The Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck took over the leadership of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2008, and helped lift that ensemble out of a difficult transitional period. His tenure has been fruitful, and the orchestra has extended his contract until 2020. Beyond Pittsburgh, however, Honeck has largely built his conducting career in Europe and has only in recent seasons started making the rounds to major North American orchestras as a guest conductor. His BSO subscription debut took place in 2005 but he has not been back since then.
For his return on Thursday night Honeck was apparently not aiming for novelty, anchoring his program with Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, but seemed intent on presenting familiar music with a clarity of vision that would make it speak freshly. If so, he largely achieved his goals in what was a thoughtfully conceived and convincingly personalized take on this most popular of symphonies.