August 3, 2022

Manfred Honeck (photo: George Lange)

(July 2022)—Internationally acclaimed Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck maintains a major U.S. presence in the 2022-23 season. After opening his 15th season as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony with a gala benefit featuring Joshua Bell (Sep 17), Honeck makes his American operatic debut with Mozart’s Idomeneo at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Sep 28–Oct 20); returns to the podiums of the Chicago Symphony (Nov 17–20) and San Francisco Symphony (June 1–3); and makes his Juilliard Orchestra debut (Oct 17). Having just expanded their Grammy-winning discography with last month’s celebrated Beethoven/Stucky release – named an “Editor’s Choice” in the August issue of Gramophone – Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony reunite next season for programs highlighted by his original dramatic treatment of Mozart’s Requiem and the world premiere of his new orchestral suite from Strauss’s Salome. “We … need conductors who know how to revitalize the grand tradition – and orchestras that can respond in kind. At the moment, Pittsburgh is one of the few places on the international scene where that alchemy regularly happens,” writes Alex Ross in the New Yorker. As Gramophone put it, when selecting the Pittsburgh Symphony as the only American nominee for its “2022 Orchestra of the Year” award: “Honeck’s tenure, since 2008, at the helm of this superb Pennsylvanian orchestra has really delivered.”

American operatic debut: Idomeneo at Metropolitan Opera (Sep 28–Oct 20)

Honeck is an avid opera interpreter, whose previous appointments include positions at the Zurich Opera, Norwegian National Opera and Stuttgart Opera, where he was the Music Director for four seasons. He has also made guest appearances at such exalted European houses and festivals as the Salzburg Festival, Dresden Semperoper, Komische Oper Berlin, Royal Danish Opera, Brussels’s Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie and Theater an der Wien, where he led a new staging of Fidelio in 2020, Beethoven’s 250th anniversary.

To date, however, Honeck has never led an opera in America. That changes this fall, when he leads Idomeneo, the first mature opera by Mozart, in a revival of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s classic 1982 production at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Marking both his American operatic and company debuts, Honeck conducts a six-performance run starring tenor Michael Spyres as the titular Cretan king, with mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey as Idomeneo’s son, Idamante; soprano Ying Fang as Trojan princess Ilia; soprano Federica Lombardi as Elettra; tenor Paolo Fanale as Arbace; and tenor Issachah Savage as the High Priest (Sep 28; Oct 1, 6, 9, 14 & 20).

Mozart’s opera is one that has long fascinated the conductor, who first performed Idomeneo as a violist, under the respective batons of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, James Levine and Seiji Ozawa, before conducting it himself in Oslo, Copenhagen and during his Stuttgart Opera tenure. Looking ahead to revisiting the work for his first appearances at the Met, Honeck explains:

Idomeneo is one of Mozart’s most exciting operas and also the most underrated. It already has everything we have come to appreciate and love in his later operas. He wrote it for a virtuoso orchestra and uses both the chorus and soloists very masterfully. I look forward with great anticipation to revisiting it in my first musical encounter with the fantastic orchestra and chorus of one of the best opera houses in the world, with a cast of exceptional soloists.”

Returns to Chicago Symphony (Nov 17–20) & San Francisco Symphony (June 1–3), plus Juilliard Orchestra debut (Oct 17)

Honeck is a favored guest of the foremost orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic. The Chicago Tribune considers him “one of the CSO’s most valued guest conductors,” and after a 2018 collaboration between Honeck and the Chicago Symphony, veteran Tribune critic John von Rhein was moved to marvel:

“The superlative results marked this as one of the finest concerts Honeck has led with the orchestra in the more than 20 years he has been appearing at Orchestra Hall. You simply don’t find this degree of player engagement with any ordinary guest conductor.”

This fall, Honeck returns to lead the orchestra in an all-Russian program combining Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony with the overture to Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila and Lera Auerbach’s Diary of a Madman. A new CSO co-commission for cello and orchestra, Auerbach’s work receives its U.S. premiere with its dedicatee, Gautier Capuçon, as soloist (Nov 17–20).

Later next season, Honeck returns to the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), another U.S. orchestra of which he is a regular guest (June 1–3). They join forces for the San Francisco premiere of amazon, an “homage to courageous, brilliant women” by Spanish composer Gloria Isabel Ramos Triano; it was Honeck who led the piece’s world premiere this past spring in Pittsburgh, where it impressed the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as “colorful, adventurous and spirited, exploring a wide range of the orchestra’s timbral possibilities.” BBC Music Magazine Award-winning Italian pianist Beatrice Rana joins Honeck and the SFS for Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and their program concludes with Schubert’s Symphony in C, “The Great.” It was after Honeck’s account of the same work that the Chicago Classical Review observed:

“The conductor showed a singular ability to revitalize a familiar Austro-German work with fresh vigor and a bracing sense of urgency. … The finale was off at a crackling pace, Honeck ratcheting up the tension to an exhilarating and blazing coda.”

While in New York for Idomeneo, Honeck also looks forward to making his Juilliard Orchestra debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall (Oct 17). His program of Mozart, Carlos Simon and Mahler, represented by his First Symphony, the “Titan,” will stream live to audiences worldwide at the Juilliard School website.

Upcoming Pittsburgh Symphony highlights

Honeck and Pittsburgh stand virtually alone as a partnership truly worthy of your time and attention,” states Classics Today. Now completing his 14th season with the orchestra, where his contract was extended last year to run through the 2027-28 season, Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony serve as cultural ambassadors for the city where they make their home.

After a three-week European festival tour this summer, highlighted by a sold-out appearance at Salzburg, where the Pittsburgh Symphony was the only American orchestra, they look forward to a number of key dates together over the coming season. This October, the Music Director leads the Pittsburgh premiere of Open Mind by Sweden’s Rolf Martinsson. Dedicated to Honeck, the letters of whose name form the basis of the musical cryptogram within it, Open Mind shares the program with Sibelius’s beloved Second Symphony and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist (Oct 28–30). In December, Honeck conducts Mozart’s “Great” Mass in C minor, for which he and the orchestra will be joined by the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and a stellar quartet of vocal soloists: sopranos Ying Fang and Lauren Snouffer, tenor Timothy Fallon and baritone Alexander Birch Elliott. The conductor and orchestra complete the program with Schumann’s sole Piano Concerto, featuring “spectacular” German pianist Martin Helmchen (Washington Post), making his Pittsburgh Symphony debut (Dec 2 & 4).

Next spring, Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony offer a dramatic 21st-century take on Mozart’s Requiem that will be recorded for a future CD release. Created by the conductor, “Requiem: Mozart’s Death in Words and Music” will feature soprano Jeanine De Bique, mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison, tenor Timothy Fallon and bass Tareq Nazmi, with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. When Honeck performed Mozart’s mass for the dead with the New York Philharmonic, the New York Times advised: “If you want to see how an orchestra can give a fresh polish to dusty old Mozart, head to Lincoln Center.” The New Criterion affirmed:

“I have never heard a less staid Requiem. Honeck let it have its vitality, sweep, and incisiveness. The music was frankly exciting. It was neither ‘period’ thin nor swollen. It had the ring of rightness. Honeck conducted with a combination of knowledge, musicality, and conviction.”

To open the Pittsburgh program, Honeck leads the world premiere of Her tears fell with the dews at even, a Pittsburgh Symphony commission from James MacMillan, one of the most distinctive voices on the contemporary orchestral scene, who is a long-time collaborator of the conductor and orchestra (March 17–19).

For their season’s final concerts together, Honeck leads the orchestra in the world premiere performances of two new Pittsburgh Symphony commissions: a new work by Stacy Garrop and Honeck’s own orchestral suite for Strauss’s Salome. Created in collaboration with Grammy-nominated Czech composer-arranger Tomáš Ille, this marks the most recent addition to Honeck’s series of operatic suites, of which earlier examples include Jenůfa, Elektra and Rusalka. To complete their program, he and the Pittsburgh Symphony join Igor Levit, Musical America’s “Recording Artist of the Year 2020,” for Gershwin’s F-major Piano concerto, before collaborating with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre on Ravel’s Boléro (June 9–11), choreographed by its Artistic Director Susan Jaffe, recently named the next Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre.

New Beethoven/Stucky album is “as striking as it is Honeck’s”

Honeck’s successful leadership of the Pittsburgh Symphony has already been extensively documented on record. Issued by Reference Recordings, their discography has been recognized with the 2018 Grammy for “Best Orchestral Performance” and six Grammy nominations to date. June 10, 2022 marked the physical and digital release of their newest addition to the catalogue. Continuing their ongoing Beethoven series, this paired the composer’s “Pastoral” Symphony with the world premiere recording of the late Steven Stucky’s Silent Spring, a work originally commissioned and premiered by Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the seminal environmental science text of the same name by Pittsburgh native Rachel Carson.

What critics are saying about the album:

“Strongly recommended. Editor’s Choice.” – Gramophone

“Honeck … has consistently managed to inspire his musicians to go to the absolute limit of their musical and technical competence. … These Pittsburghers belong to the best American orchestras, surpassing many European colleagues as well. … Throughout [Beethoven’s] symphony, passion is omnipresent. … Summing it up: This release is as striking as it is Honeck’s. Five stars.” – HR

Silent Spring … is forceful, well-written music and given a decisive outing here. … We’ve got ourselves another winner in this ongoing Pittsburgh/Beethoven series. Warmly recommended.” – ArtsFuse

The performance of Beethoven’s Sixth islight-footed and yet muscular, airy and yet intricately detailed, naïvely good-natured and yet deeply expressive.” – Classical Music Sentinel

Of Silent Spring, “a more dedicated, better played and recorded performance would be hard to imagine.” – Music Web International

“This is the most nuanced and, at times, most individualized performance of the Sixth I’ve heard. … This recent release represents a high point in the annals of the classical music industry.” – Dagogo

“The orchestra is robust in Beethoven and Stucky alike. The Pittsburgh Symphony has been nominated for several Grammy Awards of late. A first listening suggests similar quality in this recording.” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

High-resolution photos are available here.

Manfred Honeck: key U.S. engagements 2022-23

Sep 17
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Symphony of Bridges Opening Night Gala Concert
TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto (with Joshua Bell, violin)
Funds raised support the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Learning and Community Engagement programs.

Sep 28; Oct 1, 6, 9, 14 & 20
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera (debut)
MOZART: Idomeneo

Oct 17
New York, NY
Juilliard Orchestra (debut)
(Concert will stream live on Juilliard School website at 7:30pm ET)
Carlos SIMON: Fate Now Conquers
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 4 (with violinist TBA)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 1, “Titan”

Oct 28–30
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Rolf MARTINSSON: Open Mind (Pittsburgh premiere)
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22 (with Yefim Bronfman, piano)
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2

Nov 17–20
Chicago, IL
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
GLINKA: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila
Lera AUERBACH: Diary of a Madman (with Gautier Capuçon, cello; U.S. premiere of CSO co-commission)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5

Dec 2 & 4
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto (with Martin Helmchen, piano)
MOZART: Mass in C minor (with Ying Fang & Lauren Snouffer, sopranos; Timothy Fallon, tenor; Alexander Birch Elliot, bass; Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh)

March 17–19
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
“Requiem: Mozart’s Death in Words and Music”
James MACMILLAN: Her tears fell with the dews at even (world premiere of new Pittsburgh Symphony commission)
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished”
MOZART: Requiem (with Jeanine de Bique, soprano; Catriona Morison, mezzo soprano; Timothy Fallon, tenor; Tareq Nazmi, bass; Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh)

June 1–3
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Symphony
Gloria-Isabel RAMOS TRIANO: amazon (San Francisco Symphony premiere)
RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (with Beatrice Rana, piano)
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C, “The Great”

June 9–11
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Stacy GARROP: new work (world premiere of new Pittsburgh Symphony commission)
GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F (with Igor Levit, piano)
R. STRAUSS (arr. Honeck/Ille): Salome Suite for Orchestra (world premiere of new Pittsburgh Symphony commission)
RAVEL: Boléro (with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre)

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© 21C Media Group, August 2022