What's happening in Pittsburgh?
Some awfully fine orchestral playing, judging by the sounds of the Pittsburgh Symphony's latest disc, Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh Symphonies. This is the symphonic pairing on which conductors from Christian Thielemann to Gustavo Dudamel have made their names, but this beautifully recorded SACD on the Reference label is not to be outclassed. Music director Manfred Honeck draws powerhouse performances, especially of No. 5, forging an interpretation that has swift classical-era tempos but treats the famous opening motto with a gravity steeped in romantic-era performance practice. Coherence could be questionable without Honeck's conviction - a quality that also makes each of the famous second-movement variations of No. 7 alternately serene and tumultuous worlds unto themselves. The playing in these thoroughly examined interpretations is top-notch.
- David Patrick Stearns