May 27 2010
The first of the two concerts at Vienna’s storied Musikverein was a family affair for the Honeck family, attended by Manfred’s three sisters Elfi, Sibylle, and Marlies; his Jesuit priest son Joachim, his son Matthias, nephew Patrick, brother-in-law Florian Partl, and many others. I spoke with Joachim at the post-concert reception and dinner given by Manfred Honeck in the Stadtpark at the Kursalon, where Johann Strauss conducted his waltzes. I’ve mentioned before that every family member I’ve met quickly transmits the same warmth and good humor as our Pittsburgh Symphony Music Director. They all seem smart, kind, funny, charming, gemütlich and handsome. Where is the dark side? I haven’t found it. Joachim explained his calling, vows, celibacy, 30-year educational journey, devotion, and service. He told me he didn’t give up the idea of marriage lightly, having had at least one serious girlfriend.
US Ambassador William Eacho was very cheerful, and warm in welcome. He was a top fundraiser for President Obama, and has had multiple business successes before his appointment here in Vienna last August. There was riotous, raucous applause for Manfred Honeck’s remarks at the dinner. He said he would need to get some help from the Steelers’ coach in order to know what to say about the next concert tonight in Vienna, having just had so much success and knowing that it was after midnight. Second trumpet Neal Berntsen was singled out with much laughter. It seems Neal had suggested that Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons had thrown tour parties, and Neal had joked that Manfred might do the same. Horn Steve Kostyniak gave a gracious response from the orchestra, and one of the biggest ovations went out for PSO Board Chair Dick Simmons, who was there with his wife Ginny. There was applause for Manfred Honeck’s manager Lothar Schacke, and a feeling overall of great exultation at the reception from the Viennese to Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. ORF radio journalist Peter Kisslinger told me he never heard the Beethoven dance like it had this evening.
The five-man ORF crew recording the concert welcomed me warmly into their control room and gave me a tour. When I asked if I could take a picture, editor Fridolyn Stolz quickly wadded up a bag of McDonald’s remains to toss in the trash. The hall is gorgeous, as you know from the New Year’s Day telecasts, with statues of Carl Maria von Weber, Mozart, Liszt, and Mahler; a fabulous cafe with Viennese tortes and sandwiches, and the Manner wafer cookies you can buy at Nicholas Coffee in Pittsburgh’s Market Square. Lots of players went to the Vienna Philharmonic’s rehearsal in the afternoon conducted by Valery Gergiev. It was interesting to see how the Vienna Philharmonic stores its basses — lined up in stands by a window just offstage. At Heinz Hall, the basses are kept in a climate-controlled room, but here they’re exposed to the sun and humidity. Conditions should be just right for the second big concert tonight, with Anne-Sophie Mutter joining the Pittsburgh Symphony at the Musikverein as soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto, followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 directed by Manfred Honeck. The photos tell the story, so please look at the complete gallery.