Symphony gives Mahler masterpiece expert treatment
Sound is the medium of music, but the vision that animates Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 creates a transcendent experience that traverses life and death and leads us to heaven. It expresses the composer's Roman Catholic faith in resurrection with universal appeal and irresistible musical power.
On Friday night, Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, along with two outstanding vocal soloists and the Mendelssohn Choir, gave an exalting performance of Mahler's masterpiece at Heinz Hall.
Unlike all other BNY Mellon Grand Classics concerts, this program will not be repeated over the weekend because the orchestra departs Monday on a European tour featuring Mahler's “Resurrection” Symphony, which will be recorded in Vienna.
Honeck conducted magnificent performances of Mahler's Second in 2009 at Heinz Hall. This performance was on an even higher level, making full use of the orchestra's growth under his leadership and demonstrating unmistakably the conductor's own growth.
The first movement, called “Totenfeier” (Funeral Rites), quickly showed Honeck's increasing differentiation of musical characters. The movement is highly dramatic and was performed with tempo contrasts and transitions entirely in line with reports of Mahler's conducting. Some lyrical sections were slower than before, achieving a purity of feeling that touched the heart in special ways.
Honeck also more sharply differentiated the different kinds of ländler dances in the second movement, again with more generous lyricism. The third movement, like the second based on landler, also featured a wonderful variety of emphasis in the upbeats.
The stroke of a gong ends the third movement, followed directly by the song “Urlicht” (Primeval Light). Mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger made it live, with meaningful diction allied with depth of tone.
Honeck was especially successful in conveying the immensity of space in Mahler's vision of the road to heaven. Some of it was placement of instruments, such as the wind ensemble Mahler asked to be separated from the orchestra and which was played from backstage. But Honeck also conjured a feeling of immensity by the way musical ideas answer each other.
The stages on the journey were, as in the earlier movements, very well contrasted. Honeck wove all the elements into a charismatic performance. The joy with which the music flew to meet the “Die shall I in order to live, rise again” always maintained its vision beyond death due to Honeck's astute pacing and conviction.
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pens’ Dupuis out at least a month with lower-body injury
- Steelers’ Bryant returns from drug suspension, ‘won’t happen again’
- Starkey: Searage, Pirates ultra-confident
- New Steelers kicker Boswell ready for challenge at Heinz
- Allegheny Township home destroyed by fire
- Road crews are dealing with oil and sealant spills on roadways
- Husband, wife die in apparent murder-suicide in Baldwin Borough
- Audit: Pennsylvania’s education master plan is 16 years out of date
- Latrobe infant found in filth, police say
- Maddon, Hurdle are the models for modern major-league managers
- Pa. Gov. Wolf pushes ‘broad-based tax increase’ to avoid $2B deficit