Pittsburgh Symphony and Honeck, working in the grand tradition

Posted on: February 4, 2020

“After listening to the Pittsburgh Symphony’s recent recording of the Bruckner Ninth Symphony for the tenth or eleventh time, I began planning a trip to Pittsburgh, in the hope of understanding how such a formidable achievement had come about,” writes Alex Ross in the 2/10 issue of the New Yorker. “Savagely precise in detail, and almost scarily sublime in cumulative effect, it gives notice that the right orchestra and the right conductor can unleash unsuspected energies in familiar works. The right conductor, in this case, is the sixty-one-year-old Austrian maestro Manfred Honeck…. How do Honeck and the Pittsburgh players do it? … Like [Carlos] Kleiber, an idol of his youth, Honeck plies his players with minute instructions, yet his attention to detail is in the service of a cogent musical vision…. ‘With every bar, I have to think, Why? Why a half note here? Why held longer than before? Is it warm? Cold? If I don’t ask these questions, it becomes boring, a bad kind of routine,’ says Honeck.… We … need conductors who know how to revitalize the grand tradition—and orchestras that can respond in kind.”