PSO delivers a deluxe CD of Richard Strauss

Record Review

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has often been referred to as the musical equivalent of a sports car. But a Japanese label has put the orchestra and its new music director in a stretch limousine of a recording for their first disc together.

Octavia's new recording on its imprint Exton, taken from Manfred Honeck's visit in May, is deluxe, including the $30 tag (for just one disc). Actually, that's a discounted price you'll get at Heinz Hall, beginning with tonight's concert; the discs have been priced more than $50 elsewhere. But that's typical of imports, especially when they are from a smaller, audiophile labels.

The audio -- ample and detailed across the dynamic range -- was recorded using DSD surround sound technology. (It is a Super Audio CD that also operates on CD players.)

This was recorded live at Heinz Hall, but Honeck's dramatic direction lends itself to the recording process. Verdi's Overture to "La forza del destino" explodes off the disc with dramatic brass hits before settling into turbulent strains. Alan Fletcher's Clarinet Concerto arrives with a clarity that allows both the splendid artistry of clarinetist Michael Rusinek and the piece itself to shine through better than it did in May.

And Honeck proceeds through Richard Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben" as if he were an actor giving a dramatic reading, beginning with an impossibly broad opening gesture. His patience with the material builds to powerful moments and allows for the tone poem's depiction of characters to emerge almost theatrically. The PSO responds with lucid textures, gorgeous timbres (the horns especially) and fantastic solos, led by concertmaster Andres Cardenes' playful violin solos. It is inspired playing.

Here is a disc that will serve as an excellent calling card for the new collaboration between Honeck and the PSO.


Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com . He blogs at Classical Musings at post-gazette.com .


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