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CD Review

Anton Bruckner

  • Symphony #4 "Romantic"
  • Symphony #5 in B Flat Major
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
Philips 470537-2 2CDs 146m DDD
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This is a straight reissue from Haitink's excellent Bruckner remake cycle recorded in the 80's. At times, I was wont to think that the sound does let down the production somewhat, especially in the Fifth, but these are craggy, architectural performances that reveal Haitink's overall structural control in this composer's music. The 'Romantic' is beautifully judged with an irresistible opening sweep comparable to the more famous likes of Bohm, Solti or the underrated Macal (my first encounter with this magnificent work on a CFP tape many years ago). I also enjoyed Haitink's no-holds barred Scherzo which took me to the realms of Viennese hunting (!) and his magnificent Finale which holds just the right amount of corporate energy on hold only to explode in an exuberant Coda that is one of the finest I've ever heard (excluding the sensational Matacic or Konwitschny).

In the Fifth, the Cinderella of symphonies, Haitink demonstrates his true mettle all round. The work receives a sober, architecturally constructed performance that bristles with pent-up emotion. I was weaned on Hans Knappertsbusch's highly idiosyncratic (and heavily cut) VPO version from 1955 and still enjoy the wild abandon that this man brought to such an underrated work. However Haitink is also very conscious of the hidden qualities which permeate the work, especially in the titanic contrapuntal-fugal Finale that fades so tragically in Klemperer's otherwise disciplined hands (NPO/1968/EMI). The coda is deeply emotional here with the VPO blasting away at their heart's content and making us all shiver in the process. A really fine coupling of these two great works.

Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech