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Bernard Haitink

Mahler: Symphony No. 4

Bernard Haitink
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
(RCO Live)

***

Bernard Haitink first conducted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam 50 years ago, said Matthew Rye in the London Telegraph. The orchestra’s Haitink-led recordings of Mahler from the 1960s are timeless, so it’s no surprise that the festive occasion of this anniversary is being celebrated with “this most convivial of the composer’s symphonies.” In this lively and enjoyable performance, the conductor’s musicological insight and attention to detail are evident everywhere. Several subtle choices lend the piece a faintly world-weary air, said Rick Jones in the London Times. Mahler’s Fourth offers a somewhat discursive journey toward a third movement that presents a poetic vision of an eternal heavenly feast. “The opening sleigh bells are steady but slightly threatening in their relentlessness.” In the Scherzo, the winds imitate the sounds of oxen and lambs, while a solo violin dances above. As the Adagio unfolds, “there is sadness in its waltz, not of regret but simply at the passing of time.” The all-important third movement finds soprano Christine Schafer slightly off her top form, said David Patrick Stearns in The Philadelphia Inquirer. But otherwise it’s “typical Haitink in the best sense.” The orchestra performs with such force and conviction as to make a case for the Fourth as “perhaps Mahler’s single greatest creation.”

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