Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 and Schulhoff: Five Pieces is the BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Month!
“Honeck’s overriding objective has been to revivify a work that in lesser hands can easily lose its freshness and originality. To achieve this, he has followed Tchaikovsky’s carefully delineated performance instructions to the letter, investing every musical phrase with a wealth of insight, detail and colour. From the outset, Honeck’s infinitely varied texturing creates a huge amount of suspense and uncertainty in the gloomy lower string harmonies that underpin the clarinet’s first statement of the fate motif. The ensuing Allegro con anima, taken at a fast and driving tempo, has plenty of forward momentum, but Honeck adopts a sufficiently flexible approach in the contrasting second idea to ensure the more reflective moments have that necessary feeling of repose. As you’d expect, the Pittsburgh Symphony responds with phenomenal virtuosity to all the twists and turns in Honeck’s interpretation… There are many other moments in this performance that made me sit up and appreciate Tchaikovsky’s inventiveness in a completely new light. A good example comes in the third movement, where the isolated notes on the muted horn cut through the texture casting dark shadows over the elegant mood of the Waltz. Likewise, Honeck’s finely attuned concept of orchestral balance and brilliantly choreographed control of tempo brings tremendous dividends to the Finale.… There’s plenty of energy and imagination in Schulhoff’s Five Pieces for String Quartet, an unexpected coupling performed here in a fantastically resourceful full orchestral arrangement by Honeck and Tomás Ille. Schulhoff’s sequence of dances, ranging from a distorted waltz and a sultry Tango to a frenzied Tarantella, is a typical product of the roaring 1920s, and in this new version should certainly gain more admirers for this fascinating and immensely talented composer.”—Erik Levi, BBC Music Magazine