The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra celebrates its longevity with a digital program

February 21 – The sounds of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have been in resonance for 125 years. (That’s a quasquicentennial according to the dictionary.)

February 27th is the first performance this year.

The original plan was for a one-year celebration that culminated with a gala.

But the pandemic crashed this party.

“We definitely want to celebrate,” said Melia Tourangeau, President and CEO of the Symphony. “The vision for the anniversary has taken about 15 iterations since Covid.”

Planning for the day began three years ago, Tourangeau said. Despite many obstacles, the symphony found a way to still be heard.

The result was “Front Row: The PSO Virtual Experience”, a digital platform for performances.

“It was produced beautifully,” said Tourangeau. “Viewers can see the facial expressions of the musicians and see their fingers moving over the strings of the instruments that people normally don’t see that close.”

The symphony produced a special performance in the fall which will air on February 27 at 7:30 a.m. The cost is $ 25. A shorter piece will air on March 11th at 7:30 p.m. on WQED.

They sold 350 tickets for the symphony’s largest fundraiser and the sponsors have continued their support, Tourangeau said.

The symphony is the sixth largest in the United States

“(Andrew) Carnegie had the foresight to realize the importance of this music,” said Tourangeau. “Music was a great link between people. Nothing has shown it’s more than feeling like we don’t have the personal experience of music. We feel lucky to still be able to bring music to people. The musicians know How important it is You took a massive pay cut to help us get through this challenging period.

In addition to the gala, the orchestra will offer new performances for the “Front Row” series as there is no date on which the live audience can return to the Heinz Hall in the city center.

The story goes on

The pieces will be premiered in March and April.

Music director Manfred Honeck, who recently returned to the US, will be part of the performances.

Guest artists – pianist Inon Barnatan and violinist Simone Porter – will also perform. Barnatan is celebrated for his “poetic sensitivity, musical intelligence and consummate craftsmanship”. Porter has been recognized as “an emerging artist with passionate energy, interpretive integrity and lively communication”.

The program includes composers with more than 300 years of separation in the year of their birth, from Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) to Anna Clyne (since 1980).

Each episode lasts 60 minutes and includes a solo performance by a wind or brass musician as part of a musical interlude.

Principal Pops’ chief conductor Byron Stripling has put together a program of early folk classics and ballads, followed by blues and soul.

BNY Mellon sponsors the classic digital performances. PNC sponsors the performances of the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops.

There will be a musical guide who will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the piece.

“It will help the audience experience it with us,” said Mary Persin, vice president of artistic planning who designed the programs.

Persin recalled that the last live concert in the Heinz Hall took place in January 2020 for Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

She said the 125th anniversary reminded her of all the musicians who filled the chairs on the stage.

“This virtual programming will be a living musical celebration of this milestone,” she said. “The community has used the digital platform as a new type of connection and our musicians have been resilient for 125 years.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062,, or on Twitter.

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