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Friday, June 23, 2017

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 3 (Manfred Honeck)


Composer: Gustav Mahler

  1. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: 1. Kräftig. Entschieden
  1. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: 2. Tempo di minuetto. Sehr mässig
  2. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: 3. Comodo. Scherzando. Ohne Hast
  3. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: 4. Sehr langsam. Misterioso
  4. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: 5. Lustig im Tempo und keck im Ausdruck
  5. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: 6. Langsam. Ruhevoll. Empfunden

Michelle Deyoung
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
Children's Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Manfred Honeck, conductor

Date: 2011
Label: Exton



After their well-received Prom, Mahler’s Third from Pittsburgh

In sonic terms this is right up there with Chailly’s Decca-engineered version as the most ear-popping in the current catalogue. The great cinemascopic vistas that are summoned up by those eight unison horns at the start are quite remarkable for their depth, breadth and thunderous immediacy. Manfred Honeck (clearly a Mahlerian to reckon with) and his engineers are especially impressive in catching the gaudy splendour of the first movement, with huge contrasts achieved between the lowering opening paragraph – where yawning trombone glissandos are more startling than I’ve ever heard them – and the fragrant green shoots of the emergent spring sweetly characterised by the Pittsburgh Symphony concertmaster. The orchestral playing is pretty tremendous throughout but especially in this first movement, where the Pittsburgh brass are mighty indeed. The Ivesian ‘rabble’ do their worst to raucous effect and I do so admire the journey that the solo trombone makes from craggy belligerence to poetic valediction.

Mahler’s flora and fauna then take centre stage, the former charming and pellucid, the latter duly robust, with ear-stretching distance for the magical offstage posthorn solos. On the controversial issue of the nocturnal cries from oboe and cor anglais in the misterioso Nietzsche setting, Honeck takes my view that Mahler’s direction ‘drawn upwards’ for the repeated semitone is intended as an expressive indication, not a literal ‘slide’ or portamento. Michelle DeYoung intones darkly.

The children’s chorus could for me be raunchier greeting the morning bells but, as their quirky bell-chime imitations fade from our hearing, the great Adagio emerges in wonderfully hushed consolation. On this point, is it not shocking that the early Bernstein account – still something of a classic – is still, I believe, only available in a packaging which splits the final two movements over two CDs, thus destroying Mahler’s dramatic segue? Does no one check these things? It is clearly marked attacca.

Honeck’s finale is reverential in the best sense, perhaps not quite achieving the highly personalised intensity of the Bernstein or the sheer luminosity of Chailly and the Concertgebouw. But he and his Pittsburgh players certainly assume the ascendancy with a series of heart-easing turns of phrase. The final pages are illuminating, not overbearing.

More than a little special, then, in marvellous sound. That could be the deciding factor for many.

-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone

More reviews:


Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. In his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, but his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of neglect. After 1945, Mahler became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. Mahler's œuvre is relatively small. Aside from early works, most of his are very large-scale works, designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists.


Manfred Honeck (born 17 September 1958, in Nenzing) is an Austrian conductor. His brothers is the Vienna Philharmonic leader Rainer Honeck. He attended the Academy of Music in Vienna, and then became a musician in the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Honeck was Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (2000-2006) and Generalmusikdirektor of the Staatsoper Stuttgart (2007-2011). Honeck is the ninth music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (since 2008). He and the PSO have recorded for  Octavia (Exton) label and Reference Recordings.


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