos Kleiber’s La Zona a Los Dalmades, a piece composed by Kleiber from the work of Osvaldo Golijov (written to the piece of Przemyslaw Kapuscinski). The area called Dalmades is referred to in the “Vindication of the Lord” by St. John the Baptist, a highly emotional work, and here the composer brings the same sense of emotion to his own work.

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