Review: German talents shine in Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert
Old world musical satisfaction gained new points of emphasis at Friday night’s concert by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The program featured three German composers and was constructed for wonderful contrasts among music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms.
Honeck opened with a supreme masterpiece, Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin, in a wonderful arrangement for full orchestra by Hideo Saito. Somewhat surprisingly, Honeck adopted a fairly broad pacing, which was amply justified by the emotional and spiritual richness he achieved.
After Bach’s introspection, strength and suffering, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 burst in with unbridled extroversion. The music making had plenty of forward thrust without being too fast, but had the flexibility to let lyrical ideas blossom.
The evocation of a metronome in the second movement had plenty of wit, which benefited from the music’s not being rushed. Although the ascending flute line at the end of the first movement did not emerge, clarinet counterpoint in the second movement was uncommonly clear.
Honeck surprised again in the Tempo di minuetto third movement by moving the music along and offered a delicious version of the trio featuring solo clarinet and two horns.
Beethoven’s finale caps this unusual symphony, with no slow movement, with fast-paced wit including harmonic puns and rhythmic jolts.
The concert concluded with the Pittsburgh debut of young violinist Augustin Hadelich, who is German by parentage but was raised in Italy. He was both impressive and distinctive in Brahms’ Violin Concerto. Hadelich has a beautiful sound, never overripe and thus suited for eloquence. He has the gift of unfolding familiar melodies with freshness and sincerity.
Brahms’ Violin Concerto was written for his friend Joseph Joachim, whose adjustments to the score can be seen in red ink in Brahms’ manuscript. Joachim wrote a beautiful cadenza. Hadelich chose Fritz Kreisler’s cadenzas instead, which are always welcome. Kreisler’s first movement cadenza is especially appropriate for a program beginning with Bach because of an inspired contrapuntal passage. Unfortunately, Hadelich’s phrasing of this section was fragmented and much less expressive than the long line Kreisler projected in his own playing.
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.