Pittsburgh Tribune Review
"This new recording by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra of orchestral suites from two great operas by Richard Strauss was recorded in concert near the end of last season. The recorded sound realistically captures the thrilling sonorities of both solos and the full ensemble performing with charismatic musicianship.
The Reference Recordings release pairs a new suite from “Elektra” created by Honeck with the familiar one of “Der Rosenkavalier” created by conductor Artur Rodzinski during World War II.
The performance of Elektra is more than bold because Honeck shows exceptional sympathy for the lyrical side of the opera's troubled souls.
Honeck and the orchestra give a beautiful and affectionate performance of the Der Rosenkavalier suite. Wind and brass solos are filled with color and nuance fully in accord with Honeck's approach. Noah Bendix-Balgley's violin solos are especially treasurable. The soulful trio from Act 3 is quite slow on this recording and lives in the moment."
"Returning to both the music of Richard Strauss and the theme of symphonic suites from operas for his latest album, Honeck has recorded suites from Der Rosenkavalier and Elektra. Honeck conceptualized the Elektra suite, which was realised by Tomáš Ille and is given its world première recording here.
Thanks to Strauss’ distinctive sound world, this was the first time in many years that any music had both disturbed and excited me to such a remarkable degree. Both Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier work marvellously in this symphonic suite form. Especially striking in its new guise is Elektra, a work which startles and unsettles with murder, obsession and thirst for revenge pushing harmony and tonality to the edge and sheer barbarity of sound to levels that are scarcely bearable. In the bittersweet world of Der Rosenkavalier, is the blend of swirling waltzes and boundless flow of melting melodies is ever-intoxicating.
On an album where the highlights come thick and fast, the world class Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Manfred Honeck is in magnificent form. Playing with astonishing virtuosity this opulent performance of Elektra, full and expressive, is brilliantly executed. Its climaxes are stunningly powerful, generating a tension which feels overwhelming. Conversely the Rosenkavalier waltzes have a poignant bittersweet quality that is entirely captivating.
Honeck has written absorbing and helpful notes which match notable sections of both works to actual timings on the album. Produced by the Soundmirror team of Boston for Reference Recordings, this album was recorded live in DSD in May 2016 at concerts in the impressive acoustic of the Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh. The reasonably close sound quality on this album is remarkable, as good as any recording in my collection. There is virtually no extraneous noise and the audience applause is absent.
Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh players combine for a stunning album which should be an essential purchase for Strauss devotees."
"All Straussians will be intrigued by this latest release from Manfred Honeck and his marvellous Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra of orchestral suites from what many would regard as the greatest of the composer's fifteen operas - Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier. Honeck has already demonstrated his mastery of the Strauss idiom in his previous fine accounts of some of the tone poems so the bar is set very high for any new release in this series.
The first item on the disc is the world premiere recording of a suite from Strauss's fourth opera Elektra. The incredible richness of the scoring and the complexity of the composer's harmonic vocabulary also provide a marvellous showcase for the remarkable virtuosity of the Pittsburgh musicians who unflinchingly rise to the challenge with incisive playing that generates scorching levels of visceral excitement.
The contrast between the music of Strauss's first collaboration with Hofmannsthal and his second, 'Der Rosenkavalier', could hardly be more marked. Der Rosenkavalier has always been the horn player's opera par excellence, something the magnificent horn section of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra confirm at the opening of the suite, while a few bars later they deliver Strauss's orgasmic whoopings with thrilling relish. Honeck's subtly nuanced use of rubato and portamento in Ochs's waltz has the natural feel that one would expect from a conductor with his Viennese training and experience as a former member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, but the way he has communicated this style to his players is nothing short of miraculous. All the lyrical passages such as the Act II Presentation of the Silver Rose and the glorious final Trio are conveyed with heart melting tenderness and sumptuous tone, and though some might question his languid tempi for such sections in a performance of the complete opera, they seem entirely appropriate here. In contrast to the opera, Rodzinski's arrangement ends resplendently with a boisterous waltz delivered with unabashed élan by the PSO.
Thanks to the efforts of the Soundmirror team the opulence, spaciousness and vividness of the recording quality of this hybrid SACD (5.1 surround, stereo SACD and CD stereo) is all that one could wish for. Performance and Multichannel DSD Sonics: 5 out of 5 Stars."
"The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra brought a bit of “Don Juan” to “Der Rosenkavalier” with a boisterous beginning section to the suite from that opera. Mr. Honeck brought out myriad colors in the varied takes on the dance. Gorgeous, lyrical middle sections set up the orchestra for the return of a dramatic waltz suspended on Mr. Honeck’s baton that in turn led to a dazzling ending.
The “Elektra” Symphonic Rhapsody was conceived by Mr. Honeck and orchestrated by composer Tomas Ille. No small task, given Strauss’ magnificent orchestration and huge orchestral writing for the opera. “Elektra” provided a remarkable contrast with “Rosenkavalier,” with the former’s dark character juxtaposing with the schmaltziness of the latter. With a full orchestral complement, the arrangement is heavy, and its dissonance drew me in. Dynamics throughout the spectrum — from thunderous tutti moments, to low brass and horns droning under cellos, to whispering violins — created a haunting, almost frightening character that contrasted with moments of beauty."
"Simply sensational! The eminent sound quality, for which Soundmirror, Boston deserves all the credits, takes the listener straight into the reality of Heinz Hall where Maestro Manfred Honeck grabs you by the throat with his ‘shaped into the minutest detail’ Pittsburgh Symphony, in a high octane performance of a new ‘Elektra Suite’ conceptualized by him and realized by his Czech friend Tomáš Ille.
The listener is right from the start overwhelmed by the sheer force of the music and the remarkably realistic character of the recorded sound, placing the different sections in an array of individually recognizable instruments. It clearly needs a highly competent and disciplined orchestral force to handle the selected material. And that is just what is here on offer. Indeed, this is an orchestra expertly managed from the top by a gifted, inspired and precision minded ‘Chef’ keeping each and every one on a string into shaping an extraordinarily and homogenous overall sound scape.
Other recordings of this suite are available in the hi-res domain, but they all have their minuses’ of one sort or another. In my view this is the one to go for.
Honeck’s credentials as one of today’s foremost Strauss conductors are by now well established and this album delivers beyond a shade of doubt another honour to his already opulent honours list. But it should, in all honesty, be added that a performance is so much better if a conductor can rely on top musicians and ditto recording specialists, to wit the Pittsburgh Symphony and Soundmirror from Boston.
Isn’t there something for which I have to warn prospective buyers? I’m afraid not. At least I cannot think of anything. This is a disk of high caliber from every perspective, with all the spontaneity of a live recording and without any audible noises from a clearly impressed audience. 5 out of 5 Stars for Performance and Multichannel Sonics."