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Muti and CSO recording of Shostakovich and ‘Kol Nidre’ released

The cover art for a new release from Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

A new recording by Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – the seventh to be made on the orchestra’s own CSO Resound label – will be released in the United States via retail and online outlets on Sept. 30, and become available worldwide on Oct. 7. It features an intriguing pairing of lesser known vocal works by two 20th century masters: Arnold Schoenberg’s “Kol Nidre” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti.”

Both works were recorded live in Orchestra Hall in March and June 2012, respectively. Schoenberg’s “Kol Nidre” features Muti leading the CSO and the Chicago Symphony Chorus with renowned interpreter of Jewish music Alberto Mizrahi as the narrator. Internationally acclaimed Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov is featured as soloist in Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti.”

The “Kol Nidre” (which translates as “all vows”) is a declaration in Aramaic – the ancient Semitic language – that is recited in the synagogue before the beginning of the evening service each Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and the most solemn of Jewish holidays. It is not a prayer, but is commonly thought of as one, and has been infused with powerful emotional undertones since the medieval period. It annuls all vows made to God for the coming year, so as to preemptively avoid the sin of breaking vows that cannot or are not upheld.

Schoenberg composed his “Kol Nidre” in 1938 at the request of Rabbi Jakob Sonderling of the Los Angeles–based Fairfax Temple. Receiving its world premiere only a month after the anti-Semitic events of Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, this striking liturgical work takes the form of a rabbi engaging in reverent dialogue with the chorus.

Shostakovich’s “Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti” was composed in 1974 for bass and piano. At the urging of colleagues, the composer went on to set the work for full orchestra. Shostakovich regarded the suite in its final iteration to be his last symphony; he died on August 9, 1975, before the orchestral version of the work could be premiered. Written in part to mark the fifth centenary of Michelangelo’s birth, the suite features settings of 11 poems by the great Italian Renaissance artist whose writings dealt with such topics as love, creativity, exile and death. Shostakovich’s dark, spare settings of these verses underscore the gravity of the suite’s themes, which were of personal relevance to the dying composer who had lived nearly his entire life under Soviet rule.

This recording was engineered by Grammy Award winner Christopher Willis, mastered by Grammy Award winner Silas Brown, and produced by Grammy Award winner David Frost. Previously with the CSO, Frost produced CSO Resound albums of music by Verdi, Berlioz and Prokofiev, and former CSO Mead Composers-in-Residence Mason Bates and Anna Clyne, all conducted by Riccardo Muti, as well as a collection of works performed by the CSO Brass.

Muti and the CSO’s first recording together—Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem” with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, released in 2010—won two Grammy awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance. Their second, Verdi’s “Otello,” also with the Chorus, was released in 2013, and won an International Opera Award. Additionally, Muti’s September 2015 release of Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique” and “Lélio” was met with worldwide critical praise. Muti’s latest recording with the CSO, Mason Bates’ “Anthology of Fantastic Zoology,” was released in June 2016.

The new Schoenberg/Shostakovich recording also is available now for advance orders on Amazon, iTunes and Arkiv Music.