12 November 2011

Bruckner's Ninth Symphony with SPCM Completion of Finale on BPO Digital Concet Hall

John Berky's site has listed the live performances of the latest SPCM completion of the Finale of Bruckner 9 in the 2011- 2012 season.

What is surprising is Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rattle will perform this completed Finale in three consecutive concerts in February 2012 in Philharmonie, Berlin , and then on 24 February in Carnegie Hall, New York. An EMI CD release of the live performance is planned. Those of us who are less fortunate and unable to attend the concerts can have a virtual taste of it from the live streaming in the Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall on 9 February 2012 (the last of the 3 concerts in Berlin) at 19:00 GMT. Of course, it's not free of charge. Update: It is now known that this concert relay will be included in the Concert Archive for future viewing.

The timing is not the most convenient for viewers in the Far East: 3 am in Beijing/Hong Kong/Taiwan and 4 am in Japan. As it is a Thursday, most people will need to go to work in the following day.

03 November 2011

A review of Haitink's Bruckner Symphony No. 4 recordings

The new LSO Bruckner 4th: thrives with an inner glow and finishes with monumentality

14 and 16 Jun 2011

10-12 May 1965

21 Feb 1985

Bernard Haitink's commercial recordings of Bruckner Symphony No. 4 are marked with an interesting fact: the first and the latest recordings are separated by just 4 years short of half a century. He first recorded it when he was only 36 years old, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and then 20 years later, with the Vienna Philharmonic, and after a further 26 years, with the London Symphony Orchestra, a live recording with takes from the concerts on 14 and 16 June 2011, at the ripe age of 81. To say that not many Brucknerians will have recordings of the same symphony separated by so long is an understatement. Karajan's first and last Bruckner 8th are just 45 years apart (1944 and 1989).

                              1965 RCO                    1985 VPO                     2010 LSO
1st mov't                   18'18"                          20'39"                          20'35"
Andante                    15'55"                         15'27"                          15'07"
Scherzo                      9'46"                          10'37"                          11'11"
Finale                        19'49"                          21'46"                         22'11" (no applause)

It can be seen that apart from the second movement, Haitink has broadened his tempo over the years, and quite significantly. It is just part of the story, the way he moulds the symphony and the total effect also differ much.

Despite its age, the 1965 recording still sounds excellent, capturing the lovely sonority of the orchestra and the famous acoustics of the Concertgebouw. Haitink adopts a lively poise. I'm touched by the immediacy of the recording, and the directness of the reading coupled with Haitink's deft hands in ensuring a high degree of coherence produces very engaging music. Haitink is more passionate in his accents in the Andante compared to the later recording in Vienna. Very refreshing.

At the time of the release of Haitink's second B4 recording, I was full of expectation. I just wanted to see how this fine Brucknerian would sparkle with the Brucknerian orchestra. However well played the ensemble, beautiful the violins and lovely the legato, this reading lacks the engaging immediacy of the earlier one. This is not helped by the dim sound and the rather soft focus. It became laden with attempted dispassionateness.

The new recording is admirable in conquering the rather dry and boxy acoustic of the Barbican Centre for such a large-scale orchestral work. This is at once felt at the opening of the first movement when the masterly solo horn of David Pyatt is portrayed within a background of immense Brucknerian landscape. Haitink's magical moments of seamless transitions between themes are still there, or even more so. What establishes Haitink as one of the foremost Brucknerians is his sense of balance. Within this nicely balanced framework one can find the beauty of LSO's playing, ablooms with an incandescence from within, warming the listener as the music unfolds. The violas and cellos are simply gorgeous in the Andante, with a particularly mesmerising moment at the reprise of the viola theme (letter I). The Scherzo may not be as exciting as some would expect, especially when the opening is somewhat underwhelming, but I think it is appropriate to the overall introspective mood of the other three movements. The Finale is so different from the earlier two recordings, in that orchestral opulence and monumentality are the hallmarks here. Haitink shows us splendidly in this performance that the conception of the Finalsymphonie is not the sole privilege of the Fifth Symphony. It is a Fourth that is not about a young man's passion and excitement, but an old man's introspection and awe.

I'm happy to have this wonderful opportunity to see (or to be more exact, to listen to) the change in interpretive stance Haitink has adopted in his golden years.