The Corner

Music

‘Shocking Beauty’

Manfred Honeck

Manfred Honeck is one of the leading conductors in the world. A member of a prominent Austrian musical family, he is the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and this week he is guest-conducting the New York Philharmonic. I sat down with him for a wide-ranging discussion. You can hear this podcast, this Q&A, here.

We talk about guest-conducting: Do you have to be more polite and deferential than you would be with your own orchestra? We talk about podium tyrants of the past. Few would want to return to those days. But has the pendulum swung too far in the other direction? Are conductors too restrained?

Further, we talk about composers and their music, including Maestro Honeck’s program for this week — which consists of Dvorak, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky. By the way, some people sneer at Tchaikovsky, as they are taught. They are also taught to sneer at Rachmaninoff and Puccini. Why? Honeck gives an interesting answer, saying, in part, that people have a strange relationship with beauty today — and Tchaikovsky et al. provide “shocking beauty.”

Anyway, on this conversation goes. It lasts a little more than an hour, and it affords an excellent opportunity to hear the thoughts of one of the most intelligent, most honest, and best musicians working today.

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