Day 37: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (Haitink)

brucknerhaitinkcd3This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3 in D Minor (WAB 103), nicknamed “Wagner,” is Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink (1929-). The orchestra is Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

I encountered Mr. Haitink twice before: On Day 5 and on Day 21. In both cases, I was pleasantly surprised (to say the least).

On Day 5, I wrote:

In fact, this is my favorite so far. I thought Barenboim and Schaller (especially the latter) would be the conductors to beat. But Haitink’s interpretation just leaped ahead of them.

On Day 21, I wrote:

Another spectacular performance by Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink!

brucknerhaitinkboxI wasn’t as enamored with Haitink’s interpretation of Symphony No. 2 in C Minor as I was with his interpretation of Bruckner’s First Symphony. But, still, I was very pleased with it.

So I’m looking forward to listening to today’s recording.

As always, when look over the liner notes (or lack thereof) and get a feel for which version was used, which year of which version, which editor (Haas? Nowak? Carragan?) of which version, I am confused – at best. That’s when it hits me that I’m not really comparing apples to apples in my 144-day project. Close. But not really. A true apples-to-apples comparison would be every conductor and orchestra playing the same version, ideally recorded the same way in the same year so that no differences would arise because of the recording quality.

And yet, that’s not really what I’m after here. I’m not try to make a scientific comparison. I’m comparing extant box sets to see which ones I like better, which I’d consider definitive, “best,” etc. So the differences are part of the comparison.

Nevertheless, I’ve found this version thing a little vexing – a problem that has vexed many over the decades.

From the liner notes written by Jorg Peter Urbach:

What do we mean by “version”?
Which brings us to the central problem in Bruckner’s symphonic output – the versions, the fact that creatures of his heart and mind can exist in several guises, which, though they may not always be complete are nevertheless formally self-contained. What do we really mean by “version”? One may attempt the conversion of an idea into concepts, words, sentences, shapes, forms. Particularly in Bruckner’s case, any such conversion, the attempt to set down a version, can very easily lead to perplexity. In other words, the version problem is no diversion. More than in any other area, Bruckner scholars are faced with mountains of strongly defined opinions, which seem quite impossible to surmount.

It’s time to dive into the nuts and bolts of this morning’s recording:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, composed in 1873
The version Haitink used is the 1877 “1st version”
Bernard Haitink conducts
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra plays
The symphony clocks in at 55:54
This was recorded in October of 1963 in Amsterdam
Haitink was 34 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 49 when he composed it
This recording was released on the Philips label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, 1877 1st version), from this particular conductor (Haitink) and this particular orchestra (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) is as follows:

Moderato (Mehr langsam, misterioso, officially)………………………….19:20
Adagio (Bewegt, quasi Andante, officially)…………………………………….14:42
Scherzo…………………………………………………………………………………………….6:58
Finale………………………………………………………………………………………………15:34

Total: 55:54

Okay. Now for the more subjective stuff…

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (moderate to heavy tape hiss)
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 4 (short essay on Bruckner’s symphonies, translated into English, French, and German)
How does this make me feel: 4

Once again, Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra deliver the goods. Aside from some noticeable tape hiss (the recording is 53 years old, after all!), this is a very bright, expansive, well-recorded performance of Symphony No. 3 in D Minor.

I don’t know of many other 53-year-old recordings with this much presence and vibrancy.

My hat’s off to the engineers and recording gurus for this material.

Again, two thumbs up for Haitink’s performance.

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