Manfred Honeck – the new Carlos Kleiber?

The first time I heard Manfred Honeck conduct was some years ago … as I recall it was an insubstantial piece but straightaway I detected the hand of someone who knows has to mould  and shape a phrase, keep rhythms firm, textures transparent … do all the thing that say, Abbado, knew how to do yet with an added quota of individuality. Then I heard his Pittsburgh Mahler 4 and was literally blown away – the impact of the ‘Gates of Heaven’ episode in the slow movement quite simply upstages any other available version.

Please do try and catch a whole range of Honeck’s recordings from next Monday (23rd November) on BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classics (from 9 am on weekdays), mostly from Pittsburgh. These include  Bruckner 4, Death and Transfiguration (and music by Johann Strauss), Beethoven 7, the 34-minute first movement of Mahler 3 (no time for the whole work I’m afraid), the Jenufa Suite and the Benedictus from from Braunfels’ wonderful Grosse Messe. These are truly exceptional recordings and I’d love your to read reactions. How wonderful to be able to rave about a conductor who is alive and vigorously beating time rather than resting peaceably in the vaults!

Incidentally Honeck is conducting the LSO at the Barbican in London on 19th November – the New World, Ravel’s G major Concerto (with Helene Grimaud) and … the Jenufa Suite. I don’t think I can make it but if you can please report back.





10 thoughts on “Manfred Honeck – the new Carlos Kleiber?

  1. petercobrin

    Thanks for the update Rob.

    On a separate conductor issue, we were at Skrowaczewski’s Bruckner 5 a few weeks ago, and very fine it was. But the critics were totally absent – and yet they turn up in the droves for younger mediocrities. Any thoughts on this?

    Best wishes


    PS I hope your shed is water-tight!!


    1. Depressing Peter. Anyone who misses out on ‘Stan the Man’ truly is missing out! Wish I could have made it myself. But rest assured they’ll regret it in years to come when the mediocrities are still treading middle ground and SS is no longer with us. The shed seems to be holding up, thank God!

      Best. Rob.


  2. Barney

    Dear Rob,

    Thank you so much for introducing me to Honeck’s recordings. I listened to his Bruckner 4 today and ( despite being more a Mahler man myself) I was hooked by the fresh, unpompous approach and stunning climaxes. I wouldn’t say he’s the new Carlos (I don’t hear that neurotic, hyper tense excitement CK brought to things) but he is not dull. I think there’s am element of Tennstedt in his music making.
    Will have to investigate him further. Another underrated German conductor, especially in Mahler, is Hans Zender (aged 79). By all accounts Kirill Petrenko is another interesting talent that the PR heavy music world has ignored, although that’ll change with the BPO appointment.
    Anyway, thanks for playing Honeck’s stuff this week. I’m in.

    PS I believe the Kleiber Mikado story is true. I’ve heard it from 2 sources including a long standing ENO baritone. Kleiber was always good friends with Peter Jonas who ran ENO when Miller’s Mikado was new and would have seen it. It is no different to him doing Fledermaus so well. The story I heard was that he was seriously interested but a consortium couldn’tbe raised to pay for his fee or extensive rehearsal time. The usual problem with Kleiber…


  3. Dear Rob,
    The Honeck Beethoven 7 was stunning on today’s Essential Classics. Light, purposeful yet graceful (lots of period nods despite the warm modern instruments) and an unbelievable finale. I genuinely preferred it to C Kleiber’s DG one although my favourite 7th is still C Kleiber’s live one on Orfeo with Bavarian Radio.

    I like the amount of Braunfels being played on R3 too.

    Thanks for introducing Honeck to me. A real interpreter.



    1. Thanks so much Barney. Such rich ingredients with MH though he still manages to hold the tension – both visceral and harmonic. Hope he does more Beethoven (I’d love to hear him in 2, 4 and 6 especially). He’s scheduled to conduct the Tchaikovsky ‘last three’ lie so let’s hope they turn up too in due course. Best. R.


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