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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

on 27 March 2014
I was fortunate to be in The Barbican the night this performance was recorded. My favourite composer and conductor together what could be better. Full of experienced insight which gives us a wonderful performance. Good recording. Buy it even if like me you have dozens of others.
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on 28 March 2018
Well done
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on 20 March 2014
There can be no doubt, at least in my mind, that Bernard Haitink is the foremost Bruckner interpreter of our time and what we have in this 2013 recording is the distillation of a lifetime's experience and wisdom. One must assume that this will be Haitink's last word on a symphony he clearly loves as I can't see the likelihood of another recording in the future.

The first thing to say about this new recording is that it is slow, extremely slow and almost Klemperer like in it's being hewn from granite. I was present at the first of the two performances from which this disc is taken (Feb 17 2013) but at no time while I was in the Barbican was I conscious of just how slow. Despite the expansive timing the performance never hangs fire and that it doesn't is a tribute to Haitink's skill in giving us his vision of the work and guiding the LSO to join him in it.

Two caveats come to mind: the dreaded Barbican acoustic often cruel to recordings but not something that bothers me in the hall and it may concern others more than it concerns me; and the fact that this is the London Symphony Orchestra. The LSO could not be described as a Bruckner orchestra in the same breath as the burnished gold and brown of the Concertgebouw, the VPO or BPO who play Bruckner as to the manner born. One has to presume that Haitink wanted his final word on this work to be with them and not, say, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with whom he recorded the Bruckner 5th. Again, this may or may not matter to potential purchasers but it is one thing that makes me regret that Haitink didn't turn elsewhere.

In the concert hall, this was an overwhelming experience when such caveats as I mention don't matter. It's overwhelming on CD too in it's own way but it is most certainly not a Bruckner 9 to play every day of the week. I first heard Haitink in this symphony at a 1983 Prom with the Concertgebouw, a shattering performance that I wish was available on CD (one lives in hope) and have heard him live in it several times since. My advice would be to buy it at the modest asking price and hear for yourself!
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on 11 August 2014
Well this is rather fantastic. My first dip into Bruckner and I'm thrilled. What wonderful music. Dark and foreboding. Serious and weighty. Its everything I'm not and yet I could listen to this on a loop until I look like Emperor Palpatine.
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on 12 February 2015
no comments
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on 24 February 2014
I attended one of the concert performances that preceded this live recording in the Barbican and came away feeling waves of disappointment and frustration. Just two seasons previously Haitink had performed the same work with the Concertgebouw, also in the Barbican, and the richness of that orchestra's palette, combined with their long working relationship. gave that performance a special authority. However, there is a real danger in just admiring the architecture of Bruckner 9 from without and not filling it with life from within. Listen to any of the great performers of this composer from the past, including Jochum and Furtwangler, and you will realise that there is more to Bruckner than solid slabs of granite and marble.
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on 14 February 2014
Bernard Haitink has a musical temperament that is easygoing and fairly relaxed, qualities that at a quick glance could seem detrimental in Bruckner. But his patience and ability to gently master long lines has enabled him to produce some great Bruckner recordings. He's been a bit variable, as it tends to go with older conductors, so one never knows when he will be inspired.

A quick listen to this new 9th on the LSO Live label reveals Haitink's ability to expertly voice and balance the orchestral sound. This is transparent Bruckner, far removed from the overwhelming sheen of sound produced by Karajan. Some audiophiles have found the sound from the LSO Live to be bad overall, but I find it to be clear and natural, if not aiming for extra impact. I have no problem praising the orchestral sound, even if it falls rather short of the impact of Rattle and the Berliners on EMI, a reading that is virtuosic enough to be enjoyed on that merit alone. All the same, Haitink's greatest gift is in the quiet passages, where he achieves a kind of religious hush.

But the drawback to this recording is that Haitink simply sounds a bit tired. I can admire his skill in careful phrasing, but ultimately this reading is underwhelming and rather staid. It's hard for an interpreter to be moving enough while being emotionally subdued. Haitink chooses slow tempos all throughout the symphony, which adds to a feeling of lethargy. It's a gift of Haitink's to be able to progress through the symphony while sustaining a definite control, but he never builds the intensity. I wish for fervency to truly ignite this symphony, make it the kind of wrenchingly emotional experience it is under a master like Karajan, or Harnoncourt in the modern era. As it is, Haitink strikes me as simply admiring the cathedral, wallowing in sound that truly is captivating, all while missing the potential for passion and even catharsis.

Haitink is best when the music is gentle and elegiac, in keeping with his temperament, which means that he is at his best in portions of the Adagio, and at his worst in the Scherzo, which feels heavy and buttoned-up. I'll confess I was disappointed by this reading, which would be a complete pass if it wasn't for the gorgeousness of the sound. In recognition of the playing and voicing, I'm adding half a star as a compromise
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on 10 February 2014
Collectors of long standing may harbor a sense that Haitink's Bruckner is too plain, as evidenced by the symphony cycle he made decades ago with the royal concertgebouw. But since then he has grown, and the concert recordings over the past decade, either from Dresden or Amsterdam, have been magisterial. Age has made his energy level variable, however, and I felt that the Bruckner Fourth that preceded this Ninth on LSO Live was underwhelming. There is a special bond between him and the orchestra, so I had higher hopes for the new release.

It begins a bit staid and slack, I'm sorry to say, and one has to adjust, as the first movement unfolds, to Haitink's measured pace, which leaves room for loving phrases and the building of beautiful sounds rather than dramatic tension or momentum. It's no great fault if Bruckner seems to stand still in time (Celibidache made it his mission to prove that), and Giulini was revered for his similar Ninth from Vienna on DG. At an overall timing of 27:31, be prepared for stateliness. The Scherzo is paced a fraction slow, but that's not as significant as a certain rhythmic dullness that seems to continue the slog of the first movement. Only in the finale does the rapport between the musicians and a beloved maestro make a real impression as each phrase is caressed. stasis here feels like transcendence.

Throughout the recorded sound is fine - I've never been a complainer about the sonics that LSO Live achieves in the Barbican - and its clarity reveals many beautiful details. Overall, however, I found Haitink to be underwhelming once again, which is bad luck for the orchestra. It will hardly be credited in some circles, but I recall a broadcast Bruckner Ninth under Gergiev that was far better than this one.
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