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Reviews: Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 - Haitink

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Reviews: 4

Site review by Polly Nomial October 9, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

Review by fafnir February 13, 2008 (3 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I agree with PN's review wrt the performance. It is indeed very fine with a great performance from the orchestra. However, I must disagree concerning the sound quality. It is quite lacking in low bass, thereby removing the depth and richness that are required in this work. After listening, I thought that my sub woofer might be turned off - no such luck; my other recordings that have good bass sounded just fine.

Further investigation revealed that at least one other on-line review has noted this defect. IMHO a potentially great recording has been ruined by the engineering. Those looking for a recording of the Bruckner 7 with good sonics must search elsewhere.

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Review by hkpat April 4, 2010 (4 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Not only is it a work of great proportions, but Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony is irrefutably a work of consummate art and form. What better way to experience the profundity of the mighty Seventh but to revisit a performance of unequivocal significance. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has an illustrious history in the performance of Bruckner’s music, particularly during the 22-year directorship of Sir Georg Solti from 1969-1991. To continue in this lineage, CSO has joined forces with Maestro Bernard Haitink, its music director at the time of this recording, to explore this work that oversaw the final chapters of the late Austro-German Romanticism.

Following an acclaimed release with Mahler’s Third Symphony, this second release on Bruckner’s Seventh from the CSO’s home label documents two attractive elements. First, the high-definition sound captured by engineers Christopher Willis and John Newton and the UK-based Classic Sound Limited on editing and mixing reinvigorates the four live performances that took place during May 2007. Second, an interesting symbiosis between layer and color prevails as an unifying theme in this album. The cover of this recording, for example, is an artwork entitled “Underpainting.” It depicts a visual canvas of multiple layers in colors to provoke a sensual perception in range, depth and structure. In essence, these elements share much in common with Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony.

Composed in 1881-1883, the Seventh was the Symphony that gained Bruckner international success when it was first performed by Arthur Nikisch in Leipzig. What could have impressed audience then in 1883, as it had now in 2003 as exemplified from the present recording? Wagner and Viennese classicism would have been attractive contributions.

First, the music of Wagner had a lifelong impression on Bruckner’s own writing. But, particularly, it was “Parsifal” that had directly inspired the rich palette of sounds in the Seventh. To probe into this association, Haitink and the CSO turned a score of instrumental proportions into a soundworld of multi-faceted colors, perhaps even operatic in scale (although, interestingly, Bruckner never wrote an opera). Furthermore, Bruckner’s use of the “Wagner tubas,” which he introduced in the coda of the Adagio, was a tribute to the greater operatic master. Here, the famous brass section of the CSO delivered this passage from 18:29 to 19:45, and again 21:13 to 22:18 with such profundity that it had an infliction of pain and grief if one understood the context in which this coda excerpt was written (premonition to Wagner’s death). From the dipoles of simplistic quietude, heard right in the opening theme of the Allegro moderato, to the spiritual climax compounded by courage and sublimity in the Adagio, these musical dipoles impacted listeners like focused beams. Haitink and the CSO transformed the dipoles of Bruckner’s music-writing like packets of musical force. The recorded sound recapitulated these radiant elements with natural definition, in part aided from the acoustics of Orchestral Hall in Chicago.

Second, Bruckner wrote the Scherzo of this Seventh Symphony first. He was perhaps looking backwards into the Classical traditions inspired by Schubert and his likes. If there was one piece that evolved into the birth of Bruckner’s Seventh, Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony would have been a relevant choice, the music of which molded Bruckner’s own affinity with Austrian rusticity through the use of music language. Approaching this concept with an unostentatious but commendable attitude, Haitink led the CSO to unfold with a granite-like orchestral sonority. This was inescapable in the final moments from 12:06 to 13:01 of the Finale. Certainly, the balance of structure and form is an unknown variable behind any successful performances, and this is particularly important in the complex world of Bruckner’s music when over-sentiment can pollute a musical experience. Here, Haitink resolves these challenges not only with honesty and sincerity, but together with the CSO musicians, they gives a tasteful reading to a symphony that was a homage to the colorful past.

By: Patrick P.L. Lam

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Review by willemvoorneveld August 1, 2012 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Haitink takes the cow by the horns from the very start of the opening Allegro. He reads more detail from the score than my preferred comparison readings of this symphony; Eugen Jochum (1978) with Dresden and Giulini with VPO (1987), both on RBCD. It also seems that for Haitink this opening movement is the central piece of this symphony. He explores all themes in depth and takes up to a minute more than Giulini and Jochum to convey his message without it ever sounding slow.

Although still “sehr Langsam” (very slow) he then takes almost two minutes less for the following Adagio and lets the “feierlich” of this movement have the upper hand where appropriate. The movement concludes (tonality has dropped to C major in the meantime) with a very moving tuba-horn supported coda which could well serve as a remembrance to Wagners death. It combines very well with the opening adagio and as such satisfies me more than the mentioned other two performances.

In the Scherzo and Finale Haitink agrees with Giulini and Jochum how to do these movements since they are all very close in timing and atmosphere and compared to Bruckner’s other symphonies, these two movements are relatively short and lightweight.

Of course, the big advantage of this Haitink reading is the greater clarity enabled by the SACD multi-channel presentation. It also clearly shows that the CSO in no way is less sophisticated in Bruckner than the players of the VPO under Giulini. Some remarkable playing is done by the string section. Woodwind and Brass do support Haitink with more nuance than the VPO players support Giulini.

The present performance seems to be a conglomerate of 4 live performances and in principle it sounds very good. Bruckner’s instrumentation in this symphony is light, with only timpani, cymbal and triangle in the percussion section of the orchestra but on this recording I had preferred to hear a little more of the (low) percussion. In addition there are two moments where the brass players hit the “sound barrier” of the Symphony Center, with its somewhat boxy acoustics. Still the overall impression is very good.

Haitink has done the 7th two times on RBCD before and till the announced RCO version comes available this is the only Haitink version available on SACD.

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