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Haitink's New Bruckner Five Is Sublime,
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony 5 (Audio CD)There is no applause to mar the end of this transporting performance of Bruckner Five; one must assume the final bars are from a studio take, or that the audience were uniformly transfigured. I expect you will be too.
Haitink, despite being eminent and high profile, has never been about glamour (neither has Bruckner) and anyone taken in by Abbado's frankly overrated and cock-eyed performances last year really needs to hear this concert from the world's foremost Bruckner conductor. This is his third Fifth, the others (Amsterdam, Vienna) generally nla. The second movement has gotten quicker over the years, which might disappoint some, but what fascinates here is the new perception that it is the the long outer movements that are in fact the slow ones, the middle movements the ones that dance and leap. Kind of like Mahler's Ninth, there is a reversal of expectation, but Bruckner's more cunning for being in a sense also mislabelled. Remember Robert Simpson's comments about the adagio mood of No.4? The scherzo, oft in danger of becoming a pounding bore, has always been a Haitink specialty and here, as in the earlier movements, I was gratified by the balance and transparency of the playing and the BR recording from Philharmonie. It should be said that there are remarkably eloquent solo and sectional contributions throughout (e.g. the principal oboe) but ample weight and power in the tuttis.
What is perceptible above Haitink's previous recordings is the sense of organic rather than architectural growth in the symphony's conception in performance as a whole. More majestic oak rather than cathedral stonework. This is uniquely satisfying in the finale which has a wondrous inevitability in its unforced but by no means stately progression towards a summarising chorale that I swear has never sounded so beautiful as it does here. Haitink's sovereign and staggeringly disciplined control of the music put me in mind of Sibelius and a glorious concert in Berlin conducted by Rattle. (It's a shame the Dutchman has never recorded any of the Finnish master's music.) Whereas a more theatrical arrival at the peroration is affected by Jochum, slowing down dramatically for those majestic brass incursions, Haitink and the BRSO simply glide straight into it, exquisite contributions from the strings not swamped by the brass and timps. The effect is one of the purest radiance and left me gasping for breath. Even if you already have his similar VPO recording you really need to hear this one for this crowning touch. Only the very last bars are a tad undercharacterised.
To sum up, this is a uniquely persuasive and most beautiful interpretation which complements the more high voltage Concertgebouw recording and deserves to take its place alongside Jochum (Tahra) Furtwangler (Testament) and Celibidache (DG) in the Bruckner pantheon.