PSO to perform free concert at Rodef Shalom

PSO to perform free concert at Rodef Shalom

Music Director Manfred Honeck will lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a free — and possibly unprecedented — “Music for the Spirit” concert, Wednesday, May 16, 7:30 p.m., in the main sanctuary of Rodef Shalom Congregation.

The performance may be a first for Jewish Pittsburgh. While small ensembles of PSO musicians have appeared at Jewish venues in the past, this time the main symphony will appear under the direction of its music director.

It will certainly be the first time the PSO has performed at Rodef Shalom, Executive Director Jeffrey Herzog, said.

Mary Brignano (who, together with Hax McCullough, co-authored “Play On: An Illustrated History of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra,”) said she did extensive research into the history of the PSO, which included the online archives of the Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project, and did not come across any references to the symphony as whole playing at a synagogue.

“That would have been something they [the Pittsburgh Jewish press] would have written about,” Brignano said.

She did say that Pittsburgh Jewish leaders, including Bertha Rauh and Edward Specter, were instrumental in resurrecting the symphony in 1926. It had disbanded in 1910 for financial reasons.

“It’s clear they were instigators in getting it going again,” Brignano said.

After that, the PSO was notable for the number of Jewish music directors who led it over the years — Elias Breeskin, Fritz Reiner, Otto Klemperer, William Steinberg, Andre Previn and Lorin Maazel.

This “Music for the Spirit” concert is part of an annual program of concerts that celebrate the spiritual and universal message of music.

Each season, the PSO plans two performances with spiritual roots. One concert is at Heinz Hall as part of the BNY Mellon Grand Classics subscription weekends. The second concert is in the community and rotates venues, bringing the PSO to churches, synagogues, mosques and community centers.

Last season, the PSO played at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.

This year, the program will include works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Ravel and Bloch.

The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, under the direction of Betsy Burleigh, will also perform, as will PSO Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley, Principal Cello Anne Martindale Williams, Principal Viola Randolph Kelly, and Principal Clarinet Michael Rusinek as soloists.

Want to go?

General admission tickets are free to the public, but are limited to four per household. Call the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 to reserve them.

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at

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