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Dvorak: Symphony No. 8 / Janacek: Jenufa (suite) - Honeck

Dvorak: Symphony No. 8 / Janacek: Jenufa (suite) - Honeck

Reference Recordings  FR-710SACD

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Dvorak: Symphony No. 8
Janacek: Jenufa (suite)

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Manfred Honeck


This release is the second in the "Pittsburgh Live!" series of multi-channel hybrid SACD releases on the FRESH! series from Reference Recordings.

For more than 116 years, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been known for its artistic excellence. The PSO has a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians. Past conductors include the legendary names of Reiner, Steinberg, Previn, Maazel, and other greats. This tradition was furthered in fall 2008, when celebrated Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

The PSO is critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras, and has completed more than 36 international tours, including 20 European tours, eight trips to the Far East, and two to South America. The PSO was the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican in January 2004 for the late Pope John Paul II, as part of the Pontiff’s Silver Jubilee Celebration.

The PSO also has a long history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the PSO broadcast coast-to-coast, receiving increased national attention in 1982 when it began network radio broadcasts on Public Radio International. The PRI series with the PSO can be heard on classical WQED-FM 89.3 in Pittsburgh. Many PSO recordings remain in print and available, and they have won critical acclaim and many awards.

This release and the entire "Pittsburgh Live!" Series are recorded and mastered by the team at Soundmirror, whose outstanding orchestral, solo, opera, and chamber recordings have received over 70 GRAMMY nominations and awards! Soundmirror has recorded for every major classical record label, now including Reference Recordings.

FRESH! is part of Reference Recordings’ mission to encourage our artists and give them a strong platform for promotion and sales nationally and internationally.

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Review by Graham Williams - June 30, 2014

This is an absolutely marvellous release both in terms of its thrilling performances and wonderful sound quality.

Manfred Honeck, as on his first disc for Reference Recordings of Strauss tone poems, Strauss: Don Juan, Tod und Verklärung, Till Eulenspiegel - Honeck has shown that he is not afraid to challenge conventional approaches to familiar works, and his account of Dvorak's sunny 8th Symphony that opens this disc once again evince a searching and perceptive mind at work. Thanks to his rapport with his top-class Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra he is able to communicate his ideas to the listener with absolute conviction.

In the fascinating notes accompanying this disc Manfred Honeck explains that, in his performance of this symphony, he has returned to Czech traditions both in style of playing and overall sonority. He does not hesitate to introduce some tasteful portamento where necessary, and his liberal use of rubato and tempo changes combined with attention to detail make one hear many passages in the symphony with fresh ears. It almost goes without saying that Honeck's strikingly individual interpretation will not suit all listeners, but I confess to being completely bowled over by it.

Maintaining the Czech theme of the disc, the Dvorak 8th Symphony is followed by an effective and well-constructed 23 minute 'Symphonic Suite' of music from Janáčeck's tragic opera 'Jenufa'– described as 'Conceptualised by Manfred Honeck, realized by Tomáš Ille'. The Suite is in a continuous single movement, but falls into a number of clearly identifiable sections – energetic dances alternating with contrasting lyrical passages and linked by repeated appearances of the soft xylophone passage that opens the opera. The Pittsburgh players really are on fire in this piece, delivering spine tingling orchestral playing in passages such as the dramatic final bars of Act 2 with its pounding timpani and brass fanfares.

The sound quality of this 5.0 channel (though disc and liner notes say 5.1) 64fs DSD recording made by the Soundmirror team is, as usual, first class in every possible way. The marvellous playing of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is captured with thrilling realism in sound that does full justice to both the warmth of the Pittsburgh strings and their phenomenal brass section (the brilliance and confidence of the trumpet playing that opens the fourth movement of the Dvorak symphony is typical of the latter).

I recommend without hesitation this spectacular SACD and look forward keenly to future releases in this 'Pittsburgh Live!' series.

Copyright © 2014 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comments (6)
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Comment by Bruce Zeisel - February 9, 2016 (1 of 6)

I have had this for sometime now but only listened to it for the first time last night. I think Honeck's is an amazingly insightful interpretation of the Dvorak. I enjoyed this more than I can remember ever enjoying any recorded performance before. Much of the credit also goes to Sound/Mirror for their wonderfully transparent recording with jaw dropping dynamic range - and to the wonderful musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The principal flute and trumpet must be singled out and also the sheerly beautiful string tone!

Comment by Luketsu - March 4, 2017 (2 of 6)

This superbly performed and engineered SACD proved why the format is much more convincing than old-fashioned dull CD. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Soundmirror engineers all the details of Dvorak's symphony can be heard without flaws or distractions. And Honeck finds many previously unheard sides from the score that were pure delight for one's ear. Why on earth I haven't purchased earlier the SACDs of this label?

Actually after the first listening I was so excited that I checked the orchestra's plans for this year.
- During a three-day period from Fri, Apr 21 to Sun, Apr 23 they will perform the last three symphonies of Mozart at Heinz Hall with Manfred Honeck.
- On 5th May Andrés Franco will be on the podium in "A Night at the Movies" concert at Scottish Rite Cathedral. The program includes music from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Superman and Indiana Jones.

Oh, if just Reference Recordings could record these concert for Super Audio CD... Alongside with PENTATONE and Channel they have been some kind of definite audiophile label out there. And why they haven't re-released Britten's Orchestra - Michael Stern which has been unavailable for ages? At the time this was blockbuster, the way to global market. Sometimes the politics of music labels are really frustrating...

Comment by hiredfox - March 8, 2017 (3 of 6)

Reference Recordings engage two different recording houses for their projects, more recently Sound Mirror have entered the arena which previously had been the province of "Prof Johnson". Sound Mirror record in DSD nowadays at 256fs whilst Johnson uses 24 bit PCM at 96 or 192kHz. It is an important distinction which a buyer needs to be aware of before purchasing a Reference Recording disc.

Comment by Luketsu - September 26, 2017 (4 of 6)

Guys, I want to hear your opinions on this because I've been pretty confused: do you prefer subwoofer when you're listening to SACD in multichannel?

Let me take an example: this spectacularly recorded album sound very accurate and clear without sub but as soon as I switch the speaker on there is plenty of bass and weight. When required my Jamo floorstanding speakers can reach 35 Hz frequency response.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - October 1, 2017 (5 of 6)

In my view there is a tendency to get more bass in the house than one hears in the hall. The classical sound stage is often willfully inflated to get the last drop of low frequency out of it. This said, I do believe that for a naturally balanced sound the lowest octave needs to be fully present. And not only for large church organ pipes. I’ve been experimenting with several subwoofer separate’s (including REL). It’s all gone. Difficult to trim, lots of interference and usually much too much bass boom. For the last two or maybe already three years I’m quite happy with my GoldenEars with low end woofers built in, taking the signal from the front speakers and not the LFE output. Everything’s now working smoothly and unnoticeable over the whole of the audible frequency spectrum (it’s adjustable in case the recording gives too much or too little lows).
Please note, Luketsu, that this is a personal opinion based on my own experience. But wasn’t that what you were asking for?

Comment by Luketsu - October 1, 2017 (6 of 6)

Yes, I think so. Of course how much you want to hear and feel lower frequencies depends on your personal taste.

In my opinion - when listening to orchestral music, for example - every detail should be audible and the contrast between treble and bass should be in equilibrium. Naturally this is not possible because we always lose something when we record something, even in high-resolution (although the results are much more realistic than with the standard 44,1 kHz/16 bit, as we know).

My Jamo speakers were not from the most expensive - actually they were of only moderate quality, the whole 5-channel speaker set cost just a little bit over 500€. As soon as it is possible I will update my system for a better one - at the moment KEF's Reference Series looks very interesting...

However, what I'm going to say is although the multichannel mix would include plenty of bass the poor quality of the loudspeakers will affect to the results. Telarc and BIS SACD discs, for example, sounds pretty nice through my surround sound system but I want to digg deeper into the heart of the music and the recording, if it can be described so.