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Excited PSO has 'desire to play very well' on its tour

| Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, 11:24 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's concert last week at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona was praised by Spanish music critics. Credit: Pittsburgh Symphony

The centerpiece of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's European tour is its four-concert residency at the famed Musikverein in Vienna, which began Monday night.

Music director Manfred Honeck started the concert with American music: Steven Stucky's 2012 composition “Silent Spring,” which was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony. The program continued with George Gershwin's Piano Concerto, featuring Rudolf Buchbinder as soloist, and Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World.”)

“I think it went really well. The audience loved it,” said principal flutist Lorna McGhee. “We had to do two encores. Manfred looked really happy at the end.”

The Stucky was very well received, according to principal bass Jeff Turner, who said the Musikverein was packed to the back of the standing-room area. “The audience was quiet and appreciative. There were a couple of curtain calls, and the composer took a bow.”

He thought the Musikverein's famous acoustics served Stucky's music well, particularly passages with impressionist sonorities.

“I love playing in the Musikverein because it gives you back so much good response, and there's the sense, and I don't think it's an illusion, that you're hearing what the audience is hearing. You're in the same space, acoustically,” he said.

The warmth of Turner's appreciation of the hall's acoustics was shared by McGhee.

“It's a most stunning sound in the hall. It's the first time I've played in it. I've played in the other hall (in Vienna), the Konzerthaus,” she said. “The Musikverein's sound is so golden. I was not playing in the piano concerto, so I listened to the rehearsal. The orchestra sounded really incredible. The strings especially had a gorgeous, warm, warm sound and beautiful blend.”

Morale is high, according to Turner. “There's not just excitement within the orchestra, but a real desire to play very well for this tour. It's a big thing.”

“Every performance is unique,” McGhee said. “We do the things we rehearse every concert, but each concert is a little bit different. The slow movement (of the Dvorak) had a beautiful atmosphere to it tonight, I thought. There was a particularly nice hush when we got to the end of that movement. It was pretty dramatic, too.”

The tour opened in Barcelona on Thursday and continued with concerts on Friday and Saturday in Madrid.

The Barcelona concert of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”) was praised by two Spanish music critics.

Javier Pujol, writing in El Pais, described the performances as brilliant, stunning and spectacular, and said it was followed by endless applause.

A memorable night of great music was rewarded with nearly 15 minutes of applause and bravos, according to Cesar Lopez Rosell in El Periodico. He praised the orchestra's strength in each of its sections in addition to the full ensemble's homogeneity.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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