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Get a sneak peek of Pittsburgh Symphony’s upcoming European tour

Mark Kanny
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Courtesy of Pittsburgh Symphony
Pianist Igor Levit will play Oct. 18 during Mason Bates’ “Resurrexit,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22.

Local music lovers will reap a benefit from the Pittsburgh Symphony’s upcoming European tour even before it starts.

Manfred Honeck and the musicians will present three different programs on the weekend before they depart, performing much of the repertoire they’ll play at 11 concerts in 10 cities in Europe from Oct. 25 to Nov. 8. Touring takes Pittsburgh excellence to the world, and helps promote Western Pennsylvania businesses.

“One of the things that separates the Pittsburgh Symphony from other orchestras is that it gives everything, every time,” Honeck says. “In concert the musicians are on fire.”

Honeck will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at concerts Oct. 18 to 20 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall:

• Oct. 18: Mason Bates’ “Resurrexit,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 with Igor Levit as soloist and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5

• Oct. 19: James MacMillan’s Larghetto, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Levit as soloist, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5

• Oct. 20: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 with Levit and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9.

Honeck and the orchestra have recorded both symphonies they’ll take on tour. They won two Grammys for their Shostakovich. The spiritually nourishing Bruckner was released in August and deserves a Grammy at least as much as the Shostakovich.

Contrasting masterpieces

Pianist Levit will show why he’s an international star by playing two completely contrasting masterpieces, both incredibly witty and also deeply felt. The Mozart has the charm, energy and emotions of his best comic operas, while the Rachmaninoff requires the utmost in virtuosity and includes one of his most beautiful melodies.

Two other soloists will join the orchestra on the tour. Pianist Lang Lang will repeat the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 that he played at the symphony gala in September. Baritone Matthias Goerne will sing the songs by Franz Schubert and Richard Strauss he performed on Oct. 11 and 13.

The contemporary works by Mason Bates and James MacMillan were both commissioned and given their premieres by Honeck and the symphony at Heinz Hall.

The itinerary

The itinerary for the orchestra’s 25th European tour includes three concert halls in which Honeck and the orchestra have not collaborated before, including the venerable Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in Holland, which was frequently visited during the years Mariss Jansons was music director. The other two are relatively new halls where Honeck has worked with other orchestras: the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany, and the Philharmonie de Paris.

Honeck is also looking forward to the one nonorchestral concert on the tour. On Oct. 27 the Clarion Quartet, made up of symphony musicians, will give a performance at The American Academy in Berlin.

“We have to thank the Clarion Quartet for presenting music which was forbidden in the Nazi time. It will take place on the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, which very deeply touches me,” says Honeck. “We will commemorate this terrible happening with music written by composers who died in the (concentration) camps performed by our Clarion Quartet. We will talk about Pittsburgh, the world, art and what wonderful artists these composers were.”

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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