It was a perfect spring night in Pittsburgh to celebrate spring in Vienna at the first performance of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s 2017 Viennese Festival. The orchestra was conducted Music Director Manfred Honeck, and they were joined by Till Fellner who played piano in Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Concerto No.3 in C minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 37.
The performance began with the Pittsburgh Symphony premiere of Armida by Franz Joseph Haydn. The score was both passionate and dramatic, and included flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and strings. Armida is based off a poem about the First Crusade in which a hero is entranced by a sorceress, but ultimately the hero finds his courage and he and his comrades are victorious. The score only lasted for 8 minutes but you could feel all the emotion and action for which it was based upon.
The concert continued as Mr. Fellner joined the orchestra for Beethoven’s portion of the performance. Fellner’s return to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was as triumphant as the music everyone played, and the piece was powerful, theatrical and full of excitement.
The second half of the concert continued with an extra Mozart piece that was played in honor of Dan Rooney, Henry Hillman and James Wilkinson. The final scheduled piece was Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, K. 543. The selection was composed during summer 1788 and is described by many as “miraculous.” Mozart was facing setbacks and issues during the time he was composing this piece, but the result in the music felt epically triumphant.
The concert concluded with what Honeck teased as a “Viennese surprise twist ending” as the orchestra played a piece by Strauss. My favorite aspect of the evening was that a recurring theme of concert was connections. Since we were celebrating Vienna, Honeck explained in the opening video that a theme was how the composers connect to Vienna. In the music, Armida explored connections to love and to loyalty, Beethoven used his theatrical connection in his piece, and Mozart’s connection to Vienna and to his music was a recurring theme in his life. It was especially fitting that it was also Patron Appreciation Month and that we were honoring the memory and lives of three great Pittsburghers. Music truly is all about connections and as a Pittsburgher I feel blessed to be able to connect to music and life through our Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.