ShareThis Page
Review: German talents shine in Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert |

Review: German talents shine in Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert

Mark Kanny
| Friday, September 25, 2015 11:27 p.m

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.

The concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $20 to $94. Details: 412-392-4900 or

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

Categories: Music
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.