I just walked by Heinz Hall in the lunch break between Manfred Honeck's first two rehearsals as music director and the musicians I talked to were beaming about him -- and this on a day that the serious and sober subject their contract will be the focus (they will hear about the tentative agreement today).
One musician was very impressed with his knowledge of the Mahler One that they started rehearsing today (even though the gala fundraiser comes first this Friday, with the Mahler concert happening next week) and others were again impressed with his ability to communicate and have a system of going through a piece without making it seem like something ponderous was happening.
Oh, and the PSO gave Honeck a big cake at the morning rehearsal for his 50th birthday. That's one way to get past that mark -- be so busy with a new endeavor you hardly have time to fit a celebration in.
Update 9/18/08: I promise not to track Honeck's rehearal schedule each week, but I found out that they rehearsed Mahler all day yesterday -- two full rehearsals. With the gala on the sked -- and even though it is a lightweight show and there are still rehearsals left for that -- it is still gutsy on Honeck's part to lead off with the Mahler a week ahead of time. It shows that he hold music qua music as the goal, above all else. That is what the PSO needs and we as patons deserve.