Cellists Bronwyn Banerdt, left, and Charlie Powers greet guests Friday before the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s free concert at Heinz Hall.
The sold-out music hall applauds for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at The Music Has Returned!—the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s first concert at Heinz Hall in two and a half months.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director, Manfred Honeck, directs the musicians at The Music Has Returned!—Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s first concert at Heinz Hall in two and a half months.
Guests take photos in front of the Christmas tree before the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s first concert at Heinz Hall.
By Elizabeth Bloom / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The applause was rapturous, and the performance hadn't even begun.
Friday night, for the first time in two-and-a-half months, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra played a concert inside of Heinz Hall.
The musicians, who went on strike Sept. 30 and ratified a new contract last week, were no longer walking a picket line outside of the Downtown venue, performing in replacement locations throughout the city or wondering how the PSO's ongoing contract dispute would be resolved.
Instead, they were home, and the audience was happy to welcome them back. Before Friday's show, the musicians' first at Heinz Hall since Sept. 17, the audience stood for an ovation, grateful the musical drought was over.
“Pittsburgh's musical desert has blossomed,” subscriber Chris Forbes of Edgewood said before the concert.
At 8 p.m., the handful of musicians who were on stage warming up left for the wings. A few minutes later, music director Manfred Honeck came on stage, greeting the audience for “a night that I am sure will be unforgettable.”
“The music has returned,” he said.
His appearance prompted audience members to rise to their feet, but that ovation did not compare with the one received by the musicians, who walked on together after his statement.
A cellist carried a PSO musicians' sign similar to those that graced restaurants, shops and lawns throughout Pittsburgh over the past few months. Then, the orchestra performed the national anthem, the traditional season opener, before starting the regular performance.
The 2,700-seat hall was packed for the first of two free concerts this weekend. The second is at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Pritham Aravind, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, had never attended a PSO concert before Friday. He had a ticket to this weekend's original program, which had been canceled, and he was happy to have his first experience at Heinz Hall after the strike.
“This fall was sort of sadder because of it,” he said. Now, he said, “spirits are lifted.”
The work stoppage ended the day before Thanksgiving, when the musicians ratified a five-year contract that includes pay cuts, changes to some players' retirement plans and a hiring freeze.
The concert featured two of the PSO's current and former principal players as soloists. While walking on the picket line during the strike, principal oboist Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida wore a sandwich board that said, “I'd Rather Be Making Oboe Reeds,” over her black and gold PSO musicians shirt. Now, she was standing in the front of the stage to perform “Gabriel's Oboe,” by Ennio Morricone, this time wearing a black dress.
In addition, former concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley, now with the Berlin Philharmonic, returned for a performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. The concert also included a piece by Mikhail Glinka and Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”
The 54-day strike left Heinz Hall rather divided. Some of the musicians started to take auditions elsewhere. But on Friday night, the hall was filled with the energy of a new season, with grateful concertgoers and, at long last, with the sounds of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Elizabeth Bloom: email@example.com, 412-263-1750 and Twitter: @BloomPG.
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