Manfred Honeck, the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, is a Roman Catholic who prays before every concert, sometimes in the company of fellow musicians, tries to attend Mass daily, makes no secret of a desire to perform in the Vatican and had a private chapel built in his home in Austria.

Mr. Honeck, 51, known mostly in Europe before taking over in Pittsburgh last year, made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut on Feb. 9 with performances of Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Mahler’s First Symphony. In a lengthy interview the next day that ranged over his views on Mahler, an artist’s role in society and his family history, he spoke openly of his religious beliefs. Catholicism permeates his life, and has an influence on both how he programs and how he conceives of music.

“It’s a guide,” he said of his religious conviction. “I’m an instrument, to make music better, to make my profession more honest. It allows me to be very deep in my soul. Therefore, the music probably comes very deep from that area of my soul.”

At the same time Mr. Honeck stressed that he did not bring a religious interpretation to bear on music generally, or impose his beliefs on the players. “As music director, you’re the music director, not a spiritual leader,” he said.

Hmmm. Second conductor post today. Just that sort of day, I guess.

I recently was thinking about how my faith influences my playing. I don’t write about my beliefs here, but I’m sure readers notice that I put up Sunday morning and evening sacred music. Faith and music seem somehow connected to me. When I perform, I do try to focus on glorifying God, because of what I believe. But I’m rather quiet about my faith with my colleagues. I do appreciate Maestro Honeck’s openness about his faith.

Read the whole thing.

1 Comment


    I loved reading about Manfred Honeck. Finally a Catholic conductor in the music world who actually practises his faith! I have beenm the principal violist in the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, Portugal for almost 30 years now and I have to hide my Catholic faith alot at work. This article was heaven to read. How I wish Manfred would conduct us. My only reservation is that he doesn’t feel the need to defend the unborn openly. We must always defend the defenseless victims of abortion. Every Wed. between my double rehearsals I race downtown to pray the rosary in front of Lisbon’s first ‘Abortion Clinic’ and try to help any women I can to keep from killing their children. One day we saved 2 babies. But mostly it is just women entering and exiting with white gauze wrapped around their wrists and minus the baby in their womb. It is very depressing but I feel my faith calls me to do this. I studied in Vienna also like Manfred Honeck when I was 19 and went to Mass weekly at St. Stephen’s. Then I lost my faith in the secular world of music. Now after nearly 20 years away from it I am back in the one true church and it helps me through all the pressure of performing and dealing with conductors and colleagues. I hope one day we might meet, Maestro Honeck. I can show you Fatima and some beautiful Catholic sites here in Portugal.