Review by: Victor Carr Jr
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 9
Manfred Honeck makes the Shostakovich Fifth sound freshly-composed–quite an accomplishment for this certified warhorse. His scrupulous attention to Shostakovich’s meticulous dynamic markings and instrumental balances–the harp emerging perfectly from the orchestral texture in the first movement, the audible piano at the climax of the adagio, and the brass beautifully sonorous and penetrating throughout–provides much aural delight.
Honeck’s interpretation is remarkable for its clean, rhythmically-alert phrasing, the first movement’s arresting opening theme sounding like something from the baroque era. Indeed, his reading overall suggests the work is a synthesis of the baroque, classical, and Russian folk idioms. The Pittsburgh Symphony plays marvelously, with a bright and sinewy orchestral texture not unlike what Mravinsky creates with the Leningrad Philharmonic. But don’t mistake this for a “light” performance: the first-movement climax and outer sections of the Finale sound with impressive power and impact. Honeck leads a quite moving Adagio, with a climax that projects a pained intensity, without heaviness. This is one fine Shostakovich Fifth.
The Barber Adagio receives a tender and touching performance, but it comes across as somewhat of a downer after the blazing ending to the Shostakovich. The live recording impressively conveys the sound of an orchestra in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall (as well as capturing some audience noises and, unfortunately, the conductor’s heavy breathing).
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Nelsons (DG); Barshai (Brilliant Classics); Mravinsky (Melodiya)
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck
- Reference Recordings - FR724