For more than 120 years, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been an essential part of Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape. The PSO, known for its artistic excellence, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. This tradition was furthered in Fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck assumed the position of Music Director with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The 2017/18 season marked the tenth year of this acclaimed partnership.
Heading the list of internationally recognized conductors to have led the PSO is Victor Herbert, Music Director between 1898 and 1904, who influenced the early development of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Preceding Herbert was Frederic Archer (1896-1898), the first Pittsburgh Orchestra Conductor. The Orchestra’s solidification as an American institution took place in the late 1930s under the direction of Maestro Otto Klemperer. Conductors prior to Klemperer were Emil Paur (1904-1910), Elias Breeskin (1928-1930) and Antonio Modarelli (1930-1937). From 1938 to 1948, under the dynamic directorship of Fritz Reiner, the Orchestra embarked on a new phase of its history, through international touring and its first commercial recording.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s standard of excellence was maintained and enhanced through the inspired leadership of William Steinberg during his quarter-century as Music Director between 1952 and 1976. André Previn (1976-1984) led the Orchestra to new heights through tours, recordings and television, including the PBS series, Previn and the Pittsburgh. Lorin Maazel began his relationship with the PSO in 1984 as Music Consultant but later served as a highly regarded Music Director from 1988-1996. As Music Director from 1997-2004, Mariss Jansons furthered the artistic growth of the orchestra, and upon his departure, the PSO created an innovative leadership model with Artistic Advisor Sir Andrew Davis, Principal Guest Conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier and Endowed Guest Conductor Chair Marek Janowski. These three conductors formed the primary artistic leadership for the Orchestra until January 2007, when the PSO selected Honeck to take the reins at the start of the 2008/09 season.
The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1896. The orchestra regularly performed in Canadian cities, with the first concerts in Hamilton and Toronto in 1902 under the baton of Victor Herbert. With approximately 40 international tours, including tours to Europe and to South America, a Far East Tour in 2002 marked first-time concerts for the Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur and Australia. Reaching a global audience, the PSO was the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican in January 2004 for the late Pope John Paul II, as part of the Pontiff’s Silver Jubilee celebration. In May 2009, the PSO embarked on a four concert tour of Asia, a trip which included debut performances in Shanghai, China and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in addition to the first stop in Beijing, China since 1987.
Following their successful European tour in 2010, the PSO and Honeck embarked on a second tour of Europe in 2011, with appearances at major music festivals, including the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Musikfest Berlin, Beethovenfest Bonn, Lucerne Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival in Wiesbaden, and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Hamburg. Highly acclaimed by critics, the PSO also performed in Paris and in Grafenegg and Vilnius (Lithuania) during this tour and performed at many beautiful concert halls including L’Auditorio in Barcelona, Auditorio Nacional in Madrid, Musikverein in Vienna, Salle Pleyel in Paris, Philharmonie in Cologne, Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Liederhalle in Stuttgart, and Philharmonie in Luxembourg. In autumn 2019, the Orchestra’s most recent tour took the Orchestra and its Music Director to ten European cities, including the Berlin Philharmonie, the Cité de la Musique in Paris, the Philharmonie im Gasteig in Munich and the Musikverein in Vienna, with which the Orchestra has close ties. The planned European tour in summer 2020 had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19-pandemic.
Since 2006, the Pitssburgh Symphony has partnered with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its marketing affiliate, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, to use international tours to open doors for economic development and foreign direct investment discussions. The partnership, unique among American orchestras, has resulted in numerous investments in the Pittsburgh region.
The Orchestra also enjoys an equally distinguished record of domestic tours, which over the years have showcased the orchestra in all of America’s major cities and music centers, including frequent performances at Carnegie Hall in New York (dating from 1900) and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the Pittsburgh Symphony broadcast coast-to-coast, receiving increased national attention in 1982 through its series of network radio broadcasts by Public Radio International, produced by WQED-FM 89.3 in Pittsburgh.
Starting with the release of its first commercial recording in 1941, the PSO has made hundreds of critically acclaimed recordings. They are available on the Pentatone, EMI, Angel, CBS, Philips, MCA, New World, Nonesuch, Sony Classical and Telarc labels. The orchestra with Lorin Maazel conducting and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, won a 1992 Grammy Award for a Sony Classical disc featuring works by Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. Cinema Serenade, a CD with John Williams conducting and Itzhak Perlman performing celebrated film scores, reached No. 1 on the Billboard crossover chart.
Since 2013 Manfred Honeck’s successful work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been captured by Reference Recordings. The SACDs by the label, including tone poems and suites by Richard Strauss, Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 5 and 7, Bruckner’s Symphonies No. 4 and 9, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, received a large number of excellent reviews. After two previous Grammy nominations, the recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber’s Adagio was awarded two Grammy Awards as “Best Orchestral Performance” and “Best engineered classical album” in January 2018. A ninth joint recording with Bruckner’s 9th Symphony, which was again nominated for Grammy Awards in several categories, was released in August 2019.
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Over the last quarter century, Manfred Honeck has firmly established himself as one of the world’s leading conductors, renowned for his distinctive interpretations. For more than a decade, he has served as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Consistently recognized for their performances, he and the orchestra are celebrated both in Pittsburgh and abroad, performing regularly in major European music capitals, at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, and at leading festivals such as the BBC Proms, Musikfest Berlin, Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn and Grafenegg Festival. They also enjoy a close relationship with the Musikverein in Vienna.
Manfred Honeck’s successful work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been extensively documented on recordings with the Reference and Exton labels. All SACDs released by Reference Recordings, amongst them works by Strauss, Bruckner, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, have received a multitude of rave reviews and honours, including a number of Grammy nominations. The CD with the recordings of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber’s Adagio (August 2017) received two Grammy Awards in January 2018: as “Best orchestral Performance” and as “Best engineered classical album”. A ninth joint CD release with Bruckner’s 9th Symphony was released in August 2019.
From 2007 to 2011, Manfred Honeck was Music Director of the Staatsoper Stuttgart where he conducted premieres including Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Mozart’s Idomeneo, Verdi’s Aida, Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites and Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal. His operatic guest appearances include Semperoper Dresden, Komische Oper Berlin, Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Royal Opera of Copenhagen, the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg and the Salzburg Festival. In Beethoven’s anniversary year of 2020, Manfred Honeck will conduct a new staging of Fidelio (1806 version) at Theater an der Wien. Beyond the podium, Manfred Honeck has conceptualized a number of staged works into symphonic suites, including Janáček’s Jenůfa, Strauss’s Elektra and Dvořák’s Rusalka, all of which he has recorded with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and he frequently performs these arrangements with orchestras around the globe.
Born in Austria, Manfred Honeck received his musical training at the Academy of Music in Vienna. Many years of experience as a member of the viola section in the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Orchestra have given his conducting a distinctive stamp, and his art of interpretation is based on his determination to delve deep beneath the surface of the music. He began his conducting career as assistant to Claudio Abbado and as artistic leader of the Vienna Jeunesse Orchestra. Subsequently, he was engaged by the Zurich Opera House, where he was bestowed the prestigious European Conductor’s Award in 1993. He has also served as one of three main conductors of the MDR Symphony Orchestra, as Music Director of the Norwegian National Opera, Principal Guest Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm.
As a guest conductor, Manfred Honeck has worked with the world’s leading orchestras including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Accademia di Santa Cecilia Rome and the Vienna Philharmonic. He is a regular guest with all major US orchestras, including New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony. Moreover, he has been Artistic Director of the International Concerts Wolfegg in Germany for twenty-five years.
Manfred Honeck has received honorary doctorates from several North American universities. Most recently, he was awarded the honorary title of Professor by the Austrian Federal President. The expert jury of the International Classical Music Awards selected him as “Artist of the Year” 2018.
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