Staatskapelle Dresden 2

Symphony No.86 in D
Dance Suite
Symphony No.7 in D minor, Op.70

Staatskapelle Dresden
Bernard Haitink

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 4 September, 2004
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

It took until the Dvořák symphony for something truly memorable, not just of this concert but of Staatskapelle Dresden’s two Proms. The Haydn, altogether more attentive and purposeful than the Jupiter Symphony of the previous evening, while elegant was also streamlined in the way that Bernard Haitink now conducts this composer. He once led a mercurial account of this symphony, with the London Philharmonic (about 20 years ago), that bordered on the miraculous: today, Haydn’s innovation, deviancy and wit are things Haitink keeps under wraps. So too earthiness and exuberance: Bartók’s Dance Suite, well prepared and lucidly balanced, only came across in the reflective ritornelli.

The TV cameras were present – the one on the crane was especially distracting: it did seem perilously close to the audience in the stalls; and the ghastly pink colouring for the organ created a depressing atmosphere in the hall. It had been blue and green in the first half! Still, close the eyes and think of Prague – the Dvořák was excellent, Haitink’s classical conception, well judged tempos and beguiling detailing capturing the heart of the music, its varied moods and the composer’s individuality. The ‘golden’ sound of the orchestra, not always apparent over these two nights, was at last gloriously evident in this spontaneous, lyrical and organically triumphant performance, one in which the third movement waltz swirled with imperial grandeur and Haitink found no easy victory in the finale’s powerful closing bars.

Weber’s Oberon overture was a substantial encore, a magical and articulate rendition, one with a subdued, appropriately mellow tinting of the organ, which would have been ideal for the whole concert rather than garishness. It’s a shame that such ‘presentation’ gets in the way of what really matters – the music-making.

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