In February, The Royal Conservatory launched its new International Orchestra Series, welcoming the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti, to Toronto for the first time in 109 years, to tremendous critical acclaim. For students of The Glenn Gould School, this was a thrilling opportunity to work directly with one of the world’s most legendary and revered conductors.
“The moment we heard that we would be rehearsing with Maestro Muti, I remember instantly texting all my friends. I couldn’t believe it! Having the CSO visit Toronto and perform in Koerner Hall was unbelievable enough – to work with Maestro Muti on top of that was simply incredible,” said Gillian Derer (flute, ADP ‘24). “During my time at GGS, there have been a few select moments where I have been so overwhelmed with gratitude to be studying here – this was one of those moments!”
The Royal Conservatory Orchestra participated in a reading in Koerner Hall of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, the first movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, and Giordano’s Intermezzo from Fedora, under the direction of Maestro Muti, and it was an experience like none other. Under his commanding and masterful guidance, each and every musician was inspired to rise to his majestic standard of precision and excellence.
“It was a surreal experience, that’s for sure. He’s one of a kind, a legend, so passionate about the music – he inspires you to really give it your all, give 200% every single moment. I was so focused and present and engrossed,” said RCO concertmaster Isabella Perron (violin, BMus ‘24).
“I really appreciated his passion,” said David Liam Roberts (cello, BMus ‘22, ADP ‘24). “We had to step up our game the whole time we played.”
For all of Maestro Muti’s intensity and discipline, there were also moments of warmth and levity: he is a gregarious storyteller with an intimate knowledge of each piece of music. He sang melodies, shared anecdotes, and made sweeping gestures – tirelessly optimizing the expression he could squeeze out of every performer. Under his leadership, the experience was infused with his masterful energy.
He also made a point of imparting guidance about the future of classical music, saying: “You have a very important role to play in the future of music. Governments don’t support music and the arts like they used to. It’s up to you to keep the music alive for society; to keep connections with people. Music is a mission, and you are the missionaries.”
For Paul Vandersloot (cello, ADP ‘23), this left a lasting impression: “The words that he had to say about the history of the music and the history of the art – the state of the world and the state of culture – to hear it from a man like him with his experience and wisdom hits a little harder.”
Ms. Derer added: “It was fascinating and inspiring to feel myself growing as a musician right in front of him, and looking around to see my colleagues rising to the challenge as well … I learned so much about how professionals work within the orchestra, and I’m grateful for the opportunity … working with Maestro Muti will have a long-term effect on my musicianship and the way I work.”