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Classical - Released September 21, 2018 | Reference Recordings

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Returning to the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven in his Pittsburgh Live series on Reference Recordings, Manfred Honeck rigorously explores the Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, "Eroica," paired with Richard Strauss' Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat major. Honeck's 2015 release of the Symphony No. 5 in C minor and the Symphony No. 7 in A major demonstrated his in-depth analyses of the scores and his careful consideration of evidence about performances in Beethoven's time, including documents and original sketches that revealed much about early Romantic practices. By observing the historical method and avoiding conventional approaches, Honeck has adjusted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's sound and brought out details and sonorities that have often been buried in mainstream performances. Honeck also calls for brisk tempos, crisp articulation, and spry, dance-like rhythms, which alleviate some of this heavyweight symphony's pugnaciousness and brings a somewhat lighter touch to the "Eroica." Strauss' Horn Concerto No. 1, featuring a polished solo part by William Caballero, is suitable filler, matching the key and moods of the "Eroica" and sharing its robust energy, though by the time Strauss composed it, the influence of Beethoven had been filtered through Schumann and Brahms, so the work shows a conservative side in youthful reaction against Wagner. Reference Recordings' sound is as clean and focused as could be desired, and this hybrid SACD gives great presence to the players and leaves a vibrant impression. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 1, 2007 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released July 1, 2009 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Strauss' early symphonic poems Macbeth and Eine Alpensinfonie are long, loud, and banal, and so are these performances by Marek Janowski and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The relatively rarely recorded Macbeth is dark and brooding, with flashes of color and violence, but it sounds both poorly constructed and poorly performed. Janowski's interpretation makes the listener all too aware of the work's discursiveness, and though the Pittsburgh musicians play well enough, they sound distinctly bored and even restless. Even less appealing is the relatively frequently recorded Eine Alpensinfonie. While the Pittsburgh musicians play well enough in this difficult score, the piece sounds interminable in Janowski's interpretation, which lingers over details and rarely summons the kind of energy and fortitude it takes to effectively scale the 50-minute work. The super audio sound is clean, clear, deep, and vivid, and does help distract the listener's attention from the otherwise lackluster music and performances. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 29, 2010 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Even though Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique is one of the most familiar classical works, performances are often surprising for the variety of sonorities that can still be found in it and for the exciting ways it can be interpreted. Berlioz was the Romantic showman par excellence, and he made this piece a showcase for what the modern orchestra could do, from conventional playing to special innovative effects. These include the famous timpani chords at the end of the "Scène aux champs," the grotesque brass pedal tones in the "Marche au supplice," and the eerie use of col legno battuto in the "Songe d'une nuit de sabbat," among many others. Of course, the novel aspects of Berlioz's orchestration come off best in live performance, but the next best thing is this hybrid super-audio CD from PentaTone that captures Symphonie fantastique in all its hallucinatory strangeness and vividness. Marek Janowski and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra present the symphony and the King Lear Overture with exquisite polish, and the marvelous audio production practically gets inside the ensemble and allows each part to have its distinctive -- and sometimes disturbing -- place in the mix. Beyond the fabulous sound, this is also an incredibly gripping interpretation because Janowski conveys all the passion and impulsiveness of the drug-addled artist in the work's program. Indeed, the music is as hot-headed and deranged as the composer intended, and listeners will feel compelled to listen to the whole SACD in one sitting, so riveting is this live performance for its high energy and seemingly endless array of skillfully crafted sounds. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2007 | PentaTone

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Classical - Released November 19, 2013 | Reference Recordings

Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
If any music seems ideally suited for the multichannel super audio format, the lavish orchestral tone poems of Richard Strauss must be at the top of the list. This hybrid SACD of Strauss' Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, and Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks is a sonic feast for audiophiles, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Manfred Honeck delivers these orchestral masterpieces with high energy, vivid tone colors, and crisp details that are a sheer delight to experience. Honeck draws out the clearest sonorities and freshest timbres from his musicians, and the clear separation of parts makes the inner lines fully audible, despite Strauss' sometimes dense textures. While it is the conductor's responsibility to balance the orchestral sound and to ensure transparency so every note is heard, a great deal of credit must go to the engineers who obviously took the greatest care in placing the microphones, controlling volume levels, and mixing the sound for optimal clarity. The only downside to such a meticulous recording is that the physical exertions or humming of the conductor are easily heard, so listeners will have to get past them to enjoy the orchestra's terrific playing. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 12, 2021 | Reference Recordings

Hi-Res Booklet
Conductor Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra recorded this live reading of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, in 2019. The marketplace was not exactly crying out for a new Beethoven's Ninth, even considering Honeck's strong track record in Classical-era repertory and Reference Recordings' increasingly fine results in Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall. However, it is absolutely worth experiencing Honeck's accomplishment here. The reading is distinctive and justified at length in a booklet essay by Honeck. His reading is fast, blazing, kinetic, with moments of high contrast, such as the ethereal third movement in its entirety, giving the listener breathing space. The first movement is quick, but Honeck relaxes the tempo just slightly as things proceed, making room for the brass to give their stentorian statements. The scherzo is very fast throughout, which has the effect of not stealing the delicate discourse from the slow movement, and the finale, though also fast, is never rushed. There is a certain logic in playing the work this way, inasmuch as the impossible-to-sing passages in the solos become just a bit less impossible at these speeds. Most impressive is that Honeck holds the musicians and the singers together at his blazing speeds; his 22:30 timing for the finale comes in more than two minutes faster than, say, Fritz Reiner's classic Chicago Symphony recording, and Honeck would have been even faster had he not offered a rather deliberate reading of the movement's recitative introduction. The soloists shine, and they deliver in a difficult reading that, at its best, feels like the cry of exultation Beethoven envisioned. The slightly American accent of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh is somehow not a detriment but an inducement here; there is real energy running through the performance and real joy. Reference Recordings has once again produced audiophile-quality sound whose depth and transparency are awesome even on everyday equipment. © TiVo
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Classical - Released December 11, 2020 | PentaTone

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© Pentatone
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Classical - Released May 22, 2020 | Reference Recordings

Hi-Res Booklet
One salutary aspect of the tendency of orchestras, especially American and British ones, to issue their live concerts on recordings is that standout performances tend to be picked. The performance here of the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, was recorded in 2016, but it clearly stuck in some heads and was identified as a worthwhile moment (the Double Concerto by Jonathan Leshnoff was recorded three years later; this live album doesn't represent a single concert). It is indeed special: the Symphony No. 4 has rarely received such an intense performance. It's not the speed; conductor Manfred Honeck comes in a minute slower than Mariss Jansons on the first movement of his Oslo Philharmonic recording, but there is still a feeling of urgency, amplified by slight changes to the score that Honeck details in his expansive liner notes (available on the Chandos label's website for downloaders and streamers) and by a general high-contrast approach to dynamics. Listeners will have to make their own decisions about these, but it's quite arguable that Honeck does nothing that a conductor of the late 19th or early 20th century might have also considered. The Pittsburgh Symphony is in fine form in the symphony's thrilling brass passages and in the all-pizzicato strings of the third movement. The accompanying Double Concerto for clarinet and bassoon by Leshnoff is also a pleasure: a neo-Romantic work agreeably written and elegantly performed by soloists Michael Rusinek and Nancy Goeres. The live engineering in the acoustically difficult Tchaikovsky, from Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall, is very fine. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 13, 2015 | Reference Recordings

Hi-Res Booklet
Even though the program is a standard pairing of famous symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, and the live performances are by a modern orchestra, this intriguing hybrid SACD from Reference Recordings is a real adventure. The excitement lies in Manfred Honeck's clear-headed and musically sound interpretations and the astonishing performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which are not based on conventional practices but on careful study of the scores and original sketches, documentation from Beethoven's time, and what has been concealed under layers of later traditions that were never intended. Honeck takes into account the various schools of thought that have given us a romanticized Beethoven, an objective Beethoven, and a historically informed Beethoven. But by regarding these conventions as secondary to the internal evidence of the Symphony No. 5 in C minor and the Symphony No. 7 in A major, and by adapting his orchestra to the norms of the early 19th century, Honeck exposes many exciting details that are often lost through overly homogenized orchestral blending, unimaginative use of dynamics, and excessively slow, reverent tempos. As a result, these performances are utterly transparent, the pacing is extremely brisk and lively, and the interpretations are as fresh as advertised on the cover. The brilliant reproduction is also a major contribution to this album's success, and it brings great clarity to these startling and revelatory recordings. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 18, 2017 | Reference Recordings

Hi-Res Booklet
The performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, heard here was recorded in 2013 but not released until 2017. Kudos to whoever kept applying the pressure, for it's an excellent contribution to the Shostakovich discography, even in the face of all the other versions of this work on the market. The booklet contains notes, apparently by Pittsburgh Symphony conductor Manfred Honeck himself; they needed a once-over from an editor or proofreader, but they offer insight into Honeck's approach to the work. The Symphony No. 5, entitled "A Soviet Artist's Response to Justified Criticism," was written after the composer's earlier, more progressive style was denounced by Soviet cultural apparatchiks. Plenty of pixels have been devoted to explicating the composer's state of mind in this situation, and how it was reflected in the music, but Honeck simplifies the issue somewhat: he points out that the natural place to turn for Shostakovich in this situation was to the music of Mahler, whose works were not conservative but did satisfy his critics' demand for conventional tonality. Once you look at the Fifth this way, Mahler seems to be all over it, from the smallest details to the grand scale of the opening movement with its beautifully worked out brass and wind passages to its vast large-scale contrasts. Sample this movement in the masterful, deliberate, but never plodding performance by Honeck, with the Pittsburgh brasses sounding as good as they have in years. The Barber Adagio for Strings is an inspired note on which to bring down the curtain, casting the tumult of the Shostakovich into a calm but tragic frame. The team that recorded the work claims long experience in the recording's venue, Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall, and the experience shows: the sound here is among the finest encountered on the new crop of independently released symphony orchestra recordings. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 19, 2018 | PentaTone

Booklet
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Classical - Released May 13, 2016 | Reference Recordings

Hi-Res Booklet
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra used to be a major fixture on the American recording scene, but has not been heard from much in the early 21st century. Two events have come together to change that: the rise of the in-house symphony orchestra label and the arrival of Pittsburgh's hot new Austrian conductor, Manfred Honeck. This release shows what the fuss is about. If you were wondering why you had never heard of the Rusalka Fantasy of Antonín Dvorák, that's because it hadn't existed prior to Honeck, who made an orchestral arrangement of music from the opera and commissioned this abridgement of it. The work brings together some wonderful Dvorák melodies that are little known in most places. The main attraction is the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 ("Pathétique"), which here receives one of its strongest performances in years. The opening movement is extraordinary -- restless, yet sculpted down to the smallest details -- and throughout, the symphony has a sense of suppressed passion that works very well. The third movement is not the freestanding Russian march into which it is so often made, but forms a closely connected unit with the grim finale. The slow movement is a smooth, Mendelssohnian fantasy land. Other attractions are the detailed reflections by Honeck himself in the booklet and the live Super Audio sound from Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall, a model for this kind of release. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 11, 2014 | Reference Recordings

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Classical - Released May 15, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released February 10, 2015 | Reference Recordings

Booklet
One of the most popular versions of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, "Romantic," is the 1879/80 version, edited by Leopold Nowak, which Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra perform on this hybrid SACD from Reference Recordings. Notwithstanding the inroads some conductors have made in promoting the original 1874 version, which in many ways is a quite different composition, other conductors, like Honeck, still find value in this familiar revision, which has always been in the repertoire and which, along with the Seventh Symphony, has become Bruckner's most recognizable piece. Honeck gives this live performance a rather expansive interpretation, emphasizing the long sweep of melody and using a fair amount of rubato in his tempos to add dramatic shading, particularly by drawing out cadences for their full emotional effect. The orchestra is prepared for all of Honeck's gradations and nuances, and it is remarkably fluid in shifting from one mood to the next without seeming forced. Yet the most important aspect of this performance is the attention to tone colors, which Honeck clarifies and highlights with great delicacy, proving that in the right hands, Bruckner's writing for orchestra is astonishing. Of course, the super audio sound captures every aspect of the sound with fidelity, and the dynamic range is extremely wide, so listeners should be aware that the lowest volume levels might need some careful adjustments. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 1960 | Everest

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Classical - Released January 1, 1982 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released May 15, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released May 15, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)