Day 53: Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (Haitink)

haitinkcd4First of all, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all who celebrate this North American holiday.

This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104), titled “Romantic” by Bruckner himself, is Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink (1929-). The orchestra is Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

I encountered Bernard Haitink thrice before in my 144-day project. I’ll encounter him thrice that many times again before I’m finished. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

brucknerhaitinkboxMost recently, I heard Mr. Haitink on Day 37. Prior to that, it was on Day 21. The first time I encountered Maestro Haitink was on Day 5. Each time, I was pleasantly surprised, and gave his performance a solid, above-average “4” every time.

I wonder if this one will follow suit?

Ahh, but that’s getting ahead of myself. Again.

First, here are the nuts and bolts:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major composed in 1874
Bernard Haitink conducts
Haitink used the 1878 version with the 1880 Finale, Robert Haas edition
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra plays
The symphony clocks in at…hmmm. The CD booklet doesn’t list the time. Neither does the CD. I’ll have to cipher it for myself. Got it. Approximately 63:04.
This was recorded in Amsterdam in May of 1965
Haitink was 36 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 50 when he composed it
This recording was released on the Decca/Universal International Music label

Of the 1878/1880 version, its entry on Wikipedia tells us this:

1880 version (aka 1878/1880)
After the lapse of almost a year (during which he composed his String Quintet in F Major), Bruckner took up his Fourth Symphony once again. Between 19 November 1879 and 5 June 1880 he composed a new finale – the third, though it shares much of its thematic material with the first version – and discarded the Volksfest finale. Thus the 1880 version is the same as the 1878 version but with a new finale. This was the version performed at the work’s premiere on 20 February 1881, which was the first premiere of a Bruckner symphony not to be conducted by Bruckner himself. This version is sometimes referred to as the 1878/80 version.

From the liner notes:

This recording of Symphonies Nos. 1-9 was based on the edition prepared by Robert Haas for the old Gesamtausgabe.

NOTE: Gesamtausgabe means “collected works.”

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major, 1878/1880 version), from this particular conductor (Haitink) and this particular orchestra (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) is as follows:

I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell (With motion, not too fast) (E-flat major)…………..18:18
II. Andante, quasi allegretto (C minor)…………………………………………………………..15:51
III. Scherzo. Bewegt (With motion) – Trio: Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast) (B-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………9:46
IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast) (E-flat major)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………19:49

Total running time: 63:04

Okay. Now for the subjective stuff…

My Rating:
Recording quality: 3 (tape hiss that sounds like rain falling, particularly at the beginning of Movement I)
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 4 (essay translated into English, German, and French)
How does this make me feel: 5 (upped from 4 the more I listened to it)

No “Huzzah!”

But darn close.

Maybe a “Huz-!”

I’ve posted it before. But it bears posting again: What is it about some recordings that immediately draws me in, while other recordings leave me flat?

I dunno. But this has it. (The draw in part. Not the leaves me flat part.)

It might be in the horns. There’s a way to record a French horn so that it sounds mellow and alluring. They have such a beautiful sound, anyway. If they’re given their proper due they can really add warmth and beauty to a recording.

The horns are crucial to Bruckner’s Fourth. So getting them right is crucial to my enjoyment of it.

They got ’em right.

Every movement is worthy. Every one is well above average. Love the pizzicato. Love the horns. Love the “Hunt” opening to Movement III (Scherzo).

Okay. I’m going to change my rating from 4 to 5.

And I’ll shout “Huzzah!” with reckless abandon.

“Huzzah! “Huzzah!”

Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra have recorded four consistently good symphonies (I’ve listened to 1-4 so far). My hat is off to them.

“Huzzah!”

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