Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Haitink in London – 1

Mozart
Symphony No.41 in C, K551 (Jupiter)
Brahms
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 23 September, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Bernard Haitink. Photograph: Matthias CreutzigerThe Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Bernard Haitink give two concerts to launch the latest season of “Shell Classic International”. Although neither of their programmes will win prizes for innovation or add to our appreciation of Haitink, this opener brought a capacity audience and outstanding playing even if Mozart’s final symphony lacked a definable character beyond the expertise. Haitink directed a polite and elegant account of the ‘Jupiter’, woodwinds (too) comfortably bedded into strings (and they were reduced, three double basses being considered sufficient) with trumpets and timpani making little effect. The middle movements fared best of all, the slow movement flowing if hardly emotionally burdened, the Minuet sprightly and light on its toes. The finale had its fair share of resolution, but having observed all repeats so far, Haitink’s passing-over of the second one upset the overall balance.

Bernard Haitink. Photograph: Clive BardaBrahms 1 found the CSO at full strength in terms of string numbers, their amplitude impressive, but now the trumpets were too loud and edgy. It was a fine performance, exactly as you would expect Haitink to do it, which is with integrity, surety and with a full appreciation of the ‘long line’, the Chicago Symphony playing magnificently, woodwinds and horns (the latter led by veteran Dale Clevenger) in particularly expressive and ripe form, all as if one had produced a favourite recording of this symphony from the shelf. However familiar the work, and Haitink’s view of it, there was enough intensity to sustain the performance and the all-through coda raised the spirits. And that was it!

  • CSO/Haitink play Haydn and Bruckner on Thursday 24 September at 7.30 p.m.

  • Southbank Centre

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