Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra uses present to embrace past
New perspectives of varying kinds will fill the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's weekend concerts led by Manfred Honeck, although the program's pattern is the most familiar one at classical concerts — a piece of new music, a concerto and, after intermission, a major symphony.
The new music brings the language of the symphonic scherzo into the 21st century. The concerto will be played on the instrument for which it was written, probably for the first time at Heinz Hall.
Honeck will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in BNY Mellon Grand Classics concerts Friday to Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. The program is Mason Bates' “Mothership,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.
Bates is the symphony's composer of the year, whose “Liquid Interface” made a positive impression when Leonard Slatkin conducted it here in February 2010. Bates will perform the electronics part of “Mothership” with Honeck and the orchestra.
“I'm looking forward to getting to know him,” Honeck says. “He's one of the young, exciting composers we have nowadays. I get a lot of questions in Europe about him. It's great to have him with us.”
“Mothership” was written in 2011 and, according to the program notes, “imagines the orchestra as a mothership that is docked by several visiting soloists, who offer brief, but virtuoso, riffs on the work's thematic material over action-packed electro-acoustic orchestral figuration.”
But while a symphonic scherzo of the 19th century would be based on, even if abstractly, dance rhythms of its time, Bates uses modern techno rhythms.
Mozart's Clarinet Concerto was the last major piece he entered in the catalog he kept of his music, completed in November 1791, less than a month before he died. It was written for his friend Anton Stadler, who had a clarinet with an extended bass register that is now called a basset clarinet.
Symphony principal clarinet Michael Rusinek will play it on a basset clarinet, which Honeck calls “a great thing.”
“On the clarinet in the other version, you don't have the low notes and have to change phrases by octave displacement,” the conductor says. “Michael will be able to play it (the way Mozart intended). The color is also a little different, darker, and the tessitura is a little difficult. I think this will be the Pittsburgh premiere of the original.”
Honeck is likely to bring a different perspective to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, which he'll be conducting for the first time at Heinz Hall.
Tchaikovsky wrote the symphony during one of the most tumultuous periods of his life. His marriage to Antonina Milyukova lasted less than three months, ending with the composer attempting suicide.
His Fourth Symphony is a turn for Tchaikovsky to the symphony as a personal expression. It is a symphony about fate, announced loudly right at the start. For Beethoven in his Symphony No. 5, triumph could be achieved over fate. For Tchaikovsky, fate was the force which prevents happiness.
“I'm really looking forward to doing the Fourth with this great orchestra, after hearing them play the Fifth, which was marvelous on tour,” Honeck says. “The Fourth has a lot of beautiful color but also dramatic contracts.
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
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.
- Jane Monheit swings in tribute to Judy Garland
- Monheit brings the magic of Judy Garland to Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
- Singer-songwriter Janis Ian takes pride in honesty of work
- Symphony’s ‘Music for the Spirit’ uplifts and exhilarates
- Tickets available for Pittsburgh CLO’s ‘An American in Paris’
- Foo Fighters tour coming Aug. 25 to First Niagara Pavilion
- Ross native Jamison makes ‘The Voice’ Top 10