MusicWeb International names Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony’s BEETHOVEN: Symphony Nos. 5 & 7 recording a “Recording of the Month”!
“Over the course of 12 pages, conductor Manfred Honeck sets a new standard for excellence in CD booklets. He walks us through these two beloved Beethoven symphonies, moment by moment, pointing out details we may have missed – and indeed, over years of listening, I’d missed quite a few. His notes are personal, explaining what he feels is important about each work, outlining his interpretive decisions, and relating his own history with the music. … The cumulative effect is like watching a beloved movie with the DVD commentary track. The director himself points out all sorts of tricks and techniques used to make the film better. … The second time I listened to this CD, I followed along booklet in hand, the way a musician might follow along with the sheet music. Just to be clear, in the two weeks since receiving this CD, I have listened to it many, many times. Now we can move on to the performances. They are, frankly, as good as any I’ve ever heard. … Total transparency, for example, informs his desire to make audible every single iteration of the Fifth’s famous motif. The timpani may not be thwacked by old-fashioned hard sticks, but they cut through the texture with a thrill nonetheless. If you associate the period-practice movement with greater raw excitement and energy, well, the finales of these two symphonies have almost never been more thrillingly played. Making matters better: the Pittsburgh Symphony is a spectacular orchestra. Under Honeck, they have risen from one of the best orchestras in America to, frankly, one of the best in the world. You get the feeling that this conductor/orchestra tandem has raised every performer, Honeck included, to a higher level of creative accomplishment than they would have achieved without each other. … In other words, the Pittsburgh/Honeck Beethoven album reaches the shortlist of this century’s great Beethoven symphony recordings. … This disc might have the best sound quality of all and it certainly has revolutionary booklet notes. You don’t often find yourself learning new things, and hearing new angles, in music as well-worn as Beethoven’s Fifth. That is what makes this such a special experience.” —Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International