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Aspen Music Festival hosts Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director Manfred Honeck will conduct three nights of concerts in the Benedict Music Tent this week.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, presented by the Aspen Music Festival and School

Where: Benedict Music Tent

When: Tuesday, Aug. 23; Wednesday, Aug. 24; Thursday, Aug. 25, 6 p.m.

How much: $35-$85; season passes are not valid

Tickets: Harris Concert Hall box office; http://www.aspenmusicfestival.com

More info: Tuesday’s program features Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4; Wednesdays features Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5; Thursday’s features Dvorak’s Symphonic Suite from “Rusalka,” Berg’s Violin Concerto and Strauss’s Symphonic Rhapsody from “Elektra”

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will make its Aspen debut in a special post-season residency at the Aspen Music Festival with concerts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the Benedict Music Tent.

Coming off of a European tour, the storied orchestra — founded in 1895 — is the first full orchestra to visit the Aspen Music Festival since the local institution’s early years. The programs include Bruckner’s fourth symphony on Tuesday, Mahler’s fifth on Wednesday and Strauss’s “Elektra” on Thursday.

“When you do a residency it’s always a question of, how do you present an orchestra?” said Pittsburgh music director Manfred Honeck, who will conduct all three nights. “When it’s one program, it’s even more difficult. But with three programs, we really have the ability to show the orchestra moving through different historical eras.”

Violinist Pinchas Zukerman — a Grammy-winning Aspen alum — will be the featured soloist on violin concertos by Bruch and Berg on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Pittsburgh principal clarinetist and Aspen Music Festival faculty member Michal Rusinek will be the soloist Wednesday on Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.

Pittsburgh’s residency is an encore to the proper Aspen Music Festival season, which wrapped up Sunday with an Aspen Festival Orchestra performance in the Benedict.

“The Pittsburgh Symphony is simply a spectacular orchestra,” Aspen Music Festival and School president and CEO Alan Fletcher said in the spring when the residency was announced, “and hearing it perform in the crystalline air of Aspen, with Manfred leading, will be a life moment for us all to share.”

Performing the fourth symphony by Anton Bruckner, who drew inspiration from the Austrian Alps, is particularly apropos here in the mountains, said Honeck.

“I think the festival will love it,” said Honeck. “This environment, in the mountains, that’s exactly what Bruckner had in mind.”

Honeck was also pleased over the weekend to find himself on Garmisch Street, the local road named for the German town (and Aspen sister city) that Richard Strauss called home for more than 40 years and where he composed “Elektra,” from which the orchestra will play on Thursday.

“It brought a lot of new sounds and challenges into the life of the opera,” said Honeck.

The acclaimed maestro was in Aspen for the first time as a guest conductor in 2012. His time here left an impression.

“I really fell in love with this great institution,” he said. “I love the interaction between professionals and students — the program they offer is amazing.”

Honeck’s brother, Rainer, will serve as the concertmaster for the orchestra’s three nights in Aspen. Rainer Honeck comes to Aspen from the Vienna Philharmonic, where he is concertmaster and where the brothers — two of nine Honeck siblings — played together early in their careers.

“The musical understanding between us is fantastic, and I’m looking forward to making music with him again,” said Honeck. “A lot of memories are coming back.”


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