Lately I got the impression that the motto of this season is: "Hurry up: Manfred Honeck is coming to town". So, the heated debate over having one Music Director or a "Team of Three" is finally winning down… I feel as though all of us, "lovers of the PSO" are still captives of the notion that Manfred Honeck follows Mariss Jansons… as though the past three years were just an interlude between two acts…
Well, this "suspension, with all its anxieties (I am sure there was plenty of it behind the stage) was still a time of great music making, of many unforgettable concerts!
One of the "positive side affects" I discovered and still "play
with", is treating each conductor without any preconceived bias. I no
longer "compare & contrast" with Mariss Jansons… As a
result, I formed my own "scale of preferences". Some conductors "I can
live without", some "deserved" to be on the podium, but no more than a
few, were "worthy" of conducting this great Orchestra.
(Am I biased here? I don’t think so… On so many occasions when I
was asked what keeps me in Pittsburgh, I replied without any
hesitation: The Pittsburgh Symphony! I love this city & I promote it constantly and my first example is always: the PSO.
Call me eccentric if you wish… Come to think about it, I am sure that
my sister in Jerusalem reflected on my state of mind when I scheduled
my visit to Israel so that I will not miss any of the Classical Music
Back to my present focus on the great visiting conductors during the "interlude". Among those "worthy few", my favorite is Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos!
In most of the concerts he conducted in the past three years, the
programs brought together the orchestra & the human voice (Mendelssohn Choir) and contrasting musical expressions & moods. (Remember Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana‘ following Mendelssohn’s ‘Midsummer-night’s Dream’?)
or the deliberate formation of contrast by performing at the same
concert composers’ works so different in mood by composers who created
new schools of music. (Remember Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ following ‘Beethoven’s 6th Symphony’?)
What I always found intriguing at any concert conducted by R. Frühbeck de Burgos
was the great variety of unexpected themes, letting me leave the
concert-hall reflecting on the infinitive creative power of music. All
of that, coupled with his stage charisma & the strong sense of
communicating with the orchestra, and the outcome was always a grand
The last two concerts (on the weekends of October 12 & 19)
highlighted the selection of music, the creation of moods and the
emotional impact that I am looking for in a live concert. The
conductor, "my favorite Guest Conductor worthy of my favorite Orchestra" was Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos!
The first program featured excerpts from two of Wagner’s Operas: ‘Die Neistersingervon Nurnberg’ & ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from ‘Tristan und Isolde’ following by Beethoven’s ‘5th Symphony’. The second: Sibelius’ ‘Violin Concerto’ followed by Debussy’s ‘Nocturnes’ and Ravel’s ‘2nd Suite’ from ‘Daphnis & Chloe`’.
Listening to Wagner and Beethoven at the same concert,
to these two giant composers, who each in his life time broke with the
established musical norms and created new musical schools, offered me
the "Frühbeck effect". In addition, it reminded me that Beethoven who wished for so many years to compose Operas, left us only one… while Wagner who saw himself as the pioneer of uniting all Art forms, composed just one Symphony… Is it possible (even just a bit…) that Wagner, who craved for and offered his audiences "the ultimate theatrical catharsis" avoided any comparison to Beethoven? (…and than another thought crossed my mind: Beethoven despised anything related to cults…)
Contrasting Sibelius with Debussy & Ravel was still another example of the "Fruhbeck effect". This time, bringing together what I percieve as opposite channels of expressing beauty in musical terms. Sibelius’ ‘Violin Concerto’ is always associated in my mind with the creative struggle culminating in heavenly splendor. (Nikolaj Znaider, the young soloist, rendered it magnificently.) Debussy’s ‘Noctunes’ and Ravel’s ‘Dafnis & Chloe`‘, both incorporating the human voice (The Mendelssohn Choir)
as a musical instrument, I associated with "the impressionist painter’s
brush", generating sounds as sunlight being reflected in shimmering
waters. The beauty of the romantic side by side with the beauty of "Art
for Art’s sake".
The PSO, the unforgettable violinist Nikolaj Znaider, The Mendelssohn Choir and Maestro Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, granted me once more my wish at a live concert.