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Reference Recordings proudly presents the Symphony No. 4 of Johannes Brahms, with James MacMillan’s Larghetto for Orchestra, in exceptional performances from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. We are excited that this release coincides with the orchestra’s 2021-2022 season and triumphant return to live concerts! These works were recorded live in beautiful and historic Heinz Hall, now celebrating its 50th Anniversary season.
Maestro Honeck honors us again with his meticulous music notes, in which he gives us great insight into his unique interpretation as well as the history and musical structure of Brahms’s final and beloved tragic symphony. James MacMillan is the preeminent Scottish composer of his generation. His Larghetto for Orchestra was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in honor of the tenth anniversary of Manfred Honeck as Music Director. It had its world premiere performance in October 2017. This album contains the world premiere recording. The composer generously includes his own album notes about this solemn and repentant, but ultimately hopeful work.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, known for its artistic excellence for more than 125 years, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and is deeply committed to Pittsburgh and its region. Since 2008, the Pittsburgh Symphony has been led by its worldwide acclaimed Music Director Manfred Honeck. Past music directors have included many of the greats, including Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg, André Previn, Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has always been at the forefront of championing new works, including recent commissions by Mason Bates, Jonathan Leshnoff, James MacMillan and Julia Wolfe. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and live radio broadcasts dating back to the 1930s. It has toured frequently both domestically and overseas since 1900—including more than 40 international tours. The Pittsburgh Symphony continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Manfred Honeck, Music Director
Total time: 00:54:00
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||October 15, 2021|
Every new release in the Reference Recordings Fresh! Series can hardly go unnoticed. Surely not as long as Maestro Honeck’s personal ideas are so faithfully implemented by its seasoned members and the result equally faithful documented by Sound Mirror Inc. Indeed, the stage is magically set for the ‘bold is beautiful’ music lovers, to test the correctness of their preference, and the ‘lean’ crowd may then be hard-pressed to readjust their view or, as it often goes under these circumstances, their firm conviction.
However, not every big size Brahms does qualify to convince the ‘bolders’ nor the ‘leaners’. To conduct hundred-plus musicians to success requires not only musical insight and understanding but also a lot of management. In the wrong hands, things get easily out of sync and the sound stodgy.
I assume that serious listeners are by now aware that Honeck is not a run-of-the-mill craftsman. He has a view of his own to contribute to the world of classical music. With Honeck interpretation is consistently in accordance with what he lectures. The full lecture is given in his lengthy and detailed personal notes in the booklet. A must-read.
It would be short-sighted to believe that Honeck is the only one who can set down a memorable Brahms 4. This is now by far my first choice.
Need I say more? Yes. In my excitement, I nearly forgot to say that MacMillan’s Larghetto for Orchestra (recorded live) is another example, and a brilliantly crafted one at that, of a modern composer’s renewed interest in saying things in yesteryear’s proven language, without precluding anything of today’s values. In fact, the melancholy of his Larghetto is of all times. Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in honor of the tenth anniversary of Manfred Honeck as Music Director, its opening lament and mourning (miserere) turn into hope and optimism.
Summing it up: Maestro Honeck and his splendid musicians have done it again!
My first listen was based on a stereo FLAC file. I cannot recommend it. The sound is a far cry away from the real thing. When I listened to the DSD 128fs Multichannel file, everything changed from dark to light. Heaven opened up. Putting the volume further up than usual (and the quality can easily have it) the music instantly drew every bit of emotion out of my mind. This performance is so stunning that it deserves and needs to be played at the best possible resolution your (surround) music system can handle! It’s (almost) like sitting in the Hall allowing you to listen to the music instead of being disturbed by sound coming from the speakers.
Superb engineering makes this new release especially welcome. A winner all around. Artistic Quality: 10 + Sound Quality: 10
Most people, when they know at all, might recognize Scottish composer James Macmillan for his early Veni, Veni, Emanuel, a percussion concerto that premiered in 1992. The Larghetto for Orchestra is a reworking of his 2009 Miserere, a choral work. Macmillan decided that the piece had instrumental proclivities within it, and fashioned this somber, though ultimately life-affirming piece for the celebration of Manfred Honeck’s tenth season as conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. It is a fine piece, well worth hearing, and quite moving.
The sound, captured to perfection by the Soundmirror team miracles in marvelous DSD 256, is wonderful, brilliantly detailed, warm, and illuminating when the moment calls for it.
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