For more than 125 years, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been an essential part of Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape and is renowned as one of the world’s finest orchestras. The orchestra is credited with a rich history of engaging the world’s leading conductors and musicians, and a deep commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its people. Since 2008, the Pittsburgh Symphony has been led by Music Director Manfred Honeck, whose unmistakable, distinctive, and revelatory interpretations receive great international acclaim. In September 2021, the Orchestra announced the six-year extension of Manfred Honeck’s contract as Music Director, running through the 2027/28 season. Celebrated both at home and abroad, Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are one of the most frequently toured North American orchestras and are cultural ambassadors for the City of Pittsburgh and the United States.
Heading the list of internationally recognized conductors to have led the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is Victor Herbert, Music Director between 1898 and 1904. Preceding Herbert were Emil Paur (1904-1910), Elias Breeskin (1928-1930) and Antonio Modarelli (1930-1937). The orchestra’s solidification as an American institution took place in the late 1930s under the direction of Otto Klemperer and Fritz Reiner (1938-1948). The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s standard of excellence was maintained and enhanced through William Steinberg (1952-1976). André Previn (1976-1984) led the orchestra to new heights through tours, recordings, and television (PBS series, Previn and the Pittsburgh). Lorin Maazel began his relationship with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1984 as Music Consultant and was Music Director from 1988-1996. From 1997-2004, Mariss Jansons furthered the artistic growth of the orchestra, and upon his departure, the orchestra created an innovative leadership model with Artistic Advisor Sir Andrew Davis, Principal Guest Conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier and Guest Conductor Chair Marek Janowski. These three conductors formed the orchestra’s primary artistic leadership until January 2007, when the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra selected Honeck to take the reins at the start of the 2008/09 season.
The Pittsburgh Symphony has a notable history of championing new American works. The Orchestra premiered Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 in 1944, John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine in 1986, and Mason Bates’ Resurrexit in 2018 to celebrate Manfred Honeck’s 60th birthday. In the 2021/22 season, Manfred Honeck will lead five world premieres, with five commissions by the Pittsburgh Symphony including works by Michael Daugherty and David Ludwig.
The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1896. With approximately 40 international tours, including to Europe and to South America, a Far East Tour in 2002 marked first-time concerts for the orchestra in Kuala Lumpur and Australia. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 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. In May 2009, the orchestra embarked on a four-concert tour of Asia, a trip which included debut performances in Shanghai, China and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in addition to the first stop in Beijing, China since 1987.
Following the successful first European tour with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2010, six more followed in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019. The most recent tour in 2019 took the musicians and its Music Director to ten European cities, the Alte Oper Frankfurt, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Philharmonie Berlin, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, as well as the Cité de la Musique Paris, the Tonhalle Düsseldorf, the Palais des Beaux-Arts Brüssel, the Kuppelsaal Hannover, the Philharmonie im Gasteig in Munich and the Musikverein Vienna, with which the orchestra maintained a close relationship. The planned European tour in summer 2020 had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19-pandemic.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra also enjoys an equally distinguished record of domestic tours, which over the years have showcased the orchestra in all of America’s major cities and music centers, including frequent performances at Carnegie Hall in New York (dating from 1900) and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the Pittsburgh Symphony has been broadcast coast-to-coast, receiving increased national attention in 1982 through its series of network radio broadcasts by Public Radio International, produced by WQED-FM 89.3 in Pittsburgh.
Starting with the release of its first commercial recording in 1941, the Pittsburgh Symphony discography has hundreds of critically acclaimed recordings, released by prestigious labels including Pentatone, EMI, EXTON, Angel, CBS, Philips, MCA, New World, Nonesuch, Sony Classical, Telarc and Deutsche Grammophon.
Since 2013 Manfred Honeck’s successful work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been captured in twelve recordings released by Reference Recordings on the PittsburghLive! series. The audiophile SACDs include tone poems and suites by Richard Strauss, Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 3, 5, 7 and 9, Bruckner’s Symphonies No. 4 and 9, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies No. 4 and 6 and have received many excellent reviews for Manfred Honeck’s interpretations as well as the sound engineering by partner Soundmirror. After several GRAMMY Award nominations, the recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber’s Adagio was awarded two Awards in January 2018: Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album Classical. The recordings of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and No. 9 also received multiple GRAMMY nominations. In October 2021, the most recent recording was released, featuring Brahms Symphony No. 4 and MacMillan Larghetto for Orchestra.
In 2021/22, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra celebrates the 50th anniversary of Heinz Hall as the home of the Orchestra. The acoustically outstanding performing arts center is in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, and the cornerstone of the city’s Cultural District.