The Italian conductor's concerts with both orchestras were highly anticipated events — Muti was the Philadelphia Orchestra's music director from 1980 to 1992, and he was considered by many observers to be a prime candidate to succeed Daniel Barenboim as the Chicago Symphony's music director — and each orchestra had scheduled an extra non-subscription concert with Muti to meet anticipated demand.
But a spokesperson for the conductor told The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday that Muti's case of the flu has been "going on for weeks, and he can't shake it."
Yet Muti was able to spend part of last week traveling in Malta. According to a report in The Malta Independent, the conductor visited the tiny Mediterranean nation to explore "opportunities to organize artistic and musical activities in Malta in the coming months." Sunday's Times of Malta (October 29) reports that he visited two historic opera houses in the town of Victoria on the Maltese island of Gozo last Wednesday and Thursday (October 25-26), attending rehearsals and meeting with cast members and officials as well as with the orchestra of the Accademia Musicale Siciliana, which was performing on the island.
Replacing Muti on the podium for the Philadelphia Orchestra's subscription concerts this Thursday through Saturday (November 2-4) will be the esteemed Estonian conductor Neeme J‹rvi. Currently music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague. J‹rvi is also music director emeritus or laureate of the Detroit Symphony, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Gothenburg Symphony. (It was during his tenure that the Gothenburg SO was designated the national orchestra of Sweden.) He has built up a formidable discography, in particular on the Chandos and BIS labels, and he is currently recording a cycle of the Tchaikovsky symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon. In addition, Neeme J‹rvi is known as a musical patriarch: his daughter Maarika is an active flutist, and his sons Kristjan and Paavo are both noted conductors in their own right.
There will be one change in the Philadelphia program: Paul Hindemith's Nobilissima visione, previously scheduled, will be replaced by the same composer's Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber. The rest of the program remains as planned: Franz Schubert's Overture to Rosamunde and Fourth Symphony and Richard Strauss's Tod und Verkl‹rung ("Death and Transfiguration").
In Chicago next Friday (November 10), the young French conductor Ludovic Morlot will fill in for Muti. A Seiji Ozawa Fellowship Conductor at the Tanglewood Music Center in 2001, Morlot has since 2004 been assistant conductor to James Levine at the Boston Symphony; he has also conducted the New York Philharmonic and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, as well as members of the Chicago Symphony in the orchestra's MusicNOW series. The November 10 concert, which will be Morlot's debut with the full CSO, will feature Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4; the remainder of the program will be announced later.
The extra non-subscription performances Muti was to have led — on Tuesday, November 7 in Philadelphia and Thursday, November 9 in Chicago — have been cancelled.