Riccardo Muti, who has galvanized the players and thrilled audiences in his recent appearances with the Philharmonic, will serve as an all-but-official principal guest conductor. Orchestra officials announced the arrangement — an expansion of his current multiple-week, multiple-year commitment — at the same event today at which they revealed Alan Gilbert's selection as the Philharmonic's next music director.
But Muti will not have a formal title or a contract, according to The New York Times. He "will appear in multiple weeks of subscription concerts each season, and occasional international tours," said a statement released by the Philharmonic today. How much time Muti will spend with the orchestra each year is not specified, though orchestra management told the Times that he is expected to be in residence for six to eight weeks per season.
The 65-year-old Italian, who had shot down rumors of his candidacy for the Philharmonic's top job, is said to have no more interest in the administrative duties of a music director, particularly after the turbulent end to his tenure at La Scala (1986-2005). Muti has also served as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra (1980-92) and chief conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London (1972-82). He is now in very great demand as a guest conductor.
"He just didn't want a title," New York Philharmonic president Zarin Mehta told the Times. "He's free, and he's Italian."
(Nevertheless, Muti is thought by some to be a front-runner for the vacant music director post at the Chicago Symphony, though other observers doubt that he would accept the position.)
For his part, Muti said in a statement released today, "Making music with the New York Philharmonic has long been one of the highlights of my musical life. I am delighted that my role with the Orchestra will expand and that we shall be performing together even more than we do currently, both at home in New York, and on tour. Furthermore, I congratulate the musicians on their choice of Alan Gilbert as their music director."