Tempo tempers Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's 'Ode to Joy'
Beethoven had yearned to set Friedrich Schiller's humanitarian poem on brotherhood, love and God for more than 25 years before he decided to make it the finale of what proved to be his last symphony, employing vocal soloists and chorus.
Manfred Honeck prefaced the performance with a demonstration designed to show his pacing of the symphony is correct. The interpretation he offered was similar to the one he presented in 2010, following the composer's metronome markings that survive.
However, his demonstration depended on picking extremely slower alternatives, and was inaccurate at points as well. Beethoven did not indicate the march in the middle of the last movement should be 168 beats per minute. That's the conjecture of musicologists that the surviving notation contains an error and the music should be performed twice as fast as indicated.
He could check it for himself by trying to walk at that pace for even half a mile.
In most respects Friday night's performance was a more assured and persuasive account of Honeck's interpretation. The slow movement was pretty and light. But it was ironic to present so fast a performance of Beethoven's Ninth at the conclusion of this festival, because the tempos do not emphasize spirituality, they diminish it.
The concert opened with the premiere of “The Gift” by Christopher Theofanidis to a text by Amy Beth Kirsten, his partner in life. It was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony and dedicated to its board chairman, Dick Simmons, whose family made a $29 million gift to the orchestra in 2006. Honeck made the essential point in his spoken introduction that Simmons' gifts to the orchestra go beyond the record-setting donation.
Scored for solo tenor, chorus and orchestra, the 20-minute piece tells a folk tale about a humble farmer who accumulates more wealth than he wants. Moments of levity in the text helped what was mainly a prosaic composition, which did feature a bit of word-painting but little musical poetry.
This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. April 27 and 2:30 p.m. April 28 at Heinz Hall, Downtown.
Admission is $20 to $93. Details: 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.
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.
- Woman dies after bleeding on sidewalk outside Carrick pizzeria
- Downtown holiday parade festive, but weather dampens turnout
- Newsmaker: Tyra Oliver
- Group urges Port Authority of Allegheny County to fund more transit routes
- Republican presidential candidate Trump reframes claim that Muslims cheered 9/11
- U.S. must help Syrian refugees but not take them in, Carson says
- Forbes Road Career and Technology Center students restore vehicle that will be donated
- Shooting of Pittsburgh cab driver spotlights risks of profession
- Florida counties fight state on fracking plan
- Renovation planned for blighted homes in Garfield
- Security policies limit ‘insider threat’ at airports, TSA says