Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 - Haitink
LSO Live LSO0716
Classical - Orchestral
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"
London Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink (conductor)
Bernard Haitink is internationally renowned for his interpretations of Bruckner and is widely recognised as the world’s leading Bruckner conductor.
Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony (‘Romantic’) conjures up visions of mediaeval knights, huntsmen and enchanted woodland, particularly through the prominent use of the horn in the work. One of his most popular pieces, it was treated to many revisions by the composer and this recording features the second version of the 1877/8 Nowak edition (published 1953) with the 1880 Finale.
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Recorded live on 14 and 16 June 2011 at the Barbican Hall, London, United Kingdom, DSD64
Recording, editing and mastering facilities: Classic Sound Ltd
Recording producer: James Mallinson
Sound engineer: Jonathan Stokes (Classic Sound Ltd)
Audio editors: Jonathan Stokes and Neil Hutchinson (Classic Sound Ltd)
Recording software: Merging Technologies Pyramix
Review by Graham Williams - November 16, 2011
At the age of 82 Bernard Haitink shows little signs of slowing down, and his performances with some of the world's greatest orchestras deservedly continue to be preserved on disc.
This splendid new recording of one of the two most popular Bruckner symphonies was taken from live performances at the Barbican Hall, London in June 2011.
This is, to the best of my knowledge, at least the third time that Haitink has enshrined his interpretation of this symphony on disc for commercial release. His first was made with the Concertgebouw Orchestra back in 1965 and issued on the Philips label. He subsequently recorded it again for the same label with the Wiener Philharmoniker in 1985. Those two earlier earlier performances used the Robert Haas edition of the score but, on this new 'LSO Live' SACD Haitink uses the second version of the 1877/88 Leopold Nowak edition (published 1953) with the 1880 Finale – an edition popular with many of the distinguished Bruckner specialists who have committed this symphony to disc. However, it is interesting to note that out of the fifteen recordings currently available on SACD a surprising number of conductors opt for the early 1874 version of the score.
The strengths and estimable virtues of Haitink's Bruckner interpretations are so well known that they need little rehearsal here. They include an unfailing grasp of the architecture of the symphonies, the ability to allow the music to unfold in a natural and unforced manner and complete faithfulness to both the spirit and letter of the score. All these qualities are in evidence on this new recording.
When, as here, Haitink is conducting a great orchestra that both admires and respects him the results are certainly worth hearing. From David Pyatt's noble opening horn solo to the blazing final bars of the symphony's Finale, the LSO play like angels for Haitink; at all times delivering a cultivated sound and attentive to the conductor's scrupulous care for dynamics. The delicacy of the soft strings (from 6' 25” in the first movement) is in stark contrast to the controlled build up to the magnificent brass dominated climax (from 8' 45”) and these are just two examples that illustrate the responsiveness of the LSO to Haitink's direction. The closing bars of this movement are delivered with some of the most thrilling playing by the LSO's full horn section that I have heard on any other recording of this symphony.
The slow movement, performed with Haitink's characteristic undemonstrative eloquence, moves with a spacious tread and is notable for the lovely playing of the LSO viola section and the grandeur of the movement's climax. The 'hunting' scherzo again shows the orchestra's formidable brass section to maximum advantage, while the folk-like 'trio' section provides welcome repose. It is when we reach the 'Finale' of this symphony that Haitink's vast experience conducting Bruckner for over half a century comes to the fore. This movement can seem episodic and uncoordinated in lesser hands, but here each section unfolds with a convincing inevitability thanks to Haitink's firm control of the music's pulse.
Whilst the often unforgiving Barbican acoustic will not please all listeners, it comes as something of a surprise that it accommodates Bruckner's monumental sound-world so well, and the recording quality on this disc is some of the best I have heard on LSO Live for quite some time. The close miking ensures both impact and clarity - no woolly or muffled timpani here - and provides a wide, if not especially deep, sound-stage. Haitink's antiphonal division of the violins pays the usual dividends and the reproduction of the bass end of the spectrum is deep and clean.
Altogether this is a most recommendable issue from arguably the greatest living Bruckner interpreter.
Copyright © 2011 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net
Published by Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag Wien (represented by Alko-Edition Kassel), edited by Leopold Nowak.