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Mendelssohn Choir joining Pittsburgh Symphony at NYC's Carnegie Hall

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Manfred Honeck will lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Mendelsohn Choir at a concert May 10, 2014 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Pittsburgh Symphony
Manfred Honeck will lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Mendelsohn Choir at a concert May 10, 2014 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Manfred Honeck will lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City for the second time on May 10, when it will perform with four vocal soloists and the Mendelssohn Choir.

The symphony's 82nd visit to Carnegie Hall is the closing event of the 2014 Spring for Music Festival, which has engaged orchestras based on the conceptual creativity of their programming. The festival began four years ago and is shutting down after this season because of lack of financial support.

This concert will build to “Mozart's Death in Words and Music,” Honeck's original way of presenting Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem by providing extra contexts with other music and readings of the Bible and other texts. Pittsburgh audiences have already heard it at concerts in 2009 and 2012.

The speaker will be F. Murray Abraham, who played the envious composer Antonio Salieri in the film “Amadeus.” The vocal quartet will be soprano Sunhae Im, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong, tenor Benjamin Bruns and bass Liang Li.

The first half at Carnegie Hall also is creatively conceived. Three pieces will be performed without pause, starting with the Mendelssohn Choir singing Anton Bruckner's a capella “Ave Maria.”

“Sometimes openers can be like an overture, just to stimulate the excitement and to make people feel happy,” Honeck says. “But we're taking the unusual course of an orchestra going on tour and not playing at the start of the concert. In this case, it's more important to let the audience feel what's coming. To have a simple a capella piece may make people curious about what's coming. There is definitely a spiritual aspect to this program, and also with the theme of the ‘Ave Maria.' ”

Honeck will then turn to the final scene of Francis Poulenc's powerful opera “Dialogues of the Carmelites.” Set during the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, it is the story of a group of nuns who chose martyrdom in the face of anti-religious decrees. Mother Marie, the only one of the nuns to survive the guillotine, told the story in her memoirs.

The first half will conclude with the New York premiere of James MacMillan's “Women of the Apocalypse,” music written in 2011 and 2012 and inspired by Chapters 11 and 12 of the Book of Revelation. In it, the forces of Satan, after losing a war in heaven and being thrown out, pursue a woman traditionally taken to be the Virgin Mary. The 20-minute orchestral piece is in five subsections, the final one being the coronation of the woman as the queen of heaven.

It will be played at Heinz Hall on June 7, along with Beethoven's two Romances for Violin played by concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley and Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 4.

The Pittsburgh Symphony's last appearance at Carnegie Hall was in February 2010, which was sold out and offered a standard repertoire program of Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto with Anne Sophie Mutter and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

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

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