The epic journey of Gustav Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony unfolded with exceptional breadth Friday night when Manfred Honeck led the first of the two final concerts of his first season as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
The first movement, as lengthy as many a complete symphony from the classical era, is full of tumult, fear, hope and faith. Honeck led a performance full of sharp contrasts that would be typical of the entire concert at Heinz Hall.
While the climaxes were very powerful, soft playing was even more characteristic because Honeck respected Mahler's dynamic markings. And the retrained playing produced many wonderful balances, in which leading voices were meaningfully supported by lines usually submerged.
The relatively slow tempi produced an effect in several passages of slow walking, even schlepping. The end of the movement, the death of the protagonist, was quick and unsentimental.
Mahler described the second movement as a starting with a recollection of the deceased in happier times. Honeck took a little pause on the upbeat to the movement, not as big as Leonard Bernstein used to do, and played the landler with much nuance. After the first of two …