If this had been a Deutsche Grammophon session.....

Riccardo Muti is 80 and I am adding my birthday wishes to the fulsome tributes elsewhere. As balance is an essential skill of great maestros, I am contributing a little balance by republishing this little vignette which first appeared here in 2019.


Back in the 1970s and 80s when sleeve design and liner notes came within my remit at EMI's International Classical Division, all the top artists had the right of artwork approval written into their contracts. Above is the sleeve for Riccardo Muti's 1979 debut recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra which was created on my watch. The venue for the photo shoot, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was relevant, and in recognition of Muti's already super-sized ego we made sure not a hair was out of place. But the maestro ran true to form and hated the cover with a passion, and it took considerable persuasion and a very thick skin on my part before his approval was given.

The recording venue was the old and decrepit Met Church building in Philadelphia which was built as an opera house in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein 1 (grandfather of the famous lyricist-librettist). The Met Church was in a very rough part of the city. I remember desperately trying to find a cab for Muti in the rather tough street outside the Met in tropical heat at the end of one session. Muti appreciated my efforts by saying - 'If this had been a Deutsche Grammophon session they would have arranged a limo'. 

Happy birthday maestro!

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