Traveling to Pittsburgh to attend a concert filled with classical music is always like a journey through a magical world filled with spellbinding musical concoctions vividly unwinding before my ears. This evening was no exception, my rendezvous with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck inevitably radiated waves of sanguine optimism reinforced by harmonious orchestral tunes lilting through my soul. My odyssey was just about to begin.
In the lobby, just after I arrived I saw Maestro Honeck himself, coming through the front door just like any other patron, with a beaming smile he spoke to the staff and shook hands with a fan. His enthusiasm for the event and the music acted as bookends to the evening. Hint: there would be an encore after the Brahms.
Mozart’s Haffner Symphony is light and airy and always a treat for me to hear. Writing afterwards, it was the first thing I put on when writing for the blog. I particularly like the quickly placed ascending notes. The tempo is fast and the whole orchestra blends seamlessly with the classical style adroitly exhibiting my favorite genre gleaning nothing from chance.
The final movement is very fast with slight slow parts, but it drives the tempo to a vigorous conclusion. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat. The only downside – it’s a short symphony, it seems to be over in a flash, and I’m yearning for more. But not to worry, the next selection is just up – Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.
Midori looked fantastic in her dark gray gown with green flora and pink flowers, but I came to hear her play, and when she started right into the concerto it was immediately evident that the sound and style were stunning. My seat was close to the stage on the left, the perfect location to hear her violin, the exquisite stunning tones were unforgettable.
At the beginning she seemed intense in aspect with bent knees and a focused absorption with the music, as if there were no audience at all, just her and the music. Her facial expressions revealed that singular bearing of concentration and expression that confessed an almost flawless exposition where the most obvious form of interpretation was in her movements and the angle with which her violin was facing the audience. Less obvious was the rhythm and concordance with the orchestra, but it was there, hidden in plain sight, but expertly blended with the amalgamation to form a succinct beautiful whole. The galloping march toward the end of the first movement was bridged sonorously by a french horn with one breathlessly held note melding directly into the slow movement.
The ethereal second movement showed the orchestra and soloist forming various techniques which exhibited forlorn dissonance in an odd sort of harmony, as I’ve always heard it in recordings, attributed to the composition, but this time up close and personal in the hearing and enjoying. When the orchestra would pause and let her play her solo you could fully hear and appreciate the sublime tones, and see her fingering on the strings. I was like a sponge, hoping to soak up the notes in endless succession.
The final movement started with a sweet introduction, and a flair on the violin, then marched with quick tempo onward with building excitement. Now we see the flair, the interplay between Midori and the orchestra, both parts intertwined to form the whole. The ending was extremely vigorous and afterward the audience quickly rose to applause. We wouldn’t let her go without several trips back to the stage in recognition, but alas, there was to be no encore.
After intermission came Brahms Symphony No. 1. The conductor took quite a long time to write his first symphony, and the orchestra, dramatically led by conductor Manfred Honeck, brought the dramatic and magnificent music to our ears for the next 45 minutes. Striking, other than the beautiful music of course, was the way Honeck led the orchestra, The sweeping of his arms and the way he compelled sections in his direction was as if he were part of the whole. Through him I could see the music.
The other part of the bookend arrived, the encore the the Brahms. Manfred Honeck introduced it himself with a broad smile and fervor: “I like Hungarian music, which is surprising because I am from Austria!” They played a vigorous rendition of Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 and the audience participated eagerly with clapping in tune to the music.