Riccardo Muti is regarded as an uncompromising perfectionist who restricts himself to the essentials of the music with passion and dedication: “I always use the authentic version of a score.” Like no other conductor of his generation, he represents an Italian conducting tradition that can be directly traced back to Arturo Toscanini.
Muti’s most important teachers at the conservatory in Milan, apart from the composer Bruno Bettinelli, were the Toscanini students Antonino Votto and Guido Cantelli. His international career began when he won the prestigious Guido Cantelli Competition by unanimous jury vote in 1967 and was appointed artistic director of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino a year later – a position he held until 1980. In 1971, Herbert von Karajan invited him to conduct at the Salzburg Festival, where he has appeared regularly ever since. The next year, Muti succeeded Otto Klemperer as conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, before succeeding Eugene Ormandy as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1972, he also conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time. “I took many things with me from my first encounters with the Berliner Philharmoniker,” Muti says, “things that contributed to my musical education even after my studies and that are now an integral part of my artistic identity.” Riccardo Muti then led La Scala in Milan from 1986 to 2005 in the longest tenure in the orchestra’s history. In 2010, he became the tenth music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Muti, who has received countless prizes and honours during his long career, has conducted the world’s foremost orchestras.