New York Philharmonic/Haitink – Haydn 96 & Bruckner 7

Symphony No.96 in D (Miracle)
Symphony No.7 in E [Nowak edition]

New York Philharmonic
Bernard Haitink

Reviewed by: Gene Gaudette

Reviewed: 17 November, 2011
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City

Bernard haitink conducting the New York Philharmonic in November 2011. Photograph: Chris LeeThere were a couple of moments of less-than-pristine string ensemble in the opening movement of the Haydn’s, but otherwise Bernard Haitink and the New York Philharmonic gave a lively though somewhat dry account – although this is probably the most poker-faced opening movement of any of Haydn’s ‘London’ Symphonies. The second movement brimmed with charm and character, conductor and orchestra making the most of the tongue-in-cheek faux gravitas of the minor-key theme. The cheery Minuet seemed to go by in a flash, and Haitink’s puckish approach to the rapid-fire finale could have passed for the overture to a comic opera. This performance reaffirmed the frustration that Haydn’s symphonies are not programmed often enough.

Haitink has never been given to musical hyperbole, yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard a concert performance of Bruckner’s Seventh that had as much forward momentum, excitement and compelling tension. The Philharmonic responded with virtuoso playing. The outer movements were presented convincingly as yin-and-yang bookends; Haitink brought convincing introspection and yearning to the first and extrovert radiance to the finale, highlighting the movements’ structural similarities and driving the point home with judiciously chosen broader tempos for the codas, executed with breathtaking beauty and brilliance. The Adagio was taken at a far faster clip than I have heard, yet sounded unforced, with dynamic and timbre contrasts stunningly executed. For those of you keeping score (Nowak’s), yes, Haitink included a cymbal crash at the climax, but it did not seem as over-the-top as it can. In the scherzo, Haitink’s balancing of sections and instrumental groups brought a number of surprising details and nuances out of the mix.

For two weeks in a row, Bernard Haitink has summoned forth the most pleasing overall sonority and best balances I’ve heard from the New York Philharmonic in a while – not unlike the brilliant sound cultivated by Lorin Maazel, but with an added depth and warmth in the lower strings. Here’s hoping the Philharmonic brings him back next season.

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