Feb 25 2012
The New Yorker in its February 23rd issue describes the Pittsburgh Symphony as “the remarkable ensemble, now in the reliable hands of Manfred Honeck.” Time Out New York tells us, “Manfred Honeck and his Pennsylvania players hit Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series with the New York premiere of Steven Stucky’s Silent Spring” and the Friday New York Times suggests “the visit by the conductor Manfred Honeck and his Steeltown musicians includes two substantial attractions: “Silent Spring, a new work that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s environmental book of the same title, and the superb violinist Hilary Hahn who performs in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1.”
The Pittsburgh Symphony has arrived in the Big Apple late by a few hours due to high winds, rain, and snow on the East Coast. The day began in Pittsburgh with a full rehearsal at WQED, while Cirque Dreams occupies the stage at Heinz Hall.
I arrived at 12:30 pm with PSO Vice President of Public Relations Jim Barthen. We took a trip to the new World Trade Center memorial which has become one of the top visitors’ spots in the city – even while under construction. The new One World Trade Center (formerly known as Freedom Tower) was only partially visible, disappearing into the clouds. It’s best to make online reservations which are free, or you might have to stand in a long line. It’s a very sobering feeling to watch the fountains in the footprint of the towers with cascading water three stories deep. The gift shop was mobbed with folks buying Fire Department caps and accounts of the events of 9/11. You must clear security and remove your shoes and belt just like airport security.
At 5:00 pm I interviewed Sir Clive Gillinson, the Executive Director of Carnegie Hall, who told me he looks forward to the Pittsburgh Symphony returning in 2014. He is very pleased with the first season of Carnegie Hall live broadcasts. I asked him about the finances for the radio broadcasts and he politely told me he never shares financial details of his projects at Carnegie Hall. His thought reminded me of the story from Carnegie Hall a few years ago of the stagehand whose salary was in excess of $500,000, including a significant amount of overtime.
Clive Gillinson is a most persuasive advocate of classical music and its vitality. He enjoyed great success following his career as a cellist in the London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia serving in administrative roles. He created the very successful CD label LSO Live. He still commutes to London every month to spend time with his family, but says he adores New York City. I reminded him that Andrew Carnegie made his fortune in Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Symphony has been coming to Carnegie Hall with great success for over a century. The Chief of Public Relations at Carnegie Hall, Synneve Carlino, worked for the Pittsburgh Symphony earlier in her career. Her family is from Boston, but she remembers her time in Pittsburgh with great pleasure. The staff at Carnegie Hall was extremely cheerful and welcoming in spite of the extreme sensitivity to snoopy visitors with cameras and recorders. Reporters are required to wear big red ID stickers.
I had a delightful interview with Stanley Dodds, a violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic who was born in Australia. About 40% of the orchestra are now German born with eight native Berliners. The Berlin Philharmonic are staying in the same hotel with the Pittsburgh Symphony as is their Music Director, Sir Simon Rattle .
Tonight’s concert at Carnegie Hall featured Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony in a new version completing the unfinished final movement. The Berliners have just recorded it for release in this spring. The concert was completely sold out and received a standing ovation.
Sir Simon is tall with his fantastic afro-like white hair bobbing. The tympanist was very dynamic with extremely athletic moves. Emanuel Pahud, Principal Flute, had some nice moments as did oboist Albrecht Mayer. There was laughter when the house lights had dimmed and the audience began to quiet and applaud a violinist thinking he was the concertmaster only to watch him sit in the fourth row and give a little wave before the concertmaster took the stage. During the ovation at the end of the 90-minute, heaven-storming Bruckner, Sir Simon walked all the way through the orchestra to shake his Principal French Horn’s hand and proceeded to stroll through the ranks of his players shaking hands all the way to the last row. The chief of press relations for the Berlin Philharmonic is Elizabeth Hilsdorf. She also learned the business working with the Pittsburgh Symphony about a decade ago at the invitation of Gideon Toeplitz. She has the title “Pressesprecherin.”
I had a piece of Carnegie Deli cheesecake. The people at the table next to me asked if they could take a picture of it due to the humongous portion. The Bruckner Society of America was meeting there and they had a very jolly post-concert event near the Carnegie Hall Gift Shop in the Shorin Room. The treasurer for the group, John Berky, was the manager of the Hartford, CT public radio station. He was driving back to his home in Hartford at the end of the evening. It was worth driving ’til 2:30 am to hear the Bruckner, and I believe the Pittsburgh concerts in New York will be equally exciting.
Saturday it’s off to Long Island at 2:00 pm for a full rehearsal and the PSO’s first visit to the CW Post Campus’s Tilles Center since a 1988 concert with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.