“The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is relying on a handful of familiar guest conductors to take charge of subscription concerts through the end of the calendar year. None of these returnees is more welcome than Stephane Deneve, who is making his first podium appearances this weekend at Symphony Center since his memorable CSO debut in 2011.

The Frenchman, chief conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and active just about elsewhere else, is an energetic figure on the platform. Fortunately he employs this energy to illuminate the inner and outer life of the music rather than himself. His beat is clear, his keen ear misses nothing, and his articulate left hand signals instrumental details other conductors tend to gloss over.

He had the CSO musicians sounding at the top of their game on Thursday night, or at least pretty close to it, given the absence of several players in key woodwind chairs. Deneve’s program took as its centerpiece that most revolutionary of French Romantic masterpieces, Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” a masterpiece that clearly speaks to his temperament and his ability to get an orchestra to live on the knife-edge right along with him.

(…) Deneve’s reading brought our modern ears close to what the Parisian public of 1830 found so startling and, yes, crazy, about that music.”

John von Rhein Chicago Tribune

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