2009-03-18

The Dutchman, Still Flying High

Bernard Haitink celebrated his recent birthday with an enthusiastically received pair of concerts at the Barbican, conducting repertoire for which he has earned plaudits with the ensemble one still naturally associates with him. Geoffrey Norris has a review in the Telegraph (UK).

[Bruckner's] Ninth Symphony set the seal on this superb pair of concerts in which Bernard Haitink, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, conducted the orchestra of which he was in charge for more than a quarter of a century until the late Eighties, the Royal Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.

The reading of the Ninth was vintage Haitink: spacious, visionary, powerfully executed and wholly enveloping. As always, his gestures of hands and eyes were economical, but the instrumental detail was proportioned with masterly perception, and the breadth of symphonic argument was compelling.

The scherzo's austere incisiveness was allayed by the airy lightness of the trio; the adagio, with darkness intensified by a quartet of Wagner tubas, embodied a fusion of solemnity, radiance, torment and resignation that could scarcely have made for a more affecting envoi to Bruckner's creative career.


Concert repertoire also included works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Debussy. Murray Perahia performed as a soloist.

Erica Jeal makes this observation in the Guardian UK:

If proof were needed that the greatest orchestras have an identity of their own beyond that of the individual players, this pair of concerts by the Concertgebouw supplied it. Most of the players on stage will not have been in the orchestra in 1988, when Bernard Haitink completed his 25-year stint at the orchestra's helm. Yet Haitink, 80 this month, has only to raise his baton to renew the connection.

Perhaps that is partly because the Concertgebouw's distinctive, plushly expansive sound has precision at its heart - and if there's a word that sums up Haitink's conducting, it's precise.

. . . .

The personnel may be different, but the Concertgebouw is still Haitink's orchestra.


The complete reviews may be read at the Telegraph and Guardian web sites.

More stories about Bernard Haitink, with links, will be found in these blog entries.


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Conductor's Notebook

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