The Philharmonic Will Be Fine Without Riccardo Muti

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When the Chicago Symphony Orchestra announced yesterday that it had nabbed the prince of the podium Riccardo Muti as music director, it meant that he has jilted a besotted New York Philharmonic not just once or twice, but three times. In 2000, after months of fruitless courtship, he turned down the music directorship of our hometown ensemble. By some reports (his own, mainly), he did so again last year. "I love [the Philharmonic], and they love me very much," he told the Chicago Tribune last September, "but I told them very clearly that I want to be absolutely libero" — free — "and don't want to have any [titles]." He did accept one honorific from the Philharmonic — principal guest conductor — that he will now certainly relinquish, since there’s a tacit rule that the music director of a top American orchestra doesn’t moonlight with another. Muti is an old-fashioned maestro, aloof, glamorous, and deeply sensitive, and it’s a shame that New York will have to do without him (except, of course, for the Chicago Symphony’s regular visits to Carnegie Hall). But New Yorkers shouldn’t consider themselves deprived: A year before Muti ascends to the top job in Chicago in September of 2009, the New York Philharmonic will get its own new man, Alan Gilbert, who brings less European cachet and a less maguslike demeanor, but whose musical tastes and instincts for what a New York orchestra needs to be will probably prove a closer match. —Justin Davidson

And the Brass Ring Goes to Chicago Symphony: Riccardo Muti Says Yes [NYT]

Related: Justin Davidson on Alan Gilbert [NYM]