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Pittsburgh Symphony tackles Barber, Janacek, Mozart in latest Heinz Hall concerts

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Russian pianist Yulianna Avdeeva
Harald Hoffmann
Russian pianist Yulianna Avdeeva

Programming concerts is sometimes compared to solving jigsaw puzzles. There are pieces that need to fit just right.

But, in music, those pieces are not in pre-determined shapes; it's sometimes a contrast, rather than a smooth fit, that works best.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director Manfred Honeck will conclude his late summer and fall time with the orchestra, which began in August before the European tour, with a program that includes a performer debut, introduction of a new piece and a classic piece of musical Americana that's new to his repertoire.

Honeck will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony, with Yulianna Avdeeva as soloist, at concerts Oct. 11 to 13 at Heinz Hall, Downtown.

The program will be Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, Suite from the opera “Jenufa” by Leos Janacek, Piano Concerto No. 21 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Symphony No. 8 by Antonin Dvorak.

“I've never done Barber's Adagio, and I love this piece,” Honeck says. The music originated in Barber's 1936 String Quartet. The next year, Barber arranged the Adagio for string orchestra, which was premiered in 1938 by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony. It's not only Barber's most frequently performed music, it's recognizable outside of concert halls for its use in public memorials, not to mention film.

Honeck also picked the Barber because its romanticism is “a bridge to Dvorak's completely Czech romanticism, which is also very deep in its emotions.”

Following the Barber piece, Honeck will lead the American premiere that he had a hand in creating from Czech late romantic composer Leos Janacek's opera “Jenufa.” Sometimes compared to the operas of Giacomo Puccini, because of the heartrending situations into which the female lead is placed, the opera was first performed in 1904.

Honeck arranged the 24-minute suite, which he says is “like a one-movement tone poem,” earlier in 2013, with guitarist and composer Tomas Ille.

The debut of Russian pianist Avdeeva will be the first opportunity for local music lovers to hear the winner of the 2010 Fryderyk Chopin Competition. She is the first women to take the competition's top prize since 1965. In addition to recital and concerto performances, she has performed chamber music with members of the Berlin Philharmonic and violinist Julia Fischer.

Avdeeva will play Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, which has its own popular romantic associations, having been used extensively in the 1967 film “Elvira Madigan.”

Honeck will conclude the concert with a return to Dvorak's abundantly melodic Eighth Symphony, which he conducted many times in 2009.

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

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