Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 & Leshnoff: Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Michael Rusinek, clarinet
Nancy Goeres, bassoon
Manfred Honeck, Music Director
Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Score Again!
Reference Recordings® proudly presents Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in an exquisite interpretation from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. It is coupled with a World Premiere recording of leading American composer Jonathan Leshnoff’s Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon, featuring the extraordinary talents of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s own Principal Clarinet Michael Rusinek and Principal Bassoon Nancy Goeres. This hybrid SACD release was recorded in beautiful and historic Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, in superb audiophile sound.
Maestro Honeck honors us again with his meticulous music notes, in which he gives us great insight into his interpretation as well as the history and musical structure of Tchaikovsky’s great Symphony No. 4.
This release is the tenth in the highly acclaimed Pittsburgh Live! series of multi-channel hybrid SACD releases on the FRESH! imprint from Reference Recordings. This series has received GRAMMY® Nominations in 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Its recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 /Barber Adagio for Strings won the 2018 GRAMMY® Awards for Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Classical Album.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, known for its artistic excellence for more than 120 years, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians. Past music directors have included many of the greats, including Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg, Andre Previn, Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons. 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 Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been at the forefront of championing new works, including recent commissions by Mason Bates, Jonathan Leshnoff, James MacMillan and Julia Wolfe. The orchestra premiered 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 live radio broadcasts dating back to the 1930s. And, with a distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900—including more than 37 international tours—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 100 GRAMMY® nominations and awards. For over 40 years, Soundmirror has recorded for every major classical record label, including Reference Recordings.
FR-738SACD Hybrid SACD contains 5.0 and Stereo SACD and CD stereo (downloads are Stereo-only)
On This Recording
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Opus 36
- I Andante sostenuto — Moderato con anima (18:55)
- II Andantino in modo di canzona (10:15)
- III Scherzo - Pissicato ostinato — Allegro (5:33)
- IV. Finale — Allegro con fuoco (8:47) Leshnoff: Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon
- Movement I (6:50)
- Movement II (2:45)
- Movement III (7:55)
“Manfred Honeck… [in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4] conveys a strong sense of structural integrity while simultaneously portraying the unfolding drama in vivid colours. … the playing itself is exquisite. In the Scherzo, Honeck is meticulous in his observance of piano and pianissimo markings, while the finale packs a wallop. Indeed, the symphony’s final moments are absolutely thrilling, conveying not only the frisson of a live performance but a satisfyingly riotous explosion of pent-up emotion. … Jonathan Leshnoff’s Double Concerto (2018) may seem an odd bedfellow to the Tchaikovsky on paper but the overarching lyricism of its first two movements has a peculiarly Slavic bent – note the first movement’s Shostakovich-like climax at 4’28” – despite its strong American accent. … it’s wholly engaging… and played with affection and finesse by the orchestra’s first-desk clarinettist and bassoonist.” —Andrew Farach-Colton, Gramophone
“This new classical gem is from another gifted composer, Jonathan Leshnoff, in his delectable exploration of the unique sounds created when a solo clarinet and bassoon join forces with a sparkling orchestra. Leshnoff’s Concerto For Clarinet and Bassoon is performed by the venerable Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by their Music Director, Manfred Honeck, and recorded on a new hybrid CD/SACD in sterling fashion by the recording team of Sound/Mirror in association with the Fresh! label of Reference Recordings. This recording gem (like so many other Reference Recordings) is a superlative example of how careful recording can bring the images of a full orchestra to vital life on a quality high-end audio system. … Leshnoff’s Concerto For Clarinet and Bassoon, with this performance’s reveling soloists, clarinetist Michael Rusinek and bassoonist Nancy Goeres, is a questing piece taking full advantage of the spikey-sweet sounds of clarinet and bassoon in musical dialogue with a kinetic orchestra. … Leshnoff’s creation reminds me of the sunny and soulful music of another great American composer, Aaron Copeland. … Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony also bring an immersive combination of soul and litheness to their performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. … Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece still delivers goose bumps and spiritual uplift as proven in this new Fresh! Pittsburgh Symphony recording that renews our spirits (bathed in its final trumpeting glory) for another day.” —Nelson Brill, Boston Concert Reviews
“any new recording needs to have something different going for it, as there have been so many fabulous offerings over the last 60 years. I am pleased to report—and this is hardly new—that the Pittsburghians have accomplished just that. … Honeck, always at pains to justify his interpretative schema, does just that again in the booklet notes. He is convincing, both in word and sound. … And speaking of sound, this is another extraordinary winner for the Reference team and those at Soundmirror. Balances are great, depth of volume superb (the percussion and low brass will lift you out of seat) and it can easily be said that these are the best sonics ever heard in this work. … As a splendid disc mate, Jonathan Leshnoff’s Double Concerto is a marvel. It completely flushes any lingering Tchaikovskian remnants from the system in a work with amazing melodic appeal, and virtuosic flourishes that enhance the overall buoyant and lilting feeling of the piece. Both Michael Rusinek and Nancy Goeres display warm, burnished tonal proclivities that are a delight to the ear in this wonderful contrapuntal mélange. All in all, a splendid release!” —Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition
“Quick warning: the Pittsburgh brass are borderline oppressive in Tchaikovsky’s opening fate motif, and it’s all for the good; this symphony’s initial bars should be scary if the journey from darkness to light is to feel convincing. … This is thrilling stuff – sample the Pittsburgh horns’ exultant big tune at the end of the exposition, and how superbly Honeck negotiates the abrupt mood change when the fate motto returns. And the darkness he brings to the first subject’s return just after the 12-minute mark, anticipating a similar moment in Tchaikovsky’s 6th… Tchaikovsky’s “simple, primal joy” is irresistible in this live performance, Honeck’s final accelerando so effective you wonder why more conductors don’t do it. … [Leshnoff’s] Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon… is enormously enjoyable and beautifully written. … A charmer of a concerto, handsomely played. Engineering in both works is up to the expected standard. In other words, another winner.” —Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk
“Tchaikovsky’s Fourth is a work of inspired structural ingenuity, as is clear both from Manfred Honeck’s insightful and extensive notes and this fine recording by the Pittsburgh Symphony… Honeck paces everything so that the eruptions that crown the first movement’s exposition, development, recapitulation and coda retain fully their elemental power to shock. … there is no doubting the sense of excitement Honeck generates. His imaginative and unexpected coupling is the premiere recording of Jonathan Leshnoff’s enchanting 2018 Double Concerto, played with irresistible élan by two of the orchestra’s woodwind principals. … reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s great Russian contemporary, Rimsky-Korsakov.” —Julian Haylock, BBC Music Magazine ( Performance Recording)
“Commissioned and premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Manfred Honeck, the ensemble’s superb Music Director, Jonathan Leshnoff’s beautiful Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon affords PSO principals Michael Rusinek (clarinet) and Nancy Goeres (bassoon) the opportunity to shine as soloists in this gorgeous 20-minute-long, three-movement composition. Leshnoff’s music is unabashedly accessible. From the onset of the composition the composer establishes a bucolic, dreamy tonal landscape that at once engages the listener with the ebb and flow of its melancholy utterances. First the bassoon then the clarinet, alternate in a quiet dialogue built on a short melodic motif that is gradually echoed by the orchestra. It is a haunting entrance into the world of this concerto and its composer. … I am tempted to name this work as one of the most intriguing 21st century compositions this listener has ever encountered, for which huge gratitude is due to Reference Records, to Maestro Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh players, to the two superlative soloists – clarinetist Michael Rusinek and bassoonist Nancy Goeres, and most of all to the immensely gifted Jonathan Leshnoff, from whom we beg for more gems like this one. … This recording is already in my short list of BEST OF 2020.” —Rafael de Acha, Music Notes
“the Symphony No. 4 has rarely received such an intense performance… The Pittsburgh Symphony is in fine form in the symphony’s thrilling brass passages and in the all-pizzicato strings of the third movement. The accompanying Double Concerto for clarinet and bassoon by Leshnoff is also a pleasure: a neo-Romantic work agreeably written and elegantly performed by soloists Michael Rusinek and Nancy Goeres. The live engineering in the acoustically difficult Tchaikovsky, from Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, is very fine.” —James Manheim, AllMusic
“Manfred Honeck is one of that rare breed of artist: a conductor who can draw compelling, electrifying accounts of the standard canon as if on cue. His latest release, which pairs Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 4 with Jonathan Leshnoff’s Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon, manages this feat again. Honeck’s reading is marked by a commanding sense of instrumental color and structural shape in both of the Symphony’s first two movements. The playing of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) – which seems always at its considerable best for its music director – is closely attuned to the music’s rhythmic and dynamic impulses. … Similar qualities mark Leshnoff’s Double Concerto. The first of its three movements alternates spacious orchestral sonorities with engaging dialogues between the soloists and an always-discreet orchestral accompaniment. … In all, it’s a fetching piece, one that shows off both solo instruments exceedingly well, and is highlighted by engaging orchestral writing, to boot. Clarinetist Michael Rusinek and bassoonist Nancy Goeres (respective PSO principals) imbue their solo lines with a naturalness and chemistry that’s thoroughly involving.” —Jonathan Blumhofer, ArtsFuse
“The Double Concerto was written for the artists who play it here… There’s a fresh, open feel to the music and, apart from one brief climax, the movement is predominantly gentle and lyrical in voice. The whole thing is winningly attractive. … I think Jonathan Leshnoff has given us a thoroughly entertaining piece. … Michael Rusinek and Nancy Goeres are superb soloists. … I shall certainly return to this disc to hear the Double Concerto. Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony needs no introduction… It’s typical of Manfred Honeck’s approach to any work he conducts that he always goes back to first principles and thinks about the score in question very deeply. Unusually among conductors, he shares his reasoning with listeners by way of extremely detailed booklet notes, as he does here. … There’s a great deal to admire in Honeck’s performance of the Fourth Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony plays it marvellously. Honeck certainly made me think anew about this familiar masterpiece and that’s a very good thing. … Finally, I should say that both works have been recorded superbly by the Boston recording company, Soundmirror. I listened to this SACD using the stereo layer and I was seriously impressed. There’s a wide dynamic range; soft music registers ideally whilst the loud passages open up excitingly. The left-to-right and front-to-back perspectives are excellent and no detail goes unobserved in this first-rate recording.” —John Quinn, MusicWeb International
“As in his famous ballets, Tchaikovsky’s affinity for irresistible melodies comes to the fore in this symphony’s slow movement, and conductor Honeck and the musicians of the orchestra well project it’s idyllic charm. And as far as thrills are concerned, nothing quite matches this symphony’s final movement. With a momentum more manic than the 1812 Overture it requires virtuosic playing from all the members of the orchestra, especially the brass section. And again the Pittsburgh brass players nail it. And at the 5:37 mark, when the brass declamation from the start returns, it’s punchy enough to push you backwards. And wow, does this orchestra ever show its mettle during the exhilarating race to the finish. Play it loud and feel the orchestral sizzle. Seriously, if you play this in your car, you’ll be bouncing up and down the road. The work that follows, the Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon by American composer Jonathan Leshnoff, heard here for the first time on a recording, is a clever and ear-catching three movement work full of intricate repartee between the two instruments, here played superlatively by Nancy Goeres and Michael Rusinek, the two principal bassoon and clarinet players of the Pittsburgh Symphony. It makes for a pleasant adrenalin-reducing measure following the Tchaikovsky roller-coaster ride.” —Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinel
“We at Culture Spot are always thrilled to get a new release from Reference Recordings of Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the new recording of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 is no exception. One thing we’ve come to expect from Honeck and the PSO is an exciting interpretation and performance of whatever work they are performing, and they didn’t disappoint with the Tchaikovsky. Honeck’s modus operandi include quieter pianissimos, louder fortissimos and wider dynamic ranges than composers indicate in their scores, and the Tchaikovsky fourth is a perfect vehicle for these. … Honeck’s vision of the Tchaikovsky fourth symphony is not only a wonder but it is played wonderfully by the PSO. … An outstanding performance of the Tchaikovsky Fourth by Honeck and the PSO was expected. The real surprise was the beautiful Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon by the American composer Jonathan Leshnoff with PSO Principals Michael Rusinek (clarinet) and Nancy Goeres (bassoon). For those who recoil from contemporary music, have I got a piece for you. The Leshnoff Double Concerto is an 18-minute gem. It’s unusual combination of clarinet and bassoon with orchestra is a delight, and Leshnoff’s writing for the two instruments is virtuosic and superb, as is the playing by the PSO principals. … Kudos to Honeck and the PSO for featuring such a refreshing piece of new music alongside one of the great Romantic symphonies. Another winner from Honeck and the PSO!” —Henry Schlinger, Culture Spot LA