ShareThis Page
Guest conductor masters PSO roles |

Guest conductor masters PSO roles

Mark Kanny

There were many compelling aspects to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert guest conductor Donald Runnicles led Friday night in Heinz Hall.

The gently reflective spirit that opens Nancy Galbraith’s “Euphonic Blues” proved an alluring way to start the concert. The nine-minute piece is impressive in its emotional range, rewarding for the course of its musical ideas and masterly in its orchestral palette. Reminiscent in some ways of the era of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris, it was a joy to discover and received a standing ovation.

Runnicles led a deeply musical performance — in pacing, balance and knowing when to let flute soloist Lorna MaGhee’s artistry take the lead.

He set the stage most effectively for piano soloist Stephen Hough in Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor. But more remarkable was that burning insistence Hough brought to the piano part, which can too easily become just busy.

He made the piano sing beautifully in the slow movement, set up well by the cello section, and fully conveyed the joie de vivre of the finale.

After intermission Runnicles led extensive excerpts from Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelungen” with a large orchestra, which included nine horn players and two timpanists.

The second half began with “The Ride of the Valkyries” but continued with the much-less known “Forest Murmurs,” a delightful evocation of nature.

The concert concluded with the three big excerpts from the “Ring’s” final opera, “Die Gotterdammerung.” “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” began quite slowly. Principal horn William Caballero went off-stage to play his big solo — with immense sound reminiscent of his solos in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony — then rushed back in for an ensemble solo.

Runnicles started ”Siegfried’s Funeral Music” many pages before where the excerpt usually begins, even earlier than Arturo Toscanini, whose performances were labeled “Siegfried’s Death and Funeral Music.” Timpanist Edward Stephan and trumpeter George Vosburgh were superb.

The concert concluded with a shortened version of the “Immolation Scene,” mostly well-paced and played, except for the low brass, which was too loud at the last appearance of an important lyrical theme. It was an uncharacteristic moment because Runnicles balanced the orchestra very well.

This concert will be repeated at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $25.75 to $105.75. Details: 412-392-4900 or

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

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.