Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Barber: Adagio for Strings
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Manfred Honeck, Music Director
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 and Barber Adagio for Strings
Majestic, solemn music from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Available in Hybrid Surround Sound and Stereo SACD and Hi-Res Downloads
2018 GRAMMY® Winner – Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical
In his fascinating and scholarly music notes, Maestro Honeck gives us great insight into the history of both pieces, and describes how he conducts and interprets each. He reminds us that Joseph Stalin’s Soviet government was offended by Shostakovich’s previous works. Under threat of arrest or banishment to Siberia, Shostakovich devised a new, less-complex compositional style for the 5th Symphony, still full of irony and double meaning, to appease Stalin and appeal to the common people.
The Adagio of Samuel Barber is his most performed work, and one of the most popular of all 20th Century orchestral works. It is beloved for its beautiful simplicity and emotion. Manfred Honeck describes Barber’s 1967 a capella version for mixed choir using the “Agnus Dei” text, and tells us his own interpretation is inspired by this text. He says it is “for me, without a doubt, the key to finding a deeper sense of this piece. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Adagio has enchanted and moved audiences around the world since its very first incarnation and has continued to do so in all subsequent versions born since.”
This release is the seventh 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/Janaček (FR-710SACD) and Bruckner 4 (FR-713SACD) have each received GRAMMY® nominations for Best Orchestral Performance.
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 90 Grammy nominations and awards. For over 40 years, Soundmirror has recorded for every major classical record label, including Reference Recordings.
On This Recording
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
- Moderato-Allegro Non Troppo
- Allegro non troppo Samuel Barber
- Adagio for Strings
“To call Shostakovich's symphony a landmark of the twentieth century is trite yet nevertheless accurate, especially in the immediacy with which its fundamental humanity speaks to any listener. Perhaps more than anything else, this remarkable work shows the composer in full command of his considerable melodic gifts, something the performance by Honeck and the PSO brings into sharp relief.” —Textura “Manfred Honeck seems intent on wringing every last drop of drama from the symphony in this live recording. He seizes upon the first movement’s stark juxtapositions. Rhythms in the jagged opening phrases are razor-sharp and urgently dispatched … then the pace eases as the mood becomes more lyrical. … On paper, following this with Barber’s Adagio for Strings might appear anticlimactic but on disc it’s convincing. Barber’s idiosyncratic nod to Tudor polyphony – Honeck writes that he transferred vocal-style phrasing from the composer’s choral version – serves as a elegiac yet soothing benediction.” —Andrew Farach-Colton, Gramophone Magazine “There are many valid approaches to this symphony, but Honeck’s interpretation is among the most insightful. And the recording is simply stunning, especially considering that it was done during a live performance. Even in the quietest parts, there is nary a cough or breath to be heard. Even if you have multiple versions of this symphony, be sure to give this one a listen.” —John Huxhold & Eric Meyer, NativeDSD Call for Reviewers “Manfred Honeck has…drawn on Shostakovich’s life and experiences for his interpretation fo the Fifth. Honeck does not ‘rewrite’ the piece, but he does adapt interpretive points to what he believes the muic is saying or depicting. The result is one of the more interesting performances of the work. … This performance makes a good case for his ideas. Heinz Hall serves well as a recording site. The sound is excellent, particularly in tone and dynamic extremes.…” —Roger Hecht, American Record Guide “Manfred Honeck’s Shostakovich sounds magnificent. From intense pianissimosto the shrieking upper register and full bass thwack of a grand peroration…there’s faith in what can sometimes seem like a time-serving symphony. … the scherzo is writ huge, like Mahler on steroids, cellos and basses digging in at the start; the finale has all the trenchancy it needs… [the Adagio receives] a deeply felt reading, too.” —David Nice, BBC Music Magazine “I find this interpretation of a so familiar symphony to be as convincing as it is revelatory. The Pittsburgh Symphony show themselves to be in inspired and virtuosic form under conductor Manfred Honeck who makes unconventional but inspired interpretative choices. Reference Recordings provide a recording of superb natural clarity and detail.” —Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International (Record of the Year!) “[Manfred Honeck] interprets – he even anthropomorphizes the music. It works! The music comes alive in uncanny ways. I’m wary of interpreting too much into composers and their works, especially Shostakovich. … Honeck’s profound empathizing with the music – equally obvious from his own, extensive liner notes – denotes a passionate, detail-happy, and deeply caring performance. Honeck lets the orchestra rip, cry, shriek – but he tends at least equally carefully, tenderly to the extensive piano and pianissimo passages. The sound of the orchestra, dark and burnished while perfectly capable of piercing anguish, and the superb recording quality (never dry, still detailed, warm but without hints of artificial beauty) make this a wholly absorbing listening experience. The Barber Adagio for Strings is an added, indulgently performed, tragic coda… altogether ravishing stuff.” —Jens F. Laurson, Forbes (Best of 2017) “… Under music director Manfred Honeck the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is on fine form, and it feels as if these polished performances are genuine labours of love. Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony is outstandingly played, and the release contains one of the finest accounts of Barber’s Adagio for Strings I have heard.” —Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International “I eagerly await every new Reference Fresh! release from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Each has been an artistic and sonic delight, and this one is no exception.… Honeck’s balanced and dramatically effective control provides momentum and, in the third movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony 5 and Barber Adagio, a sense of bated-breath stillness. The orchestra flawlessly executes his direction, and the result is completely satisfying and emotionally draining. … Overall, this is the best Shostakovich 5 of this century…” —Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile “… an excellent contribution to the Shostakovich discography, even in the face of all the other versions of this work on the market. … masterful, deliberate, but never plodding performance by Honeck, with the Pittsburgh brasses sounding as good as they have in years. The Barber Adagio for Strings is an inspired note on which to bring down the curtain, casting the tumult of the Shostakovich into a calm but tragic frame. …Highly recommended.” —James Manheim, AllMusic “I’ve never heard the duet between the flute and horn at the return of the first movement’s beautiful lyrical theme sound so uplifting. … The sound quality of this ‘live’ Reference recording is superb and brimming with potent energy. Some of the soft passages conjure up a mysterious effect whilst the moments with heavy military percussion and brass make you want to run for cover. … Highly recommended!” —Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinel “This is the sort of performance you want to press into the hands of someone who’s never heard the piece. It’s marvellous, in so many ways, Honeck steering a near-ideal course between hysteria and sobriety.… Spectacular rasping horns kick off the movement’s development, brass and wind playing with a paint-stripping ferocity that suggests a vintage Soviet orchestra. And the pale, bleached sonorities in the coda – this is luxury playing. …Fans of this work shouldn’t hesitate. And, if you don’t know it well, start here.” —Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk “…it’s impossible not to be impressed by the quality of the orchestral playing and the immersive depth and dynamic range of the recording.” —Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Summer Record Review