For more than 120 years, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) 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 PSO. Preceding Herbert was Frederic Archer (1896-1899), 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 (1926-1930) 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, making its first international tour and its first commercial recording.
The PSO’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 PSO has a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900. 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. The PSO also performed to rave reviews in Paris, Grafenegg and Vilnius, Lithuania, on this tour. The PSO 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. The most recent tour took place in summer 2017, with stops at renowned European festivals, including the Salzburger Festspiele, and the next tour through Europe will be in fall 2019. International touring is made possible by the Hillman Endowment for International Performances.
Since 2006, the PSO 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 and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The PSO has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the PSO 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. In May 2012 WQED introduced the Pittsburgh Concert Channel – which can be reached online at www.wqed.org/fm/player/pcc – a unique emmisore that broadcasts exclusively archived performances of the PSO.
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. The PSO’s further recordings include Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and Mahler’s 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th symphonies with Honeck on the Exton label.
The PSO’s Exton recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, conducted by Honeck and featuring soprano Sunhae Im, won a prestigious 2012 International Classical Music Award (ICMA) for symphonic music.
Since 2013 Manfred Honeck’s successful work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is captured by Reference Recordings. The first SACD – of Strauss tone poems – was released in fall 2013 and received rave reviews. The second recording, of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 and the Symphonic Suite from Janacek’s opera Jenufa, conceptualized by Manfred Honeck himself, followed in summer 2014 and was likewise enthusiastically received. The recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 followed in February 2015. In autumn 2015, the recording of Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 5 and No. 7 was released and in 2016 the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 together with Dvorak’s Rusalka Suite, and later that same year the Strauss recording with Rosenkavalier and Elektra Suite. In August 2017 the recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and of Barber’s Adagio was released and received a Grammy for „Best Orchestral Performance” and „Best engineered classical album“ in January 2018. The most recent CD release with Beethoven’s Symphony No 3 and Strauss’ Horn concerto No. 1 followed in fall 2018.
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Manfred Honeck has served as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since the 2008/09 season. The 2017-2018 season marked the tenth year of this acclaimed partnership. Honeck and the orchestra are consistently recognized for their performances and are celebrated both in Pittsburgh and abroad. To great acclaim, Manfred Honeck and his orchestra perform regularly for European audiences. Since 2010, annual tour performances have led them to numerous European music capitals and major music festivals, amongst them Rheingau Musik Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn, Musikfest Berlin, Grafenegg Festival, Lucerne Festival and the BBC Proms. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony have also built a close relationship with the Musikverein in Vienna. Following a week-long residency in 2012, they returned for three performances in the course of an extensive tour of Europe in spring 2016 and one concert during their summer tour in 2017.
The season 2018/19 sees him return as guest conductor to the Staatskapelle Dresden, San Francisco Symphony, Swedish Radio Symphony, Staatskapelle Berlin, New York Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Budapest Festival Orchestra and others.
Manfred Honeck’s successful work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been extensively documented on recordings with the label Reference Recordings. All SACDs released by Reference Recordings, amongst them Strauss tone poems, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, Beethoven Symphonies No. 5 and 7 and, most recently, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 and Strauss’ Elektra & Rosenkavalier Suites, have received numerous rave reviews and honours. 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”. An eigth CD with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” and Strauss’ Horn concerto No. 1 was released in autumn 2018.
The recording of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 and the Symphonic Suite from Janáček’s opera Jenůfa, conceptualized by Honeck himself, was nominated for a Grammy Award, as was Bruckner’s Fourth. Several recordings, including Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, which won a 2012 International Classical Music Award, are also available on the Japanese label Exton.
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, as well as numerous symphonic concerts. 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. Moreover, he has been Artistic Director of the “International Concerts Wolfegg” in Germany for more than fifteen years.
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 Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and at the helm of the Vienna Jeunesse Orchestra have given his conducting a distinctive stamp.
He began his conducting career as assistant to Claudio Abbado in Vienna. Subsequently, he was engaged by the Zurich Opera House, where he was bestowed the prestigious European Conductor’s Award in 1993. Other early stations of his career include Leipzig, where he was one of three main conductors of the MDR Symphony Orchestra and Oslo, where he assumed the post of Music Director at the Norwegian National Opera on short notice for a year and was engaged as Principal Guest Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for several years. From 2000 to 2006 he was Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm and, from 2008 to 2011, as well as from 2013 to 2016 Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
As a guest conductor Manfred Honeck has worked with leading international orchestras such as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Accademia di Santa Cecilia Rome and the Vienna Philharmonic. Orchestras he conducted in the United States include New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is also a regular guest at the Verbier Festival. In February 2013 he gave his successful debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, resulting in a CD recording of Dvoraks works together with Anne-Sophie Mutter for DG.
Manfred Honeck has received honorary doctorates from several North American universities. Most recently, he was awarded the title of Honorary Professor by the Austrian Federal President.
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