The mighty Chicago Symphony Orchestra -– made great by Fritz Reiner and turbocharged by Georg Solti -– last visited Southern California 25 years ago this month, playing one concert in then-new Segerstrom Hall and three in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Much has happened at the CSO since. The Daniel Barenboim era came and went. More than half of the personnel has changed over and it landed the much-coveted Riccardo Muti as its new music director. And with the convenient convergence of the San Francisco Symphony’s centennial and Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ 25th anniversary, the CSO was finally lured back Friday night -– this time in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
Yet our ears have changed too. I remember when the CSO blew through town and turned heads with its staggering precision and ability to get a big sound out of recalcitrant halls like the Chandler and old Segerstrom. Now, with the upgrade in technical standards here and elsewhere, the CSO no longer seems so startling. And in newer Segerstrom, the still-brawny Chicago brasses worked too hard, which they didn’t have to in this space, where the adjustable setting was much too reverberant.
There was only one concert this trip, but it was a bold one -– loaded with future-shock pieces past and present and one oldie that has dropped off the radar, Franck’s Symphony in D minor. At 70, Muti looks exactly the same and conducts with the same vigor and expressiveness as he did in his last visits with the Philadelphia in the 1980s.