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on 1 December 2009
I used to love Ashkenazy and Solti's incredibly violent and ragged performance of Alpine Symphony and listened to the recordings over and over again, but as I grow older, I've come to appreciate more of this monumental performance by Haitink, alongside Karajan's sublime digital version. Like Karajan's, Haitink's interpretation is free from vulgar exaggeration or too much dramatization, yet deeply captivating and awe inspiring from the very atmospheric opening, through the wonderfully vivid characterization of the birdsongs, the gloriously vibrant 'Auf dem Gipfel' and 'Vision', the immensely powerful 'Sturm' (listen to the very realistic renditon of the wind!), to the sublime serenity of the ending two movements. As an experienced Mahlerian, Haitink has his firm grip on every detail and the overall architecture of the symphony, and he never loses sight of the transcendent vision of the music. To me, this performance seems to capture the high altitude harshness of Alpine nature better than other more dramatic versions. Concertgebouw sound is gloriously rich and focussed in this digital recording.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 28 December 2013
Distinguished veteran conductor Bernard Haitink is renowned for his long-standing relationship with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and their large discography - only when I stopped to think how many of his recordings I had in my ever-expanding collection of thousands of CDs, I was forced to acknowledge that they number a mere handful: "Das Lied von der Erde" with Janet Baker; "Don Carlo", "Daphne", the Beethoven Violin Concertos with Krebbers and....well, I might have missed one or two but that's about it; not much considering his status and reputation.

Why? Because he has not been especially wise or fortunate in his choice of recordings and recording partners perhaps, but mainly because a lot of the time he is dull, dull, dull.

But this one bucks the trend; goodness alone knows why or how. Haitink has the reputation of being somewhat "correct" and at times too subtle for his own good -or the good of those of us who have more plebeian tastes. However, this recording has long received praise and as I bought this CD for one penny plus postage and packing, from that perspective it's the bargain of the century - and still available at knock-down prices to anyone interested in acquiring an example of Haitink in more released mode directing one of the world's most polished and virtuosic orchestras.

Having said that, all things are relative and in comparison with the latest digital blockbusters such as the recordings by Frank Shipway with the Sao Paolo Symphony or Thielemann with the VPO, both of whom take the more overt approach to this music and go for broke, both the sound and the interpretation here are a little less impressive: the early digital recording is clean and crisp but a little glassy, without the depth and impact of those two later discs and the performance, while exquisitely shaded and beautifully judged, does not reach transcendence in the manner of Karajan; I found myself admiring the playing rather than being swept along by it.

Nonetheless, few will be disappointed by it unless they are already acquainted with the versions by Karajan, Shipway or Thielemann - in which case, they need hardly add this excellent, but ultimately superseded, version to their collections.
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on 1 December 2009
My impression of this performance is completely opposite to the reviewer. I haven't found anything perfunctory or lacking in elan in Haitink's towering and imaginative reading. On the contrary, the inward-looking element and the taut discipline of the performance adds more profundity to the symphony as a whole. Haitink is not interested in painting dramatic pictures only, but in communicating the inner spirit which lies underneath the Alpine landscapes. I've climbed many moutains in Austria and Switzerland, and I'm very familiar with the eerie atmosphere, the sudden change of weather, the violent earth-shattering thunders, and the awe-inspiring view from the summits in Alps. Haitink masterfully captures them all with his careful attention to detail, deeper insight and inspiration. The sumptuous Royal Concertgebouw sound is beautifully recorded with perspective and wide dynamic range.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 February 2014
This is one of my favourite works; hence recordings in my collection by Bohm and Kempe in Dresden, Solti, Barenboim, Karajan and Haitink. All have considerable merit. To be honest, I'm unavoidably torn between Kempe, Karajan and Haitink and cannot make an absolute first choice as I need all three.

However, I am with those reviewers singing the praises of this disc. As a digital alternative just a few years before the Haitink came along, Karajan's ascent remains daring, epic, visionary and excitingly recorded but nowhere near so naturally and richly recorded as Haitink, which I find clearly has the best sound of the alternatives I mention. Not only is the sound engineering special but so is Haitink's masterful interpretation of this score. I can easily understand why this would be a first choice for many people in this work.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 September 2008
Recorded in 1985, the ever-dependable Bernard Haitink gives us his interpretation of Strauss's majestic climb to the Alpine summit. I love this piece and feel that I know it virtually inside out. Like the tolling of the midnight bell in Strauss's `Also Sprach Zarathustra', there are certain points which act as benchmarks in assessing the success of an interpretation. For his Alpensinfonie, one of the benchmarks is in the very first bars: if the hairs on the back of the neck do not rise at the very opening of the piece with its profound depiction of the blackest night before the dawn, then I know there may be trouble ahead. Alas, Haitink disappoints here.

The sound is nevertheless crisp, perhaps too crisp. There are rough edges, for example when arriving onto the glacier, but then maybe the edges here should be rough! All the right notes are played - and in the right order - and it is a very disciplined performance. But I cannot help remarking how inward-looking the sound feels, and the playing lacks a certain bravado. Haitink may climb to the top and back down again, but there is no élan. The `vision' sequence is anything but visionary; rather, it is perfunctory although this section's fortissimo ending certainly induces terror. One lesson learned from this interpretation is how much of a role the organ plays, frequently appearing where I had not heard it so prominently before.

Each of the stages in the journey is marked on the CD so that instant reference can be made to any particular section.

So, there is little warmth in this journey. To those who contend that there is little warmth on top of mountains, the journey is as much an internal one as external. This is a good performance, but others do it better. At the end of the day, I did not feel that I had ventured very far.
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on 4 January 2016
I like Strauss and I love this version
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on 9 April 2015
Sort and sweet review.
Get this, it's wonderful. It's this or Blomstedt/San Francisco/Decca
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