San Francisco Classical Voice interviews Manfred Honeck before his performances of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Shostakovich’s Suite on the Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti with the San Francisco Symphony. See the excerpt below and visit SFCV.org for the full interview:
At one point in that same Times piece, you said, “I’m an instrument … to make my profession more honest.” When has the profession not been honest?
What I meant, probably, was that you have to be yourself in front of an orchestra. If you lose your artistic integrity, then it’s a part of dishonesty. But there is always a question, how far do you go with that. People have to be with you and for you, when you all play for the audience, you have to get them to understand what you came for. We conductors also have to be sometimes a little more humble. We have to know, it’s not Manfred Honeck, it’s Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, who wrote the pieces. We have to serve the music. There is sometimes a tendency in our music business that we want to bring out this conductor or this soloist, that the artist is more important than the composer. I like the other attitude better.
It seems your integrity has been appreciated in Pittsburgh, where they’ll be celebrating the onset of your tenth season later this year. You’ll be doing three new recordings with them on the Reference Recordings label, and you’ll be taking them on a European tour. Will that include a visit to your family?
Yes, they live in Austria. I have six children, the second one is in the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, my brother Reiner is concertmaster with the Vienna Philharmonic, my sister is a cellist in the Vienna Folk Opera, and my older brother, who’s already retired, was in the Frankfurt Opera. And I have four grandchildren.