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Beethoven: Symphonies 5 & 7 / Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony

Release Date: 11/13/2015 
Label:  Reference Recordings   Catalog #: 718   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Manfred Honeck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mixed 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

In the Seventh Symphony, [Honeck] tells us, it is essential to have ‘everything played with the biggest possible impetus and pent-up power’. It’s what he calls ‘taking the music to the edge’, which is very much what he does as this astonishing live performance reaches its apotheosis in the final movement.

Honeck takes a similar view of the Fifth Symphony…. The Pittsburgh playing marries epic power with a revealing translucency of texture, something which the aptly named Soundmirror team catches in sound that provides generous levels of reverberation with crystal-clear detailing. ...

Like Carlos Kleiber before him, Honeck divides the fiddles
Read more antiphonally, a sine qua non in the Seventh but a great joy in the Fifth, where this former member of the Vienna Philharmonic’s second violin section conjures forth all manner of telling effects.... Honeck’s performances deserve to be heard.

No matter how many billion recordings of this music we already have, a great performance offers its own justification, these are very great performances. In his thoughtful booklet notes, conductor Manfred Honeck reveals his understanding not just of Beethoven, but more importantly for our purposes, his knowledge of the Beethoven discography. It’s not easy to offer interpretations of this music that sound new without turning capricious–that both respect the music and personalize it. Honeck and the orchestra manage to pull it off consistently, with bravura, finesse, and an intelligence that makes these versions a true celebration of Beethoven’s genius. The first element that lends this disc such distinction is the quality of the orchestra itself. Let’s be honest: there simply is no finer ensemble in the world today, even if it may sound controversial to say so. From top to bottom the Pittsburgh players reveal themselves as equal or superior to anyone out there; and when led by a charismatic conductor like Honeck, they have few if any peers. Whether we’re talking about the density and rhythmic snap of the strings in the Fifth’s first movement, the beautiful tone of the oboes in the Seventh, the rock-solid timpani, or the incomparably noble French horns romping through the outer movements of both works, this is just sensational at every turn.

Atop this foundation, Honeck builds interpretations that find countless ear-catching details within the context of a dramatic, intensely propulsive view of each symphony. Witness, for example, the Fifth’s finale, where Honeck gives a subtle dynamic push to the violins upward rushing scales (sound clip), or the closing pages of the coda, taken at a true presto. And yet it’s not all sound and fury. In the Seventh’s Allegretto, Honeck achieves an absolutely perfect balance in the string choir between subject and countersubject, with rhythm of the basses touched in so clearly that you might wonder how it is that we’ve never heard it done quite this way before.

Everything that Honeck does, in fact, has its basis in the score, and at every point serves to support and underline Beethoven’s intentions in the most natural and idiomatic way. You get the thrill of a live performance, the perfection of the best studio work, and sonics that capture it all with exemplary warmth and fidelity. So sit back, crank up the volume, and get ready for an incredible ride. There’s life in the classics after all.

- ClassicsToday Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Manfred Honeck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pitt 
Length: 31 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Manfred Honeck
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pitt 
Length: 39 Minutes 14 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67: I. Allegro con brio
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67: IV. Allegro
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92: II. Allegretto
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92: IV. Allegro con brio

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  9 Customer Reviews )
 Big, bold, exciting Beethoven performances September 27, 2018 By Scott Freije (Los Angeles, CA) See All My Reviews "I wholeheartedly welcome this recording as an unapologetic retort to small, weak sounding HIP (Historically Informed Performance) Beethoven playing that has dominated recent recordings with few exceptions. Honeck is a thoughtful conductor who isn’t focused on delivering a sound that is authentic to 19th century performance practice. These are gloriously played with plenty of drama and sound more true to the revolutionary spirit of Beethoven’s compositions instead of how an orchestra might have sounded centuries ago. Not since Kleiber/Wiener or Karajan/Berliner have I heard such a powerful performance of the 5th. Honeck slows the tempo down for extra emphasis on the fate motif and gets great color and clarity from his Pittsburgh players as the movement continues. All of this is captured in stunning sound from Reference Recordings. Few performances manage to offer opening and final movements this powerful that also contrast with such a beautifully played Andante. Pittsburgh is perfectly capable of playing with great excitement, especially their horn section, yet it is in the second movement where they reveal how truly special this orchestra is by offering such stark contrasts with delicate strings and excellent contributions from the woodwinds to the mighty full weight of the orchestra holding nothing back. The 7th is even finer and can stand along with the best recordings of this symphony. For how often these are recorded, nothing comes across as routine. Honeck makes his mark as a conductor by executing the most exciting Presto I have ever heard. Everything is perfectly judged, the tempo is spirited but not too rushed. We hear every detail from the orchestra and lets his horns ring out to memorable effect. For those who like their Beethoven played with plenty of power and excitement from a world class modern orchestra, add this to your collection. Those seeking period authenticity should look elsewhere. Honeck and Pittsburgh are a special combination whose every release is an event to look forward to." Report Abuse
 A+ in every respect July 23, 2016 By Walter Brower (Birmingham, AL) See All My Reviews "Superb conducting of a virtuoso orchestra. Both performance and recorded sound are of the first rank. Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra just might have planted their flag atop the mountain of recordings of these two masterpieces, some very fine indeed. This disc is that good. [Note: Another reviewer claims that this is not an SACD. Yes it is an HDCD, but my copy says SACD all over it, and the SACD light comes on when I insert it into my player.]" Report Abuse
 Be aware June 1, 2016 By J. Robbins (Oakland, TN) See All My Reviews "While I find this recording to be outstanding, both in sound quality and interpretation, the buyer should be aware that it is NOT a SACD disc. It is quite clearly labeled as HDCD, a different animal." Report Abuse
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