Once upon a time, in the world of classical music, there lived the "Big Five." The term was used to lump together the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and our own Philadelphia Orchestra as the finest performing orchestras in the U.S.
But, over time, as other orchestras gained stature, both in performance and finances, the term became passe and no longer indicative of the American orchestral scene.
Among those organizations was the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Founded 116 years ago, and having been led by some of the greats - Victor Herbert, Otto Klemperer, Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg, Andre Previn, Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons, to name a few - slowly but surely, Pittsburgh had become one of the country's best-sounding ensembles, helping to put the term "Big Five" somewhat to rest.
These days, the task of maintaining its commitment to quality while pushing the orchestra forward falls to Manfred Honeck. Honeck began leading the Pittsburgh Symphony in 2008, and has recently accepted a contract extension keeping him there until at least 2020. They must like him...a lot.
Born in Austria, Manfred Honeck received his musical training at the Academy of Music in Vienna. Many years of experience as an accomplished violinist and violist with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and at the helm of the Vienna Jeunesse Orchestra, have given his conducting a distinctive stamp.
Honeck is also a boundless guest conductor, leading orchestras worldwide each season. He made his conducting debut with Philadelphia this year in a concert that was broadcast on WRTI (watch the schedule...we'll be encoring the outing sometime this summer).
Listen for Jill Pasternak's conversation with Manfred Honeck, and a complete performance of Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, with Honeck leading the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, on Crossover, Saturday morning, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm on WRTI 90.1 FM, with an encore Friday evening at 7 pm on WRTI-HD2. Both airings can be heard on the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.
And remember...you can hear Maestro Honeck leading Pittsburgh every Sunday evening at 8 pm on WRTI-HD2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.