When I went to Carnegie Mellon I spent much of my time in Hammerschlag Hall, which was the place to be to study Electrical and Computer Engineering, my major. I always felt the name had a sort of romantic feel to it, and now I find out all these years later that Hammerschlag from German means Hammer Blow. Not quite as romantic, but in the sense it was used tonight with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, playing Mahler, it is indeed again romantic. ‘In 1965 Machinery Hall was renamed Hamerschlag Hall in honor of the first president of Carnegie Institute of Technology, Arthur Arton Hamerschlag’
Manfred Honeck discusses the famous ‘Hammerschlag’ in the 4th movement of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony… “Mahler asked for a short powerful but dull sound almost like the fall of an ax on a tree. He didn’t think the bass drum would capture the sense of what he was trying to create. Here at Heinz Hall we have built a big wooden box that will be placed on a riser in the percussion section. You will not only hear but also see principle percussionist Andrew Reamer strike it with a big hammer at 3 dramatic points in the final movement.”
The first selection this evening was the Eugene Goossens Concert piece for Oboe/English Horn and Two Harps with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with James Gorton, Getchen Van Hoesen and Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton. Manfred Honeck delicately conducted the subtle drama between the orchestra and the soloists, who did a great job. Many of the phrases were tentative and hesitant, as if music dancing on a string. Subject lines would question, as an introspective retrospective. I fully enjoyed this concerto, the volume was perfect for my ears. Later, although I did fully enjoy Mahler’s 6th, it was quite loud, perhaps too loud for my ears.
Before the concert Henry Hillman and Teresa Heinz spoke as a tribute to Heinz Hall’s 40th anniversary. Heinz spoke metaphorically of those who would plant trees, even though they know they will never sit under the branches of that tree once grown. She described her father in law, Jack Heinz, who referred to those along with himself as his “band of dreamers” for they were aspiring to fulfill the dream to realize a vibrant cultural district, and that began with Heinz Hall.