Pittsburgh Orchestra serves Viennese for Thanksgiving
Under Manfred Honeck, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has served up Viennese treats for Thanksgiving-weekend concerts. This year's concerts also feature an exceptionally impressive Viennese pianist, Till Fellner, playing music by one of the great composers who chose Vienna as his home.
The repertoire for Honeck's Viennese concerts features musical bon-bons, mostly polkas, an overture or two, sometimes arias or songs and a single waltz work. This year, it's the “Roses From the South” Waltzes.
Honeck will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony in “A Waltz Tradition” on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 at Heinz Hall, Downtown. The program also includes Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, with Fellner as soloist.
The conductor is looking forward to working with the pianist again. Their most recent collaboration was a few years ago with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1.
“It was really, really good, with a very clear sound. I thought, ‘We need to bring him to Pittsburgh,' ” Honeck says.
The Austrian pianist is known for his probing musicianship and sterling technique. He has a substantial discography. Fellner took a sabbatical in 2012 dedicated to study of new repertoire and to deepen his knowledge of composition, literature and film.
He was interviewed by email.
Question: Many musicians and music lovers have special affection for Beethoven's Fourth Concerto. What are its qualities or characteristics that make it dear to you?
Answer: It's a very poetic work, lyrical, almost pastoral. And there is, of course, this touching, tragic second movement, a dramatic scene, a dialogue between the orchestra and the piano. This concerto, especially the first movement, needs more flexibility in tempo than the other Beethoven concertos. Piano and orchestra are closely interwoven. You have to hope for a sensitive conductor and for some extra time to rehearse.
Q. How does the historically informed performance perspective affect you? For example, do the characteristics of the pianos available to Beethoven affect the way you play his music on a modern piano (and in a larger room)?
A. No. My instrument is the modern grand piano with its great variety of sound and its singing quality.
In general, I have to admit that I remain skeptical about the possibilities of travelling back musically in time, and even whether it would be desirable to do so. I am more interested in the character of a piece, its prophetic dimension, and in its compositional structure.
Q. What piece of advice from one of your teachers most stays with you to this day, when you are an artist in your own right?
A: I would like to give you an example from the Fourth Beethoven Concerto: I once had a lesson with my much-admired teacher, Alfred Brendel, and he wasn't happy with the way I played the two broken chords at the end of the cadenza-like passage in the slow movement (just before the re-entry of the orchestra). After trying a few different solutions, he stated that playing these two chords were a “life's work.” Is there any shorter way of describing the dead-serious responsibility of an interpreter?
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.