Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra & Manfred Honeck
The authoritative new Beethoven interpretation from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Audiophile Sound!
Conductor Manfred Honeck writes in his fascinating and thorough music notes: “A recording of Beethoven is always a great occasion and event. The marrying of the music’s historic interpretation with the brilliance of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s playing and the fantastic technique of Soundmirror have made this recording, comprised of three live concerts from December 2014, possible. It has been a joy to look deeply into that which Beethoven has composed, while also discovering the sense and content of the music and thus the reason why it has been written. For me, this is always the most beautiful part of the creative process.”
This release is the fourth in the highly acclaimed Pittsburgh Live! series of multi-channel hybrid SACD releases on the FRESH! series from Reference Recordings. Each, including the newest Bruckner 4 (FR-713SACD) has received dozens of critical accolades. Dvořák/Janáček (FR-710SACD), garnered a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Orchestral Performance.
Since 1896, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been known for its artistic excellence, a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. Past music directors have included many of the greats, including Fritz Reiner (1938-1948), William Steinberg (1952-1976), Andre Previn (1976-1984), Lorin Maazel (1984-1996) and Mariss Jansons (1995-2004). This tradition of outstanding international music directors was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
The orchestra has been at the forefront of championing new American works, and gave the first performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah” in 1944, and John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” in 1986. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the Pittsburgh Symphony broadcast on the airwaves coast-to-coast and in the late 1970s it made the groundbreaking PBS series “Previn and the Pittsburgh.” The orchestra has received increased national attention since 1982 through network radio broadcasts on Public Radio International, produced by Classical WQED-FM 89.3, which are made possible by the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
This release and the entire Pittsburgh Live! series are recorded and mastered by the team at Soundmirror, whose outstanding orchestral, solo, opera and chamber recordings have received more than 70 Grammy nominations and awards. Soundmirror has recorded for every major classical record label, now including Reference Recordings.
Hybrid SACD contains 5.1 and Stereo SACD and CD stereo
“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
“These performances are ravishing in their expansive sound and buoyancy. Each movement brings new gifts to explore: the expressive weight of the strings (all vibrant tones and capacious plucks); the ringing out of brass choruses thunderous and deep in the stage or the highest piccolo leaps tremulous and fragile. Honeck has the orchestra working with great alertness as to each intrepid moment in Beethoven’s brilliant writing. … This is a superb recording, especially in its SACD layer, delivering heft, surrounding air and natural solidity to instruments in a layered and expansive acoustic space.” —Nelson Brill, Boston Concert Reviews
“It’s not easy to offer interpretations of this music that sound new without turning capricious–that both respect the music and personalize it. Honeck and the orchestra manage to pull it off consistently, with bravura, finesse, and an intelligence that makes these versions a true celebration of Beethoven’s genius. The first element that lends this disc such distinction is the quality of the orchestra itself. Let’s be honest: there simply is no finer ensemble in the world today, even if it may sound controversial to say so. From top to bottom the Pittsburgh players reveal themselves as equal or superior to anyone out there; and when led by a charismatic conductor like Honeck, they have few if any peers.” —David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday
“Honeck’s fifth is fresh right out of the gate, beginning with the way he plays the first four fateful notes. … Even if you own several versions of Beethoven’s fifth and seventh, you should add this PSO disc to your collection.” —Henry Schlinger, Culture Spot LA
“All I can say is that Maestro Honeck’s temporal conception of this symphony, which is quite fast, is so spot on, it makes what remains of my hair stand on end. I was literally lost for words. Once I managed to speak at all, I could only say, This is the greatest Fifth I’ve ever heard.” —Russell Lichter, Stereo Times
“Pittsburgh is still the best kept secret among American orchestras, easily as good as any other ensemble active on the national scene, and this recording proves it. Even with a formidable Beethoven tradition in play, and with equally formidable competition in the catalog, this release, with its illuminating and brilliant surround sound, takes pride of place among the best available, an audiophile’s delight.” —Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition
“Beethoven liked large-scale performances and he’d presumably have approved of Manfred Honeck’s Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performances of Symphonies 5 and 7. This is sensational orchestral playing, beautifully recorded, and these readings have an irresistible sweep and grandeur. One of those rare CDs which should leave you speechless after listening, desperate to repeat the experience. It’s that good, and a reminder that classical music can still sound exciting and relevant.” —Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk
“Honeck has a wonderful ear for detail, be it quietly thematic or utterly bizarre, as in the piccolo’s crackerjack contributions to the finale of the Fifth, whose final chord nonetheless manages to offer an inch-perfect balance between piccolo and drum. … Honeck’s performances deserve to be heard.” —Richard OSborne, Gramophone
“Ninety seconds is all it takes to understand that Manfred Honeck’s is no sanitized Beethoven: the plethora of colorations, articulations and moods through which he forces the Fifth’s famous motto sees to that. Every phrase, every balance has been thought through in interventionist readings that are idiosyncratic but fully attuned to the spirit, if not the letter, of the scores. … this partnership seems incapable of laying down an ordinary recording.” —David Allen, The New York Times
“Honeck takes a post-historicist’s stance with this new recording. He’s absorbed the latest scholarship but interprets the music with more dimension, personality and weight.” —Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“…these performances are utterly transparent, the pacing is extremely brisk and lively, and the interpretations are as fresh as advertised on the cover. The brilliant reproduction is also a major contribution to this album’s success, and it brings great clarity to these startling and revelatory recordings.” —Blair Sanderson, AllMusic.com