ShareThis Page

PSO's Honeck finds being busy is the price of success

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Manfred Honeck conducts the PIttsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Manfred Honeck conducts the PIttsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Pittsburgh Symphony music director Manfred Honeck has been very busy since last we saw him before Christmas, but then that's the price and reward of success.

In early January, he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic. He made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, Feb. 5 to 7, performing Antonin Dvorak with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and also leading Witold Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra.

In fact, Honeck will have made four important debuts by the end of the 2012-13 season. He conducted the London Symphony Orchestra for the first time on Oct. 4 and will lead the Cleveland Orchestra for the first time May 23, 25 and 26.

Honeck returns to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for concerts Friday and Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. The program is Modest Mussorgsky's “Night on Bald Mountain,” Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Denis Matsuev as soloist and Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

Despite his admiration for those other prestigious orchestras, Honeck is keen to return to Heinz Hall.

“I can't wait to do ‘Night on Bald Mountain' with the Pittsburgh Symphony,” he says. It's been 10 years since he last conducted the piece, which he calls “one of the great experiences.” The music portrays a wild night-time witches Sabbath, followed by arrival of calm with daybreak.

Mussorgsky is best known for composing “Pictures at an Exhibition,” thanks to the brilliant orchestration by Maurice Ravel. The piano original is rarely encountered in concert.

“He was a genius and others composers took care of his music,” Honeck says.

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, composer of “Scheherazade,” put “Night on Bald Mountain” into the form in which it's almost always played, a service he also performed for Mussorgsky's great opera “Boris Godunov.”

Honeck also is looking forward to teaming up for the first time with Denis Matsuev in Rachmaninoff's popular Piano Concerto No. 2. The Russian pianist was featured in the symphony's April 2009 Rachmaninoff Festival playing the Piano Concerto No. 3 with Leonard Slatkin.

“I know he is one of the most special Eastern European pianists, very powerful,” Honeck says. “I've heard some impressive recordings.”

The conductor says his sense of anticipation is fueled by memories of previous performances of the piece with the Pittsburgh musicians. “I remember how fantastic the clarinets sounded, their sweetness, in the second movement.”

He was impressed with the New York Philharmonic musicians when he led them in Beethoven's Seventh Symphony in January. He noted that two of the first chair players were former members of the Pittsburgh Symphony — flutist Robert Langevin and clarinetist Mark Nuccio.

“They are very quick and professional,” Honeck says. “Very, very good atmosphere. It's amazing how it was possible to do things in a very short time.”

Honeck unveiled his distinctive interpretation of Beethoven's Seventh at Heinz Hall in May 2009. It rang so true in detail and grand vision it will be interesting to see what, if anything, he changes when he returns to it this week.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.