HRaudio.net reviews the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck’s Beethoven Symphony No. 9 recording, giving it 4.5 stars for performance, and 5 stars for sonics!
“the brilliance and charisma of Honeck’s conducting, his unique interpretive insights into the works he performs and the manner in which they are realised by the magnificent orchestra of which he has been Music Director for the past ten years, have resulted in each of these recordings moving effortlessly and justifiably into the select group of top recommendations for their respective repertoire. The icing on the cake, of course, has been the stunningly realistic sound quality consistently achieved by the Soundmirror recording team of engineer Mark Donahue and producer Dirk Sobotka. Their longtime familiarity with the acoustics of Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh and close collaboration with the conductor in matters of post-concert editing has ensured an enthralling experience for both audiophiles and those seeking great music making. … His survey of the composer’s Symphonies for Reference Recordings has, so far, focused on the odd numbered works with outstanding accounts of symphonies 3, 5 and 7 to which this superb new recording of the Ninth can now be added. … Honeck’s Beethoven as evinced from the previous releases is lithe and muscular; qualities that are at once evident in his incandescent account of the symphony’s opening movement. The conductor’s nod to period practice (violins divided antiphonally and timpani played with hard sticks) yields dividends throughout the performance while his control of dynamics in this movement is especially impressive. The scherzo that follows is bracingly energetic with marvellously crisp timpani to the fore, while the trio section, though taken at a rapid pace, is perfectly articulated by the excellent PSO woodwinds. As always, clarity and precision are a hallmark of Honeck’s performances… The Finale generates plenty of anticipatory excitement in the opening orchestral recitatives and… [the soloists] do not disappoint while the large and well drilled chorus – the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh – sing Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’ with unbridled enthusiasm and excellent diction. The remarkable virtuosity displayed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra throughout is beyond praise, not least in the jubilant final bars of the symphony where the conductor tells us “Here, I have tried to go to the limit of playability” and he certainly succeeds! The recording was compiled from live performances given at Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (June 6-9, 2019) and once again the Soundmirror engineering on this 5.0 multi-channel hybrid SACD is unimpeachable. … … we are fortunate to be able to experience in wonderful high resolution sound this vibrant and electrifying account of Beethoven’s final symphonic masterpiece. Warmly recommended.”—Graham Williams, HRAudio.net