Pittsburgh Symphony tunes in with live audience

Rio Scarcelli | staff writer. Audiences gather for a long-lasting standing ovation at the Heinz Hall auditorium.

Rio Scarcelli | staff writer

Sept. 30, 2021

This past weekend, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra kicked off its opening night with the ensemble’s first indoor performance since March 12, 2020.  Many festivals and pop-up concerts have been held outside through the Summer Symphony program.  The orchestra and conductor had a heartfelt opening to celebrate their 50th anniversary of playing at Heinz Hall.

In working with BNY Mellon and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Manfred Honneck, PSO’s conductor, was happy to announce that he hopes for the remainder of the 2021-22 season indoors.

“I am thrilled to be back here at Heinz Hall with my Pittsburgh musical family, to share the orchestra’s passionate commitment to prepare and to perform fantastic music,” Honneck said.  “These are truly great musicians who play from their hearts with power, sensitivity and clarity each and every time they take the stage.”

In accordance with the new mandates put in place, the lines were out the door with people having their vaccination card and license at the ready.  All audience members were properly masked, and there was an abundance of disposables for people who did not have them.

For every performance of their Sept. 24-26 showings, there was an announcement through the orchestra hall saying that the Covid-19 cases were considered in a CDC “high zone” and that masks would be required for the remainder of their performance.

The debut répertoire for the night began with John Stafford Smith’s orchestration of “The Star Spangled Banner” and closed with a symphonic favorite:  Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor.  In between, they rearranged the stage to showcase soloist Hélène Grimaud’s performance of Ravel’s Concerto in G major for Piano and Orchestra.

The house was packed from the orchestra to the mezzanine, and the conclusion of every song brought about a standing ovation.  At the end of the night, the audience brought an enormous applause that lasted 10 minutes within the hall.

There was a warm sense of community between the performers and the audience, as both Honneck and the instrumentalists were seen tearing up between pieces.  

After the success of that night, there seemed to be a hope in the room that the rest of the season would be just as lively with the excitement for indoor music being brought to the stage.