Variety key to CSO's next season

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 2011-12 season, announced last month, features major artistic initiatives and much more.

A year from now (March 15-17, 2012), Music Director Riccardo Muti has rescheduled his highly anticipated subscription performances of Luigi Cherubini's Requiem in C Minor with the orchestra and CSO Chorus, a seldom-performed work that will commemorate the 250th anniversary of Cherubini's birth. This program, rescheduled because of illness, will also include two other pieces not heard all that often: Johannes Brahms “Schickaslied” for chorus and orchestra and Arnold Schoenberg's “Kol Nidre,” the latter with narration by Chicago cantor Alberto Misrahi.

In his fall concerts, Muti has scheduled a variety of works, with the opening-week concerts (Sept. 22, 23 and 27) including Jacques Ibert's Flute Concerto featuring CSO principal Mathieu Dufour, Nino Rota's suite from his score for the film “The Leopard,” and the program closing with Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony.

On Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and 4, the CSO will replicate its concert (almost to the day) played 100 years ago honoring the centennial of the birth of composer Franz Liszt. Included will be “A Faust Symphony” (with the CSO male chorus) and his Piano Concerto No. 1, with soloist Michele Campanella.

Wrapping up his three-week fall visit on Oct. 6-8, Muti will conduct music related to next season's major artistic theme: “An Exuberant Era: 1911-12.” This is another historic concert, duplicating the last program Gustav Mahler ever conducted. Works include Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”) and Giuseppe Martucci's Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist Gerhard Oppitz making his CSO debut.

Muti's winter residency includes Carl Orff's secular cantata “Carmina Burana,” with the CSO Chorus and vocal soloists on Jan. 26-28 and 31; and world premieres of music by CSO Mead Composers-in-Residence Mason Bates (Feb. 2-4 and 7) and Anna Clyde (Feb. 9-11). Muti's March 2012 concerts will include the previously mentioned Cherubini Requiem, along with a concert devoted to music by Brahms (Symphony No. 2 and Violin Concerto, the latter with soloist Pinchas Zukerman), on March 7, 8 and 10. The same program is set for the CSO's run-out concert in Ann Arbor, Mich., on March 9).

For his pair of June 2012 concerts, Muti will conduct music by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Bruckner and Paganini.

• Concerts conducted by Pierre Boulez: Conductor emeritus Pierre Boulez will conduct two weeks of his 20th century specialties in February 2012. His first program will include Arnold Schoenberg's “Pierrot lunaire” and Igor Stravinsky's “The Soldier's Tale.” Soprano Kiera Duffy will make her CSO debut, while pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard is also a featured soloist.

• Concerts conducted by Bernard Haitink: In late October, the CSO's laureate principal conductor will lead Mahler's Symphony No. 4 (with Swedish soprano Klara Ek in her CSO debut), and Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, with soloist Frank Peter Zimmermann (Oct. 20-22); in his second week (Oct. 27-29), Haitink will conduct Haydn's oratorio “The Creation” with the CSO Chorus and soprano Klara Ek, tenor Ian Bostridge and bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann. This will be the first CSO performance of this work since 1993.

• Debut podium guests: Finnish conductor Susanna Mäikki (Oct. 13-15 and 18); French conductor Stephane Denive (Nov. 10-12 and 15); French-Armenian conductor Alain Altinoglu (Feb. 23-24), who is leading this season's “Carmen” performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago; and Russian Kirill Petrenko (March 22 and 24).

• Returning guest conductors (in alphabetical order): Semyon Bychkov (Nov. 17-20); Charles Dutoit (April 5-7 and 10, and for a second week April 12-13); Sir Mark Elder (April 5, 7 and 10, and for a second week Jan. 12-15); Manfred Honeck (Jan. 18-21); Ton Koopman (May 10-11); Bernard Labadie (Nov. 2-6); Ludovic Morlot (May 31, June 1, 2 and 5); Trevor Pinnock (June 7-9 and 12); Carlos Miguel Prieto (May 5-6); David Robertson (May 22, 24, 25 and 26); Esa-Pekka Salonen (Dec. 15-17); Mitsuko Uchida (March 29-31 and April 1); and Jaap van Zweden (Dec. 1-3).

• “Friday Night at the Movies” series: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film “West Side Story,” on Nov. 25 David Newman will conduct the CSO in a restored MGM high-def screening of this 10-Oscar winner. The score is by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

On Jan. 6, music from the Oscar-winning Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Berman film “Casablanca” will be led by Richard Kauffman. The score includes the iconic “As Time Goes By.”Kaufman returns May 4, 2012, in a #8220;Disney Live in Concert#8221; screening of #8220;Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.#8221;For ticket information on these and all of next season's concerts, visit