Riccardo Muti: The Jake Peavy of the Classical World
Sadly for Chicago music fans, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Riccardo Muti, last week announced he’d miss more action, bowing out of the orchestra’s swing through Asia after hernia surgery. He already had canceled his appearances during the CSO’s winter homestand with flu-like symptoms. For the Naples-born conductor, it’s his third trip to the disabled list since becoming the orchestra’s ace before the 2010–11 season.
Compare that record with the injury-prone White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who since the Sox acquired him at the 2009 trade deadline, has made a total of 70 starts, according to baseball-reference.com. Over three and a half seasons, a starting pitcher could be expected to take the big stage for about 110 starts, giving Peavy a .636 starting percentage (SP) over that period.
Muti, in performances both at home in Chicago and away (or “on tour,” as the orchestra grandiosely terms it), made 31 of 51 starts in his rookie season, all 47 in 2011–12, and will have led 12 of 28 in 2012–13 by the time the Asian road trip ends in February, according to maestro-reference.com (i.e., clicking through dozens of articles on Nexis). That’s 90 of 126, for a .714 SP, still a tick better than Peavy, who makes about eight times his salary.
Despite suffering a torn ankle tendon, a groin injury, fatigue, and a freakish torn latissimus dorsi muscle in the three previous seasons, Peavy, in the last year of a three-year deal, started a full complement of games in 2012, posting an ERA under his career mark. Even at the advanced age of 31, he earned a new contract from the Sox in the off-season.
Everyone raves about Muti when he’s on—he always has his team ready to play, he knows the score, and no one doubts that his presence alone puts butts in the seats. And at 71, he’s still got more than a decade of youth over Bernard Haitink, Lorin Maazel, and Pierre Boulez. So even though Muti has faced extreme gastric distress, fatigue, the installation of a pacemaker, and a freakish blackout mid-practice leading to facial injuries in three seasons, there’s no reason to drop him from your roto orchestra league yet, especially when the best guy on your waiver wire is probably Osmo Vänskä. And watch for a great season from Muti in his walk year of 2014–15.
Graham Meyer is Chicago magazine’s contributing classical music critic.
Photograph: Copyright Todd Rosenberg/Chicago Symphony Orchestra