Conductor Manfred Honeck's conducting career rapidly grew throughout the decade of the 1990s after he learned conducting from the inside, as a top-quality orchestral musician. Born September 17, 1958, in Nenzing, Austria, Honeck received his musical training at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna. After graduation, he took a position as a violist with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, making him eligible for membership in the Vienna Philharmonic, which accepted him. He began working as a conductor with the Vienna Jeunesse Musicales Orchesters (Vienna Youth Orchestra). In 1987, conductor Claudio Abbado invited Honeck to assist him in conducting the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Vienna. His breakthrough performance was at the Gustav Mahler Festival in Kassel in 1989, conducting the centenary performance of the world premiere of Mahler's first symphony. Honeck made his operatic debut with the Vienna Volksoper in 1989, leading Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus. Later in the season, he was invited to lead the company in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. In 1990, he was invited to conduct the gala concert of the Vienna Philharmonic commemorating the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Wiener Konzerthaus. Other conducting opportunities quickly opened up: he led the Berlin State Orchestra, the Berlin State Opera at the Unter den Linden Theater, and the Hamburg State Opera. At the latter position, he was again standing in Gustav Mahler's footprints when he led the official Mahler production of Mozart's Così fan tutte. In 1991, Honeck received a five-year contract with the Zürich Opera House as First Kapellmeister. There he added Massenet's Hérodiade and Giordano's operas Fedora and Andrea Chénier to his credits and conducted the first performance of Herbert Willi's Schlafes Bruder. A high point of this early part of his career was his debut at Salzburg, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic during the Mozart Week of 1994. In 1996, Honeck became chief conductor of the MDR (Central German Radio) Symphony Orchestra of Leipzig. In 1997, he was appointed music director of the Norwegian National Opera, and in 1998 he was named principal guest conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic. He was the chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (2000-2006) and music director of the Staatsoper Stuttgart (2007-2011), and since the 2008-2009 season, he has been music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. With the Pittsburgh Symphony, Honeck has recorded for Exton Classics and for the orchestra's in-house Reference Recordings label. He has continued to specialize in late Romantic repertory, recording several Mahler symphonies, Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 for Reference in 2015, and suites from Richard Strauss' Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier for the same label the following year. In 2017, Reference Recordings released the Honeck/Pittsburgh recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, powerfully coupled with Barber's Adagio for Strings. Honeck's 2019 album Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 with the Pittsburgh Symphony was nominated for a Grammy award. Honeck continues to reside in Austria, in the village of Altach, with his wife, Christiane, and six children.
© James Manheim /TiVo
© James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released August 23, 2019 | Reference Recordings
In 2019, Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra released their second Bruckner recording as a hybrid SACD on Reference Recordings, a powerful interpretation of the unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor that shows these musicians' remarkable affinity for the composer. In choosing the unfinished, three-movement version of the work, thereby avoiding any controversy over the various completions of Bruckner's intended finale, Honeck adheres to the long-established 1951 edition by Leopold Nowak, so there are no textual surprises. What is somewhat unexpected for a performance of the Ninth is Honeck's careful analysis of the material Bruckner incorporated, such as the "Miserere" from the "Gloria" of his Mass in D minor, the "Annunciation of Death" motive from the Eighth Symphony, and references to the Latin text of the Agnus Dei which influenced the design of the Adagio, among other internal evidence that sheds light on Bruckner's religious motivation in composing this symphony. Many conductors recognize the significance of Bruckner's dedication of the work to God, yet Honeck has identified the particular instances in the symphony that, like the structure of the Fifth Symphony, clearly reveal Bruckner's faith, and that the Ninth is far from being absolute music without programmatic content. This no doubt adds power to the music and clarifies its somewhat mystifying content. The wide-open sound of this audiophile recording goes far in conveying the expressive depth and sweep of the performance, capturing the orchestra in a spacious acoustic that adds true grandeur to Bruckner's most personal paean to God. © TiVo