Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Announce 2014-2015 BNY Mellon Grand Classics Season

BNY Mellon Grand Classics Season Highlights:

  • Showcase of Pittsburgh Symphony Musicians — Some of the most exciting classical musicians in the world can be found in one place — the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra! In 2014-2015, the spotlight is on our own top-tier musicians with more than a dozen of the Pittsburgh Symphony members appearing as featured soloists over the course of the season.
  • Bates Returns — Composer and DJ Mason Bates brings his blend of contemporary symphonic music and electronica back to Heinz Hall for his second stint as Composer of the Year.
  • Honeck Times Two — Manfred Honeck will share the stage with his brother, Rainer Honeck, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic, in a program featuring Britten’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and the Rusalka suite (arr. Honeck/Ille)
  • BeethovenFest — A celebration of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s most beloved compositions, including the Third, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth symphonies, over three weekends: “Beethoven, the Revolutionary,” “Beethoven, the Hero” and “Beethoven, the Immortal.”
  • “Fantasia” on the Big Screen — Audiences will experience scenes from “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” with full orchestra accompaniment to Disney’s classic animation.
  • Conductor Debuts — The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra welcomes some new faces to the podium this season, including rising young American conductor James Gaffigan of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Andres Orozco-Estrada of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and Krzysztof Urbański of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

PITTSBURGH—Today, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra announced the 2014-2015 BNY Mellon Grand Classics season, the orchestra’s 119th year since its founding and its seventh season under the leadership of Music Director Manfred Honeck.

“There is so much to look forward to in the 2014-2015 season,” says Honeck. “I am excited for the return of the innovative Mason Bates as Composer of the Year, as well as debuts by young, up-and-coming musicians and guest conductors, but I am especially thrilled to showcase the incredible depth of talent among our Pittsburgh Symphony musicians during the season.”

Honeck conducts 10 of the 20-week BNY Mellon Grand Classics subscription concerts, including Bates’ “Rusty Air in Carolina”; three BeethovenFest weekends; suites from Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet ballets; and a performance featuring his brother, violinist Rainer Honeck.

Several artists are slated to make their debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this season, including music/comedy duo Igudesman & Joo, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, violinist Rainer Honeck and Spanish guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas.

The Pittsburgh Symphony is fortunate to be the home orchestra for many virtuoso musicians who are renowned throughout the world. This coming season, more than a dozen of the symphony’s principals will have the opportunity to demonstrate their elite-level musicianship in front of the “home team,” including Lorna McGhee, flute (Oct. 24-26, 2014); Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley (Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2015, March 6-8, 2015 and March 20-22, 2015); Randolph Kelly, viola (March 6-8, 2015); Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, oboe (March 20-22, 2015 and June 12-14, 2015); Jennifer Ross, violin (March 20-22, 2015); Anne Martindale Williams, cello (March 20-22, 2015 and May 15-17, 2015); David Premo, cello (March 20-22, 2015); Jeffrey Turner, double bass (March 20-22, 2015); John Moore, double bass (March 20-22, 2015); the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Horn Section (March 27-29, 2015); and Nancy E. Goeres, bassoon (May 29-31, 2015).

Additionally, audiences will have a special opportunity to enjoy two of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s principals playing pieces composed for them specifically. Anne Martindale Williams will perform a concerto by Jake Heggie for cello and voice called The Work at Hand: Symphonic Songs for Cello & Mezzo-Soprano. This emotionally charged piece is a setting of a poem by Linda Morefield, a friend of the composer who wrote it while fighting — and ultimately losing to — cancer. The season ends with the second Pittsburgh Symphony commission — a world premiere of the third in a series of concertos for Pittsburgh Symphony woodwind principals composed by Alan Fletcher. This symphony commission features Principal Oboe Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida in the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra.

“From favorites like Beethoven to groundbreaking new music like that of Mason Bates, this season has something for everyone,” says James A. Wilkinson, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony. “We are proud of the artistic balance of the 2014-2015 season because it allows our guest conductors and soloists, as well as our own orchestra members, to shine.”

The Pittsburgh Symphony welcomes back BNY Mellon as title sponsor for the BNY Mellon Grand Classics series. Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel and Delta Air Lines is the official airline of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Season tickets are available in packages of six, seven, 14 and 20 concerts and range in price from $114 to $1,720. Tickets for individual concerts will go on sale around Labor Day. Season tickets are available by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or visiting

Items of note in the 2014-2015 BNY Mellon Grand Classics Season:

Composer of the Year
During the 2014-2015 Season, the Pittsburgh Symphony welcomes back Mason Bates as its Composer of the Year for the second time with four weekends featuring his work. Bates’ music fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, jazz and pop harmonies and techno rhythms. Performed by orchestras large and small, his symphonic music has been the first to receive widespread acceptance for its expanded palette of electronic sounds. He also is a visible advocate for bringing new music to new spaces (such as the “Mercury Soul” project at Static nightclub performed by the symphony in the 2012-2013 season). A recipient of the Rome and Berlin Prizes as well as fellowships from Tanglewood and the Guggenheim Foundation, Bates was last Composer of the Year for the Pittsburgh Symphony in the 2012-2013 season.

Launched in 2001-2002, the Composer of the Year program provides audiences with an unprecedented opportunity to encounter music of living composers, and establish a relationship with the composers through the experience of hearing multiple works and learning about the works through pre-concert talks and chats with the composer. Past participants are Steven Stucky, Joan Tower, John Adams, Richard Danielpour, John Corigliano, Christopher Theofanidis, Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse, Michael Hersch, Krzysztof Penderecki, Rodion Shchedrin and Pittsburgh composers David Stock, Leonardo Balada, Nancy Galbraith, Patrick Burke, Bomi Jang, Mathew Rosenblum, Reza Vali and Amy Williams. The 2014-2015 BNY Mellon Grand Classics Season marks the 14th year of the Composer of the Year program.

Ludwig Van Beethoven defied the conventions of his time and produced revolutionary music that changed the world and influenced generations of composers, musicians and listeners. Beethoven’s legacy and the profound impact of his emotionally devastating and deeply personal works cannot be understated, especially in light of his own challenges and tragedies. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra celebrates this enduring composer’s brilliant work and tumultuous life over three weekends (Dec. 5-7: “Beethoven, the Revolutionary,” Feb. 20 & 22: “Beethoven, the Hero” and June 5-7: “Beethoven, the Immortal”) during the 2014-2015 season. At Heinz Hall, Honeck will lead the Pittsburgh Symphony in performances of Beethoven’s most-loved symphonies, Nos. 3 (“Eroica”), 5, 7 and the triumphantly joyful 9, as well as notable concertos and the Quartet, Opus 18, No. 4 for String Orchestra, 1st movement, which is a Pittsburgh Symphony premiere arranged by Honeck. Over the course of the season, audiences will follow Beethoven on his journey from acolyte to revolutionary to master.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Gala
The 2014-2015 season will kick off with the Pittsburgh Symphony’s annual gala concert and celebration, “For Your Eyes Only,” on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. This year, Honeck welcomes world-famous violinist and dear friend Anne-Sophie Mutter to perform. The Gala concert and parties are some of the most popular events of the year in Pittsburgh and concert tickets will be made available for purchase to the public this summer.

Behind the Notes & Explore and Engage Programs
The Pittsburgh Symphony continues its commitment to enabling patrons to have a deeper, more meaningful connection to the symphony and its repertoire, composers and conductors. Collaborations with area arts organizations and companies will continue in the 2014-2015 season. Pre- and post-concert talks, lobby displays, videos and interactive installations, workshops and more will enrich the BNY Mellon Grand Classics experience. “Behind the Notes,” a project launched in 2013-2014 to both entertain and enlighten audiences about specific pieces of music, will return for its sophomore year. During these special concerts, the conductor and the Pittsburgh Symphony spend the first half of the concert discussing and demonstrating the nuances and stories behind the music. After the intermission, the audience will hear the entire performance of the selected piece with an enriched understanding. The “Behind the Notes” concert for 2014-2015 is May 16 and will focus on Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra with conductor Michael Francis.


2014-2015 BNY Mellon Grand Classics Season at a Glance

Programs, artists and dates are subject to change
*Denotes debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra


September 19-21, 2014
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Valentina Lisitsa, piano
• Bates: Rusty Air in Carolina (PSO Premiere)
• Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43
• Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Opus 14
This program opens with Mason Bates’s bluesy Rusty Air in Carolina, a reflection of his boyhood summers. Youtube phenom Lisitsa returns to dazzle audiences with her formidable virtuosity on Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The program concludes with Berlioz’s lovesick, hypnotic Symphonie fantastique.


October 10-12, 2014
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor
Pablo Sáinz Villegas, guitar*
• Mendelssohn: Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opus 61
• Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra
• De Falla: Suites Nos. 1 and 2 from The Three-Cornered Hat
This weekend has a decidedly Spanish air with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony debut of Spanish guitar phenom Pablo Sáinz Villegas in Concierto de Aranjuez. The Three-Cornered Hat highlights the many emotions of Spanish dance and program opens with Mendelssohn’s beloved A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

October 24 & 26, 2014
Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor
Lorna McGhee, PSO principal flute
• Grieg: Excerpts from Peer Gynt, Opus 46 and Opus 55
• Nielsen: Concerto for Flute and Orchestra
• Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
• Scriabin: Symphony No. 4 The Poem of Ecstasy, Opus 54
McGhee solos on Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, last heard by Pittsburgh Symphony audiences in 1987. In the Steppes of Central Asia and The Poem of Ecstasy paint vivid pictures musically and showcase the ecstasy of human creativity. Excerpts from Grieg’s popular Peer Gynt opens the program.


October 31– November 2, 2014
Juraj Valcûha, conductor
Nicola Benedetti, violin
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
• Rachmaninoff: The Isle of the Dead, Opus 29
• Szymanowski: Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 35
• Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé (complete)
A perfect accompaniment for All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day, Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead is a haunting, brooding tone poem. Nicola Benedetti performs Szymanowski’s Concerto No. 1 for the first time in Pittsburgh and the Mendelssohn Choir joins for Ravel’s passionate Daphnis et Chloé, which features one of the most radiant musical depictions of sunrise ever written.


November 28 & 30, 2014
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Aleksey Igudesman, violin*
Hyung-ki Joo, piano*
• Thanksgiving with Igudesman & Joo
Melding prodigious musical talent with comedy, Igudesman and Joo bring “Big Nightmare Music” to Heinz Hall, a program that translates their duo show to a full orchestra bringing uproarious sketches and stunning solos.


December 5-7, 2014
Manfred Honeck, conductor
• Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67
• Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major, Opus 92
The first of three weekends focusing on Beethoven’s life and works, this concert, “Beethoven, the Revolutionary,” features two of Beethoven’s most beloved symphonies.


January 23 & 25, 2015
James Gaffigan, conductor*
Gabriela Montero, piano
• Bates: White Lies for Lomax (PSO Premiere)
• Ravel: Concerto in G major for Piano and Orchestra
• Wagner: “Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal
• Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 in D major, Opus 107, “Reformation”
Young American conductor James Gaffigan makes his Heinz Hall debut with poignant pieces from Wagner and Mendelssohn. Pianist Gabriela Montero dazzles in a jazzy concerto from Ravel — be sure to stay for her signature encore improvisations! Bates’ White Lies for Lomax receives its Pittsburgh Symphony premiere.


January 30-February 1, 2015
Krzysztof Urbański, conductor*
Noah Bendix-Balgley, violin, PSO concertmaster
• Prokofiev: Russian Overture, Opus 72 (PSO premiere)
• Khachaturian: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
• Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition
This weekend features the Pittsburgh premiere of Prokofiev’s Russian Overture with a debut appearance by conductor Krzysztof Urbaňski. Noah Bendix-Balgley is soloist in a piece from Khachaturian filled with exotic harmonies and dance rhythms. Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, originally written for solo piano, is one of the cornerstones of orchestral repertoire.


February 20 & 22, 2015
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Lars Vogt, piano
• Beethoven: Quartet, Opus 18 No. 4 for String Orchestra, 1st Movement, Arr. Honeck (PSO premiere)
• Beethoven: Concerto No. 1 in C major for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 15
• Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat major, Opus 55, “Eroica”
The second weekend of the Beethoven Festival, “Beethoven, the Hero,” features pieces that showcase Beethoven’s transition from Mozart acolyte to a masterful composer in his own right.


February 27-March 1, 2015
Manfred Honeck, conductor
• Tchaikovsky: Suite from Swan Lake, Opus 20a
• Prokofiev: Suite from Romeo and Juliet, Opus 64
The Pittsburgh Symphony and Maestro Honeck distill two of the most popular ballet scores into symphonic suites. Hear musical storytelling at its dazzling best.


March 6-8, 2015
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Noah Bendix-Balgley, violin, PSO concertmaster
Randolph E. Kelly, PSO principal viola
• Mozart: Sinfonia concertante in E-flat major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, K.320d [364]
• Rautavaara: Cantus Arcticus, Opus 61 (PSO premiere)
• Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird (1919 revision)
The Pittsburgh Symphony’s concertmaster and principal violist collaborate beautifully for Mozart’s elegant Sinfonia concertante. Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara made the songs of Arctic birds the soloists in his fascinating Concerto for Birds and Orchestra, Cantus Arcticus. A bird of a different feather, The Firebird ballet made previously unknown composer Igor Stravinsky an international sensation.

March 20 & 22, 2015
Jeanette Sorrell, conductor/harpsichord
Noah Bendix-Balgley, violin, PSO concertmaster
Jennifer Ross, PSO principal second violin
Lorna McGhee, PSO principal flute
Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, PSO principal oboe
Anne Martindale Williams, PSO principal cello
David Premo, PSO associate principal cello
Jeffrey Turner, PSO principal double bass
John Moore, PSO double bass
• Bach: Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 42
• Bach: Suite No. 2 in B minor for Orchestra, BWV 1067
• Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, P. 411 (RV 531)
• W.F. Bach: Fantasia for solo harpsichord in d minor
• Bach: Finale from Sonata nach Violin sonata in D minor, BWV 964
• Telemann: Grillen Symphony (PSO premiere)
• Bach: Concerto in C minor for Oboe, Violin and String Orchestra, BWV 1060
• Vivaldi: La Follia Concerto for 2 Violins, Arr. Sorrell (PSO premiere)
J.S. Bach liked to let his hair down at Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse in Leipzig, where he performed his own music as well as works by admired colleagues like Telemann and Vivaldi. Guest conductor Jeannette Sorrell and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra present a program that would have fit into that cozy atmosphere. Be prepared to be entertained!

March 27-29, 2015
Andres Orozco-Estrada, conductor*
PSO Horn Section
• Bates: The Rise of Exotic Computing
• Schumann: Konzertstück in F for Four Horns and Orchestra, Opus 86
• Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Opus 68
The program opens with Bates’ The Rise of Exotic Computing. The “rock stars of the Pittsburgh Symphony,” the sensational horn section will perform as soloists in Robert Schumann’s “Concert Piece,” a tour de force for four French horns and orchestra. Orozco-Estrada, the newly appointed music director of the Houston Symphony, then leads Brahms’ First Symphony, a towering masterpiece 20 years in the making.


April 10-12, 2015
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Hélène Grimaud, piano
• Schumann: Concerto in A minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 54
• Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 in E major
Pianist Hélène Grimaud returns to Heinz Hall with Schumann’s striking Concerto in A Minor. Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 is his best known work — in it, he mourns his idol, Richard Wagner, specifically with a quartet of Wagner tubas, an instrument invented by the late German composer.

April 17-19, 2015
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Rainer Honeck, violin*
• Dvorak: Rusalka Suite (arr. Honeck/Ille)
• Britten: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 15
• Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Opus 74, “Pathétique”
One of Britten’s most overlooked pieces in the United States, his Violin Concerto is stunning in its emotional impact. This performance features Rainer Honeck, brother to the PSO’s maestro. This program opens with Maestro Honeck’s arrangement of an operatic score turned concert piece, a suite from Rusalka. It ends with the Pathétique Symphony, the composer’s powerful farewell to life.


May 8-10, 2015
TBD, conductor
• Disney FANTASIA: Live in Concert
A spectacular evening of color, magic, innocence, drama, creativity and music — along with Mickey Mouse — the Pittsburgh Symphony performs live to scenes from Walt Disney’s original Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.

May 15-17, 2015
Michael Francis, conductor
Anne Martindale Williams, PSO principal cello
Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano*
• Bates: Alternative Energy (PSO premiere)
• Heggie: The Work at Hand: Symphonic Songs for Cello & Mezzo-Soprano (PSO co-commission)
• Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
When offered a commissioned concerto, principal cellist Anne Martindale Williams made an unusual request — a piece for cello and voice and orchestra written by American Jake Heggie, composer of operas Dead Man Walking and Moby Dick. Their text, a poem by Laura Morefield written during her struggle with cancer, is a poignant reflection on the unknown. Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra showcases the expressive power and versatility of the modern orchestra with each section presented as a collective of soloists. Another Bates’ piece, Alternative Energy, receives its Pittsburgh Symphony premiere.

May 29 & 31, 2015
Juanjo Mena, conductor
Nancy E. Goeres, PSO principal bassoon
• Debussy: “Ibéria,” No. 2 from Images
• Ludwig: Pictures from the Floating World for Bassoon and Orchestra
• Ginastera: Panambi: Suite from the ballet
• Ginastera: Four Dances from Estancia
• De Falla: Interlude and Dance from the opera La Vida Breve
A feast for the senses, this program features Nancy Goeres, Pittsburgh Symphony principal bassoon, performing Pictures from the Floating World. The languid tone continues through pieces by Debussy and Ludwig. Ginastera and De Falla turn up the heat and the tempo with Argentinean rhythms and energetic opera dances respectively.


June 5-7, 2015
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Christian Tetzlaff, violin
Simona Saturova, soprano
Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano*
TBD, tenor
Liang Li, bass
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
• Beethoven: Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 61
• Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Opus 125, “Choral”
The final weekend of the BeethovenFest, “Beethoven, the Immortal,” finishes triumphantly. Beethoven’s only violin concerto is noble, majestic and one of the happiest pieces he ever wrote. Beethoven’s famous, moving Ninth Symphony ends the program.

June 12-14, 2015
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, PSO principal oboe
• Fletcher: Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra (PSO commission/world premiere)
• Liszt: Concerto No. 2 in A major for Piano and Orchestra
• Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major
Grammy Award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman closes the season with a brilliant performance of Liszt’s demanding piano concerto. The program opens with Principal Oboe Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida performing the third in Alan Fletcher’s series of concertos for the Pittsburgh Symphony woodwind principals. Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 closes the program with far away music that then marches through a story of victory and ends with a blaze of glory.

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