Ludwig van Beethoven never saw an airplane—he died 76 years before the Wright Brothers made their historic flight in 1903.
But at Pittsburgh International Airport last week, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performed two Beethoven symphonies in a free concert on the Ticketing Level in the Landside Terminal.
It was a first as well for PSO Music Director Manfred Honeck, who said it was his first airport show.
More than 100 guests attended the show along with airport staffers who enjoyed the live performance while they worked.
“Who would think you would actually hear a live symphony in an airport instead of it being piped in?” said Christine Divens of Hopewell, Pa. “Here, you’re closer to the performers.”
TSA agents peered through explosive detection areas while airline staff watched from behind ticketing counters. And passengers making their way through the airport stopped pulling their roller boards long enough to catch part of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6—known as the Pastoral—and Symphony No. 1.
“Great show, great venue,” said Mark Galimberti of Latrobe, Pa. “It’s large, but it’s still intimate. For example, we went up and talked to one of the bass players. Different things like that you don’t experience if you’re at Heinz Hall.”
The airport show was one of several community stops as part of the orchestra’s extensive “Beethoven In Your Neighborhood” program, an initiative welcomed by airport leadership as they continue to incorporate Pittsburgh’s arts throughout the terminals.
“This is the front door to the region for many people,” said airport CEO Christina Cassotis. “It’s also the place where people from the region maybe get to see things they don’t see every day. So for us, this is a wonderful opportunity, a great canvas to showcase all that the region has to offer.”
Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony, said the community tour had been planned for 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19 concerns.
“The whole purpose of this is to get the orchestra in unusual spaces, out of Heinz Hall, and into our community and really unique venues,” Tourangeau said. “And people just walking by, passengers coming home, and hearing the music, if they get a glimpse of it, if they get a taste of it and it brightens up their day, then we have done our job.”
The Pastoral, inspired by Beethoven’s walks in nature near Vienna, allowed Cassotis to open the show by describing the nature-inspired and environmentally friendly design and function of PIT’s new terminal, now under construction and scheduled to open in 2025.
Ludwig would have approved.