Review: Two symphony programs in one weekend a delight
It was a genuine luxury to hear a second and different concert in the same weekend from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra when, on June 7, they presented a mixed program at Heinz Hall. They gave a very impressive performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 9 the night before.
The program opened with James MacMillan's “Woman of the Apocalypse,” which Honeck and the orchestra performed May 11 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The piece was inspired by the part of the New Testatment's Book of Revelation in which a woman, traditionally taken to be the Virgin Mary, is pursued by Satan but is rescued by divine assumption and crowned queen of heaven. The composer also took inspiration from the work of painters inspired by the story.
The 27-minute composition is a powerful experience. The composer's language is full of variety in melodic and motivic character, with impressively bold harmonies. MacMillan's orchestration is brilliant and precise. The music was very well performed and enthusiastically received by the audience.
The first half took a radical change of course when it concluded with the two Romances for Violin and Orchestra by Ludwig van Beethoven, with concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley as soloist. This concert provided another welcome opportunity to hear him as a soloist before he departs to become first concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic next season.
Bendix-Balgley gave a quite classically conceived and greatly rewarding interpretation of Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Honeck and the orchestra in October 2012. He played the Romances, earlier and lighter works, with beautifully focused tone and mood. Yet it was so “classical” that a little more romance wouldn't have hurt.
After intermission, the very opening of Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 4 suggested a more emotional and nuanced performance than what followed. Honeck's approach was more dramatic than it was when he conducted this piece in June 2011.
The Andante moderato second movement featured wonderful lyricism, including lovely clarinet playing. Honeck also wisely emphasized the viola lines, which are sometimes divided and are an important component of the music's emotional richness.
The Scherzo was loud and fast. Honeck shaped the variations of the finale into a cohesive experience, with a superb flute solo by Lorna McGhee and outstanding playing by the trombone section.
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra takes different trips with Mason Bates, Valentina Lisitsa
- Symphony off to good start
- Classical music crisis: Author says schools today aren’t building audiences
- Classical music enthusiasts have a variety of choices
- Bennett, Gaga: Kids should know more about jazz
- Top-level jazz shows include Monheit, Branford Marsalis
- Photo gallery: Willie Nelson & Family play at the Benedum Center