The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Takes the BNY Mellon Grand Classics to the “Final Frontier” with The Planets

PITTSBURGH—From the far reaches of the solar system to the depths of Pittsburgh’s rivers, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and Music Director Manfred Honeck will take audiences for a wild ride during the BNY Mellon Grand Classics performance on February 7-9.

During this performance, Manfred Honeck leads the Pittsburgh Symphony in a world premiere of The Elements by five composers from several Pittsburgh universities — Patrick Burke of Duquesne University; Bomi Jang, Mathew Rosenblum and Amy Williams of the University of Pittsburgh; and Reza Vali of Carnegie Mellon University — who each contributed a movement this Pittsburgh Symphony commission. This collaboration celebrates the Pittsburgh region, with each section focusing on an element or set of elements — earth, fire, water, air and metal all make an appearance. In the second half, the Pittsburgh Symphony and the women of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh get celestial during Gustav Holst’s The Planets. From bellicose Mars to mystical Neptune, Holst’s iconic musical portrayal of the planets and their astrological significance has thrilled audiences with its richly-colored orchestration and memorable melodies and during this performance the audience can delight in HD footage of the planets from NASA.

Each BNY Mellon Grand Classics concert is part of the Explore & Engage program, which includes pre-concert talks, exhibits, display boards and interactive activities that illuminate the music, composers and the time in which they created. This weekend, Pittsburgh Symphony Assistant Conductor Fawzi Haimor will conduct a pre-concert talk one hour before each performance with two of the five composers of “The Elements” each evening.

The concerts will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, ranging from $30.75 to $124.75, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900, or by visiting

The Pittsburgh Symphony would like to recognize and thank BNY Mellon for its 2013-2014 title sponsorship of BNY Mellon Grand Classics. Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Delta Air Lines is the official airline of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Manfred Honeck was appointed the ninth music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in January 2007, and began his tenure at the start of the 2008-2009 season. After a first extension in 2009, his contract was extended for the second time in February 2012, now through the 2019-2020 season. Honeck was born in Austria and studied music at the Academy of Music in Vienna. An accomplished violinist and violist, he spent more than 10 years as a member of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. He began his career as conductor of Vienna’s Jeunesse Orchestra, which he co-founded, and as assistant to Claudio Abbado at the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Vienna. In 2010, Honeck was awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Apart from his numerous tasks as conductor, he has been artistic director of the “International Concerts Wolfegg” in Germany for more than 15 years. Honeck served as principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from 2008 to 2011, a position he has resumed for another three years at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season. As a guest conductor, Honeck has worked with major orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic and in the United States with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra Washington and Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP), a chorus of 120 which includes a 20-voice professional core, is renowned for its versatility, singing oratorio, opera, Broadway, folk and symphonic repertoire. Founded in 1908, the MCP holds the distinction of being Pittsburgh’s oldest continuously performing arts organization. The choir, in its 104th season and sixth under the direction of Betsy Burleigh, is known for its mastery of the great choral classics. The MCP is a Steinway Artist, the only chorus holding that designation.

Editors Please Note:

Friday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m.

Heinz Hall
WOMEN OF THE MENDELSSOHN CHOIR OF PITTSBURGH, vocalists (Betsy Burleigh, director)

Patrick Burke/Bomi Jang/Mathew Rosenblum/ Reza Vali/Amy Williams:  The Elements (World Premiere and PSO Commission)

Gustav Holst:  The Planets

I. Mars, the Bringer of War
II. Venus, the Bringer of Peace
III. Mercury, the Winged Messenger
IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
V. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
VI. Uranus, the Magician
VII. Neptune, the Mystic

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