Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (2014)


Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Manfred Honeck

When one thinks of Anton Bruckner, images and impressions such as a cathedral, the sound of the organ, master of counterpoint and a deeply religious man often come to mind. It is, in fact, impossible not to discover a profound, honestly felt catholic spirituality in his oeuvre, particularly in the last three symphonies. The Fourth Symphony, by contrast, is a reminder that Bruckner was a highly talented folklore musician who regularly played light-hearted music. His violins, on display in the Bruckner Museum, at his birthplace in Ansfelden in upper Austria, witnessed Bruckner playing in taverns and at weddings. In this light, the Fourth Symphony can be considered his most secular. Spirituality is to be found only in rare moments and remains not more than hints. Whereas Gustav Mahler, who was so profoundly influenced by Bruckner, is famous for the integration of Austrian and Bohemian folklore into his music, Bruckner had already found and used these popular treasures years earlier, albeit to a lesser extent. It is important to remember that Bruckner composed in a time that was absorbed with nature and the past. This was the taste of the time, exemplified not only in music, but also in art and architecture. For example, King Ludwig II of Bavaria built Neuschwanstein castle (1859-1886), Wagner composed the The Ring and Mahler, his First Symphony. Likewise, Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, recently released by this same label and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, incorporates the influence of nature and the world of fairy tales. Here too, Bruckner’s FourthSymphony refers to the nature found in German-Austrian landscapes and its myths. It is also greatly influenced by the concept of Romanticism, which included the assimilation of folk music into the symphonic construct. This approach was both modern and debated at the time. Composers would write programs for their scores, but hesitate to print them, as the program might hinder impartial listening. The Fourth Symphony has such a program that Bruckner shared with his friend, Viktor Christ, and also partially notated in the score. While carefully considering this program of the Fourth Symphony, I remain personally convinced that Bruckner’s musical phrases and thoughts require their own flexible tempi and expressions, particularly when referring to nature and folklore. It is for this reason that a rigorous reading of Bruckner as master of the organ and counterpoint might not always be thoroughly sound.

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Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

For more than 115 years, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has been an essential part of Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape. The PSO, known for its artistic excellence, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. This tradition was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck assumed the position of Music Director with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Heading the list of internationally recognized conductors to have led the PSO is Victor Herbert, Music Director between 1898 and 1904, who influenced the early development of the PSO. Preceding Herbert was Frederic Archer (1896-1899), the first Pittsburgh Orchestra Conductor. The Orchestra’s solidification as an American institution took place in the late 1930s under the direction of Maestro Otto Klemperer. Conductors prior to Klemperer were Emil Paur (1904-1910), Elias Breeskin (1926-1930) and Antonio Modarelli (1930-1937). From 1938 to 1948, under the dynamic directorship of Fritz Reiner, the Orchestra embarked on a new phase of its history, making its first international tour and its first commercial recording. The PSO’s standard of excellence was maintained and enhanced through the inspired leadership of William Steinberg during his quarter-century as Music Director between 1952 and 1976. André Previn (1976-1984) led the Orchestra to new heights through tours, recordings and television, including the PBS series, Previn and the Pittsburgh. Lorin Maazel began his relationship with the PSO in 1984 as Music Consultant but later served as a highly regarded Music Director from 1988-1996. As Music Director from 1997-2004, Mariss Jansons furthered the artistic growth of the orchestra, and upon his departure, the PSO created an innovative leadership model with Artistic Advisor Sir Andrew Davis, Principal Guest Conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier and Endowed Guest Conductor Chair Marek Janowski. These three conductors formed the primary artistic leadership for the Orchestra until January 2007, when the PSO selected Honeck to take the reins at the start of the 2008-2009 season. In February 2012, Honeck agreed to extend his contract with the PSO through the 2019-2020 season.

Manfred Honeck

Manfred Honeck has served as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since the 2008-2009 season. After two extensions his contract will run until the end of the 2019-2020 season. His successful work in Pittsburgh is captured on CD by the Japanese label Exton. So far, Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben have been released to critical acclaim. The recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 has won an ICMA 2012 Award. Manfred Honeck and his orchestra present themselves regularly to the European audience. Since 2010, annual tour performances have led them to numerous European music capitals and major music festivals, amongst them Rheingau Musik Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn, Musikfest Berlin, Grafenegg Festival, Lucerne Festival and the BBC Proms. The 2012 tour focused on a week-long residency at the Vienna Musikverein. In August and September 2013, concerts took place in Grafenegg, Berlin, Bucharest, Paris, Du?sseldorf, Frankfurt, Lucerne and Bonn. From 2007 to 2011, Manfred Honeck was Music Director of the Staatsoper Stuttgart where he conducted premieres including Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Mozart’s Idomeneo, Verdi’s Aida, Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites and Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal as well as numerous symphonic concerts. His operatic guest appearances include Semperoper Dresden, Komische Oper Berlin, Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Royal Opera of Copenhagen, the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg and the Salzburg Festival.

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (2014)


Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra


Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (Reference Recordings DSD 64) of the Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 allowed the Codex to reproduce a large soundstage with a wonderful sense of bloom around the instruments. The Codex was able to resolve low level information, but yet had no difficulty reproducing the full authority and weight of the orchestra. The ambience of the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts was captured and reproduced by the Codex with a richly layered soundstage. The Codex was superb in its ability to play back complex orchestral passages without a trace of hardness.

Steven Plaskin[read full review]

    Identifying a soundstage

"If you would like to get an idea of what I’m talking about, check out the new DSD download of Reference Recordings Bruckner’s 4th Symphony performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Manfred Honeck. The recording was made and post produced in 64fs DSD on a Pyramix workstation and is available for download of the .dsf files from Native DSD. There is a bloom and dimensionality to this recording that is intoxicating with extended listening. The overall reproduction of the instrumental textures is easily heard with the JCAT Reference. One has no problem identifying a soundstage that is richly layered if the rest of your system is up to the task."

-- Steven Plaskin, Audiostream [read full review]

Overall Honeck's interpretation could be best described as supple and alive… though its undeniable individuality will not appeal to all listeners this distinctive, some might say revelatory, account of Bruckner's 4th Symphony should not be missed.

Graham Williams[read full review]

    Culture Spot LA

Honeck writes that, “One can only imagine the portrait Bruckner continued to draw in his mind!” And so Honeck and the musicians of the PSO beautifully imagine the portrait of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony and achieve something even more glorious than what is written on the pages of the score. The result is a compelling, intriguing and truly romantic version of this great symphony.

Henry Schlinger[read full review]

The playing is superlative...And the brass section is sensational...The recording echoes and amplifies Honeck’s individual, lovely interpretation and the performance of the orchestra. Equally sensational.

Anthony Kershaw[read full review] -

Honeck and Pittsburgh Do Right By Bruckner’s Fourth In the cluttered mess that is the world of classical recordings today, Honeck and Pittsburgh stand virtually alone as a partnership truly worthy of your time and attention. Artistic Quality 10 / Sound 9

David Hurwitz[read full review]

The best Bruckner Fourth ever recorded? It’s tough to think of a better one. "I can honestly say that Honeck and the superb Pittsburghians have given us a performance in phenomenal—underline that—surround sound that launches this rendition to the absolute top of the pile. The extraordinary caressing of phrases, perfection in the finely-graded chordal building blocks so fundamental to any genuine presentation of this music, and the fearlessness that the conductor displays in his willingness to contradict accepted tradition while still manifesting a healthy respect for it, make this experience one that will not easily be matched any time soon... An essential recording!"

Steven Ritter[read full review]

“Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony’s performance is something out of the ordinary. …in my view this orchestra and conductor are up there with the very best in the world. This particular performance, this amazing performance, is very special indeed. Honeck’s notes are largely taken up with Bruckner’s program and how he, Honeck, sculpted the performance to clarify and reveal it. This is precisely as it should be: it is the conductor’s job to reveal the composer’s intentions. My job however is to listen to the music, to let it wash over my heart and rouse my emotions, with no reference to expectations and preconceptions. … this performance is nothing short of revelatory”

Russell Lichter[read full review]

This marvelous Bruckner 4th … features an ensemble that continues to rival any in Europe. This is truly a Bruckner performance for any collection, one which wipes away the notion that the composer's music has to be big and boring. I've never heard the music played with this combination of excitement and sonic splendor. Captured in absolutely stunning sound …this is a completely convincing reading from first note to last.

Brian Wigman[read full review]

Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (2014)


Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Producer: Dirk Sobotka (Soundmirror, Boston)
Recording Engineer:

John Newton (Soundmirror, Boston)
Mark Donahue (Soundmirror, Boston) (Balance Engineer)

"Based on our long experience of recording the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Heinz Hall, we chose five omnidirectional DPA 4006 microphones as our main microphone array. Supplementing those with “spot mics” to clarify the detail of the orchestration, we worked toward realizing the above goals. Extensive listening sessions with Maestro Honeck and orchestra musicians were crucial in refining the final balance. This recording was made and post produced in 64fs DSD on a Pyramix workstation to give you, the listener, the highest sound quality possible."

Recording location: Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, PA

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FR-713SACD: Bruckner: Symphony No. 4
01:06:04   Select quality & channels above
Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat Major, WAB 104, - Bewegt, nicht zu schnell
00:18:29   N/A
Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat Major, WAB 104, - Andante quasi allegretto
00:15:52   N/A
Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat Major, WAB 104, - Scherzo: Bewegt
00:10:11   N/A
Symphony No. 4 in E-Flat Major, WAB 104, - Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
00:21:32   N/A

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