Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic are the musical tributaries from which all my subsequent Bruckner 4ths have flowed. Bohm’s vision is a perfect blend of energy, momentum, grandeur, tenderness, and the granitic chordal blocks that Bruckner requires. And the Vienna Philharmonic is his mountain. All this wrapped up in the most divine, audiophile approved Decca recording.
This new recording from the LSO’s LIVE label can’t quite match the Decca’s exalted level, but for a live recording, it holds its own. Good enough to hear the LSO in resplendent form with the leading maestro of the day, Bernard Haitink. Yes, leading (with apologies to the two great Italians). The man flits from the Berlin Phil, Vienna Phil, Chicago Symphony and LSO like a teenager. Throw in Dresden, too. He has the pick of the litter. I saw him in Chicago a couple of years ago. He’s slow of gait, but as soon as he steps on the podium, something descends and inhabits him — he’s sprightly, focused, and is followed by his adoring orchestras with the utmost precision. Haitink concerts are events.
By all accounts, the concerts from which this Bruckner 4th is taken, were such events. Audiophilia writer James Norris attended in London. He said the concert was mesmerizing.
Haitink has been a leading exponent of Bruckner since his early days at the Concertgebouw. He knows the works backwards, but always manages to get the gestalt of Bruckner — the smoothness, the silences, the sheer volume in tuttis, but also the balance of those tuttis.
Here is much of the same, executed by the LSO at the top of its game. Whether the perfect horn call opening by David Pyatt, the flawlessly blended brass in the first movement’s fanfares, silky woodwinds in their block counterpoints, and unison strings in their heavenly accompaniments to massive brass, this LSO is filled to the brim with virtuoso orchestral musicians. And, they never sound better than when conducted by Haitink.
You can never have too many great Bruckner 4ths. This new CD will be a lovely addition to the two past greats — the aforementioned Bohm and Klemperer’s classic with the Philharmonia on EMI. Very highly recommended.
Bruckner: Symphony No.4
1. Beweft, nicht zu schnell 20:33
2. Andante quasi Allegretto 15:07
3. Scherzo. Bewegt - Trio: Nicht zu schnell. Keinesfalls schleppend 11:11
4. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell 22:17
London Symphony Orchestra
14 and 16 June 2011 (live recording)