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Bruckner: Symphony No.9 Hybrid SACD - DSD

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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, February 11, 2014
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Editorial Reviews

Bernard Haitink is internationally renowned for his interpretations of Bruckner and is widely recognized as the world's leading Bruckner conductor. Bruckner's symphonies are often described as 'Gothic cathedrals in sound,' an apt description considering the composer's devout faith and early vocation as an organist. He died before he could finish his Symphony No.9 but within its three movements can be found some of his most complete music, imbued with a sense of deep solace and resolution.

Product Details

  • Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Bernard Haitink
  • Composer: Anton Brucker
  • Audio CD (February 11, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: Lso Live
  • ASIN: B00H4M63NK
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,519 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles F. O'Connell on February 11, 2014
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
Bernard Haitink's recording of Bruckner's 9th with the Concertgebouw has long been among my favorite recordings. Haitink is second to none in maintaining the structure of great symphonies. Few conductors make so clear the contribution of the orchestra's choirs to the overall effect. This new LSO venture equals, and may surpass, the earlier ninth. Particularly moving was the sweetness of the elegiac third movement. Transcendent. A great conductor, at his finest.
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Format: Audio CD
Well, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but it did make you look! As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Haitink's scherzo could use a slightly faster tempo - no mistake about that. But you'd also be hard pressed to come up many more Adagios better than this one. Let's just stand back for a moment, and relish what an incredibly great symphony this is. As much as I'm a big proponent of the music of Gustav Mahler, I really like Bruckner's 9th more than Mahler 9 (fighting words for most Mahler enthusiasts). I think what may give the impression of this being a less intense performance than, say, Giulini/Vienna Phil., is that LSO timpanist doesn't pound away nonstop, nor produce rolls the size of a big bass drum. His is definitely a more 'dignified' way of handling the kettle drum part.

What helps Haitink in this case - along with his usual steady concentration (too steady in many cases) - is the incredibly good sound that LSO Live has come up with. It's also interesting to hear that London's top orchestras are finally producing a more idiomatic sound for Bruckner than in previous decades. If you told me that this was an orchestra from Hamburg, Baden-Baden, Bamberg or some such place, I'd believe you. So while Haitink doesn't make me want to throw out my favorites such as Klemperer, Mehta/Vienna Phil. (for the incredibly loud horns), Jochum, Gunter Wand, Giulini/CSO (sorry, but I like that one more than his Vienna remake), etc., one could do a lot worse than to end up with Haitink's staid but highly concentrated version. Among recent vintage, I really like the Fabio Luisi one (RCA) for the gorgeous playing of the Dresden Staatskapelle, along with the incredible climax Luisi builds up near the end of the Adagio. But I could easily live with Haitink's last and - hopefully - final statement on Bruckner 9.
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Format: Audio CD
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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Format: Audio CD
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.
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