For the second year in-a-row, The Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck have won Opus Magazine‘s “Record of the Year” award! This year’s distinction goes to their recording of Strauss’s Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier Opera Suites:
“In the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s sixth recording of the Pittsburgh live! series, conductor Manfred Honeck and Czech composer Tomáš Ille have once again joined forces (after their 2014 and 2016 collaborations on the Jenufa symphonic suite and the Rusalka Fantasy, featured in the series’ second and fifth recordings) in creating a symphonic suite of Strauss’s opera Elektra. As a counterpart to this dark modernist psychological drama, the CD also features the symphonic suite from Strauss’ well-beloved comic opera, Der Rosenkavalier (arranged by conductor Artur Rodzinski and first performed in 1944), in which Strauss returns to a more classical idiom to conjure up 18th century Vienna. …
The CD, recorded by Soundmirror for References Recordings, is yet another Super Audio multi-channel hybrid recording of exceptional quality. Whether you believe in the extra quality of SACD’s or not, the transparency of texture and richness of tone are undeniable, as is the impressive dynamic range. A decision has apparently been made to put the brass instruments in the forefront, which also serves to bring together the two symphony suites, both of which feature brass prominently. The listener is led from Elektra’s fiery horns of revenge straight into the arms of the young lover-cavalier Octavian, whose heroic (sexual) deeds are again depicted by horns, this time in comical guise.
The clarity of recording and attention to detail are apparent from the first chord of Elektra’s Agamemnon motif with which the Elektra suite dramatically begins. Played by the entire orchestra, there is a sort of kaleidoscopic quality to it: first, one hears the harshness of the brass instruments, then, above the rumble of the timpani, the woodwinds in their organ-like quality take on more of a presence, then everything fades and the timpani roll morphs into one note, played only by the cellos and double basses. A whole world of sound contained within a single chord. Thankfully, more and more orchestras are making live concert recordings, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at the forefront of this return to real time recordings, capturing the orchestra at its most exuberant.” —Passy J. Cassel, Opus Magazine