Before the Vienna Spring Concerts, Manfred Honeck spoke with Presto Classical‘s Katherine Cooper about his career, the music of Strauss and more:
KC: You began your career as a viola-player with the great Viennese orchestras, but have spent the past ten years as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Do you notice any stylistic differences between American and Austrian orchestras, and do you feel that there’s still such a thing as a distinctive ‘Viennese sound’?
MH: Of course in Vienna there is a long tradition of enormous elegance and sweetness and lightness, but my approach very much depends on the repertoire that we’re performing together. Everywhere in the world there’s been such extreme technical and musical progress, so for me it’s always a question of how can I make a difference in the style – as you can imagine, Mahler and Bruckner need a different approach to Beethoven and Mozart! In terms of the tendency towards globalisation nowadays, though, I do think it would be great if orchestras kept their own identity, not politically but musically speaking. But of course we can still learn from each other, and I think that what I do in Pittsburgh also reflects what I’ve learned In Vienna: it works perfectly, actually!