A Portrait in Four Movements: The Chicago Symphony Under Barenboim, Boulez, Haitink, and Muti

Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2019. 272p. ed. by Douglas W. Shadle & John R. Schmidt. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226609911. $27.50. MUSIC
An orchestra's performance is so shaped by its conductor that an astute listener will know who is conducting by how the orchestra sounds. Such a listener was Patner, critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and radio station WFMT. This volume compiles his reviews of performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), one of the original "Big Five" American orchestras and still widely regarded as one of the best in the country, between 1994 and 2015, along with interviews with four of the orchestra's conductors during this period. Musicologist Shadle (Orchestrating the Nation) provides historical context, but Patner's work is the heart of this collection. This book, coedited by attorney Schmidt, will primarily appeal to music fans who pay attention to who's at the conductor's podium, but it's an intriguing read for more casual fans as well: these are people whose lives revolve around thinking deeply about music, but their personalities and quirks, from Bernard Haitink's dry wit to Riccardo Muti's scholarly approach, shine through.
VERDICT A charming addition for followers of orchestral music. Stream some of the CSO's many recordings—ideally listening to each conductor while reading his chapter—and enjoy.

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