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Bruckner in the Living-Room
, 23 July 2013
This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (LSO / Haitink) (Audio CD)
Having been impressed by Haitink's recent surveys of Bruckner's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies with various German orchestras, it was time to chance my arm one more time by listening to his live performance of the Fourth with the London Symphony Orchestra. In doing so, I was deeply conscious that his expositions from 1965 and two decades later are well played, conscientious and dull as dishwater.
Bruckner's Fourth, above all, seeks to strip away the detritus of modernity, thereby reverting mankind to a realm where we - like our ancestors - are liegemen to signs, portents and totemic powers, be they benevolent or otherwise. If you have ever been out in the forest by yourself - yes, completely and utterly by yourself - roofed by constellations at night, bereft of mobile-coverage and coffee machines alike and surrounded by any number of critters that can send you to Boot Hill, this dynamic will be familiar to you. Goodbye lip-gloss and heated car-seats - hello Otherness. Your frequent-flyer points: you won't need them.
Yet again Haitink fails signally to evoke any genuine terror and awe from this miraculous symphony. Not once was I transported back to Megalithic times where stone rings were raised to propitiate powers-that-be and gods illuminated all phenomena. Karajan and Celibidache made four recordings of the Fourth between them and each of them evokes 1 Million BC (alas, without the young Raquel Welch in train). Haitink is no hierophant: here is exhibit number three. Nor is his cause served by a run-of-the-mill recording and an orchestra which is highly competent and no more.
If you are seeking a thoughtful and polished Bruckner Fourth, your journey ends here. Settle into your arm-chair. Open a red. There are worse ways to while away an hour. Or alternatively, stride into the forest. Something old and new awaits you.
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