Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 & Dvořák: Rusalka Fantasy
A brilliant new interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s final symphony, a work of great originality and power, in superb audiophile sound!
Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky said of his Symphony No. 6: “But I absolutely consider it to be the best, and in particular, the most sincere of all my creations. I love it as I have never loved any of my other musical offspring.” The comprehensive notes by Manfred Honeck offer an in-depth look into the composer’s soul, and a fascinating look at the mind and decisions of a great conductor. To quote from Honeck’s music notes: “it is undoubtedly clear that Tchaikovsky truly put all of his soul into this unique masterpiece. I dare to say that in a way, Tchaikovsky experienced his own death through the music. One can be sure that only somebody who is deeply empathetic about both life and death can be capable of creating such an atmosphere and I am deeply grateful for the great musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra who went with me on this journey, requiring the utmost technical perfection to reach such a level of expression.” FR-720 also includes the world premiere of the “Rusalka Fantasy,” an orchestral suite drawn from Dvořák’s opera by Mr. Honeck and arranger Tomáš Ille.
This release is the fifth in the highly acclaimed Pittsburgh Live! series of multi-channel hybrid SACD releases on the FRESH! series from Reference Recordings. Each has received dozens of critical accolades. Dvořák/Janáček (FR-710SACD) and Bruckner 4 (FR-713SACD) have each received GRAMMY® nominations 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 also has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. And, with a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900-including 37 international tours to Europe, the Far East and South America-the Pittsburgh Symphony continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras.
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
On This Recording
- Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique”
- Adagio — Allegro Non Troppo
- Allegro Con Grazia
- Allegro Molto Vivace
- Finale: Adagio Lamentoso — Andante
- Rusalka Fantasy (Arr. Honecke/Ille)
“[Manfred Honeck and] his stellar Pittsburgh players gives us a fully inflected rendition of the Pathétique. He has the strings of the Pittsburgh Symphony often sounding like the Vienna Philharmonic – Honeck was a violinist in the Vienna Philharmonic in his younger days – and the power of the orchestra is a fearsome thing to behold in the great climaxes. This is an excellent performance, beautifully captured by the Reference Recordings production team from Soundmirror in Boston.” —Paul E. Robinson, Musical Toronto
“Empathy and understanding are two flourishing intangible ingredients which a conductor must cogitate then parlay for the ear in order to elicit a composer’s deepest thoughts. Such pensive factors engulfed Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s life, and while the conveyance of his finale à la vie are rendered sublime by Manfred Honeck, the germination of musical tendrils only gets better in his récriture personnelle of Dvorák’s lyrically rich fairytale opera, Rusalka. Reference Recordings’ award winning Soundmirror creates another unforgettable and unblemished journey of rarified diction unlike any other. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s (PSO) seamless array of exceptional vocabulary and erudite commentary inside the Symphony N° 6 creates a ‘frozen moment’ in time for end-of-life Tchaikovsky. Mr. Honeck approaches this music with utmost maturity and complexity yielding maximum exponential value. … Reference Recordings’ Tchaikovsky/Dvorák combination is a winner. This is consummate craftsmanship, and Manfred Honeck alongside his Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are to be lauded on all fronts. Stellar.” —Christie Grimstad, ConcertoNet
“The new recording by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, released May 13, is worth acquiring for many reasons including individual and compelling performances of both familiar and novel repertoire and stunning quality of recorded sound. … Honeck sets the context for and explains many details of his interpretation of “Pathetique” in his exceptionally detailed program notes for the release. For all the intensity of the new recording of “Pathetique,” Honeck’s interpretation brings an impressive dignity to the music’s emotional world and respect for the musical elements of what is one of the great symphonies of the Romantic era. … Honeck’s scrupulous approach to dynamics is important for his lyricism, which touches the listeners more through expressive nuances than by big changes in volume. The first violins are especially impressive in this way, but this recording documents how well the entire orchestra is playing these days. … The new CD gains greatly in value from inclusion of the “Rusalka Fantasy.” The opera is virtually unknown in America, which makes this 20-minute orchestral piece especially welcomed.” —Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“It is fair to say that Manfred Honeck’s series of live recordings with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra of music by Richard Strauss, Dvorak, Bruckner and Beethoven on the Reference Recordings Fresh! label have been revelatory, even to those listeners who are very familiar with the works featured on them that are, by and large, cornerstones of the orchestral repertoire. The main work on this latest release is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor and in an engrossing twelve page essay in the liner notes Honeck first discusses the genesis of the Symphony and speculates on its probable secret programme…These notes are almost worth the price of the disc! From the first bars it is clear that this is to be a pretty special account of the Symphony. … It is no surprise then to find that the ‘Rusalka Fantasy’ is almost like a newly minted Dvorak orchestral masterpiece. The PSO’s scintillating performance of the suite makes it a most welcome and imaginative addition to the catalogue. The skilled recording team (Soundmirror, Boston) have ensured that these recordings, made and post produced in DSD256, are in every way worthy of the performances enshrined on this SACD. There is no doubt that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are fortunate to have such a perceptive Music Director with a meticulous care for detail and the ability to deliver performances of such consistently high quality. But Manfred Honeck is equally blessed with a supremely accomplished virtuoso orchestra who can fulfil his wishes to the letter. Long may this partnership continue and, hopefully, yield many more such involving, and often spine-tingling, recordings as these.” —Graham Williams, HRAudio
“This recording of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ is a ‘monument’ in every sense of the word. … Conveying ideas to an orchestra is one thing, but letting an orchestral body of around 100 musicians carry them out like clockwork, as if holding everyone on a personal string, can only be done if musicians believe in their master and have confidence in what he is asking them to do. This makes a Chef stand out from the crowd. Manfred Honeck is such a Chef. … What a fine example of committed playing. Live recordings are either the best or the worst in comparison to an empty hall recording session. If the spark between audience and musicians gets across, this invariably draws out the best in every performance. This has clearly happened here. Any of the three concerts in Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh, from which this recording has been assembled, must have been an unforgettable event. … Without going into a detailed description of each movement, it is obvious that this symphony gets a personal, yet most fascinating rendition; never too much, nor too little. …this recording will score high on anyone’s short-list.” — Adrian Quanjer, HR Audio
“Manfred Honeck’s reading of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony – the so-called (not by Tchaikovsky) ‘Pathétique’ – will send shivers down your spine: not only is the interpretation fiercely driven and the playing thrilling, but the recorded sound has a visceral physical impact. And if that weren’t already enough, Honeck adds a 20-minute fantasy on material from Dvořák’s opera Rusalka, which is wholly delightful, with some sections worthy of the later symphonies, others sounding like newly discovered Slavonic Dances and the famous ‘Song to the Moon’ taken by solo violin, discretely supported by a solo trumpet, almost as moving as the original. Structurally, it’s a bit of a ragbag, with little pretension of symphonic coherence – but who cares: it is bloody marvellous, and with luck this first recording will win it many friends, and much exposure in the concert hall, where I would love to hear it.” —Martin Anderson, Klassisk Musikkmagasin
“I believe most of you would agree that not many composers quite match Tchaikovsky when it comes to conjuring up a sense of ‘drama’ in music. And especially the way he applies some of the most beautiful melodies to emotionally passionate moments is quite gripping. Include his preponderance for extensive tension escalation and perfectly timed release, and you have the perfect recipe for electrifying music. He certainly knew how to create vivid images in music. Add to this the nervous energy of a live concert as we have here, and you’re in for an emotional roller coaster. For example, there’s an enormous amount of passionate energy released at the 13:00 mark of the first movement that is exceptionally well captured by Manfred Honeck and exceptionally well projected by the Pittsburgh players, and then followed by an overwhelming sense of calm at the end with a long, sustained chord perfectly pitched by the brass section. … Best of all is the profound sense of pathos radiating from every strand of the final Adagio Lamentoso movement in which the Pittsburgh string section gets to shine. In the final two minutes alone, with its pseudo failing heartbeat rhythmic pulse, the lower strings are darkness shrouded in darkness, the epitome of intense gravity, and this account leaves a profound impression. … the Rusalka Fantasy by Antonin Dvorak, actually arranged as a suite from the opera by Manfred Honeck himself…[is] upbeat and buoyant opening pages completely break the spell cast on you by the final moments of the Tchaikovsky symphony. Such a powerful effect of music should be allowed to linger on the mind. … if you’re looking for an up-to-date, live, full-spectrum SACD recording, you can’t do much better than this.” —Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinel
“Any new disc from this particular team is usually an event, and this one keeps up the trend. It’s unusual to find a leading conductor who doesn’t seem set on setting down complete cycles of everything. Manfred Honeck’s discography is highly selective, and all the better for it.… Honeck’s careful handling of Tchaikovsky’s dynamic markings pays enormous dividends. Some passages exist on the very edge of audibility and the ffff explosions will rattle your sash windows. … But the excellence of the playing and sound engineering never draws undue attention to itself; what’s compelling is the intelligence and musicality of the performance. … Light relief of sorts comes in the form of a single-movement Rusalka Fantasy based on Dvořák’s opera, assembled by Honeck and the Czech composer Tomás Ille. It works beautifully… An outstanding disc, and not just for audiophiles.” —Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk
“In summary Honeck’s performance of this symphony is a thoughtful and thought-provoking rendition of a score that can suffer from over-familiarity.” —John Quinn, MusicWeb International
“For Reference Recodings, there are SACDs of Strauss symphonic poems, and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8 coupled with a suite from Janacek’s opera Jenufa. Now we have three more SACDS of live recordings all made in the fine acoustics of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts. All of these are superlative, virtuoso performances. The Beethoven symphonies are high energy throughout, with a rather frantic but exiting pace for the final two movements of Symphony No. 7. The Bruckner symphony also is impressive, challenging the finest other versions , with a scherzo of unusual power. Competition is keener for the Tchaikovsky symphony. A plus is the mightily impressive huge gong preceding the final pages of the symphony. Whatever the specifications of the instrument, it produces a soft but massive lasting sound that doubtless is what the composer had un mind. The suite from Rusalka, arranged by the conductor, is an intriguing filler, and of course it includes the famous Song to the Moon, exquisitely played by the Pittsburgh strings. All of these impress and are important additions to the catalog.” —R.E.B., Classical CD Review