Day 133: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Haitink)

My “office” this morning.

It’s another cold and cloudy day in Grand Rapids.

Our local weather reporter tells us it’s cloudier in Grand Rapids than it is in Seattle. Or, to put it another way, we sometimes go three weeks without seeing the sun.

No wander we’re all pallid and depressed.

Nothing that a little Bruckner can’t cure, eh?

This morning’s conductor of Anton Bruckner’s unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109 (dedicated “to the beloved God”) is Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink (1929-).

The orchestra is Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

I first encountered Maestro Haitink on Day 5 of my 144-day project, interpreting Symphony No. 1.

Then again on Day 21, Symphony No. 2.

Then again on Day 37, Symphony No. 3.

Then again on Day 53, Symphony No. 4.

Then again on Day 69, Symphony No. 5.

Then again on Day 83, Symphony No. 6 – from the Bruckner Collection box set.

Then again on Day 85, Symphony No. 6 – from the Haitink box set.

Then again on Day 101, Symphony No. 7.

Then again, most recently, on Day 117, Symphony No. 8.

As I’ve noted before, that’s a whole lotta Haitink going on.

In fact, today is the tenth time I’m listening to Mr. Haitink.

Thankfully, I have been deeply impressed with him. Whatever “it” is that makes a recording magical, his recordings usually have it.

But I’ll reserve the subjective stuff for later.

First, the objective aspects of this recording.

brucknerhaitinkboxBruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor WAB 109, composed 1887-1896
Bernard Haitink conducts
Haitink used the Haas edition, according to the CD booklet
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra plays
The symphony clocks in at 59:24
This was recorded in Amsterdam in December of 1965
Haitink was 36 when he conducted it (which makes him one of the youngest conductors)
Bruckner was 72 when he finished composing it
This recording was released on the Philips label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four parts. He would have this time, too. But he died before completing movement four. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor), from this particular conductor (Haitink) and this particular orchestra (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso (D minor)…………………………………………………………………28:16
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft (D minor); Trio. Schnell (F-sharp major)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………11:15
II. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich (E major)……………………………………………………….24:53
IV. Finale. (D minor, incomplete)……………………………………………………………………0:00

Total running time: 59:24

The fine print at the bottom of the last page of the liner notes reads:

The recording of Symphonies Nos. 1-9 was based on the edition prepared by Robert Haas…

Now, the subjective aspects of today’s performance:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 4 (essay translated into English, German, and French)
How does this make me feel: 2

Hmmmm.

For some reason, this performance left me cold. I was not aroused by it. It did not stir me. I was not intrigued, gripped, compelled, amazed. This had the life of Frankenstein’s monster – before the switch was pulled and lighting-driven electricity coursed through its body.

This seemed lethargic, uninspired, unremarkable.

In fact, the more I listened for the magic – which almost always has been part of Haitink’s performances – the less of it I heard…and the more this seemed to drone on.

Not even the usually powerful Scherzo was able to lift this performance above the level of just below mediocrity.

There’s no objective explanation for this. I can’t explain why I didn’t like this performance. Was it how it was recorded? How it was played? How it was conducted?

I almost feel like a traitor for not liking this. After all, I’ve raved about Haitink everywhere I’ve posted about Bruckner. Why not this time?

Oh, well. They can’t all be zingers, as the group Primus has noted on their greatest hits CD.

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