At the age of 82, Bernard Haitink retains an impressively busy schedule, his 2011 diary including guest appearances with the great orchestras of Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Chicago, London and New York, as well as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. This concert with the London Symphony Orchestra saw Haitink deliver outstanding performances of Mozart and Bruckner.
The concert was originally due to include Murray Perahia in a performance of Schumanns Piano Concerto. However, Perahias indisposition brought Maria Joo Pires in Mozarts Piano Concerto No 27 in B-flat instead. There was no evidence of any last minute preparation in the resulting performance of the Mozart concerto, which was notable for the incisiveness of the first movement, the elegant phrasing of the Larghetto and the propulsive lyricism of the finale. Jires phrasing was especially eloquent and Haitinks accompaniment, using reduced orchestral forces and violins placed antiphonally, featured both clarity and muscle.
Bruckners Fourth Symphony is a difficult work for a conductor to bring off totally successfully. It certainly caused trouble for Bruckner, who continued to make changes to it for some 15 years after its initial completion in 1874. The symphony held no difficulties for Haitink, however, who (using the Nowak version of the score) delivered a reading of enormous depth and conviction. A feeling of tension underpinned the performance from start to finish, as if molten lava were simmering just below the surface, and climactic passages had great emotional weight. The elusive Andante was particularly successful, an interpretation of searching concentration that rose to a magnificent climax.
The LSO provided playing of weight and subtlety for Haitink, with horns on top form, electrifying string tremolandos and powerful timpani. The final coda was thrilling. It would be difficult to imagine a more considered and eloquent performance of the Fourth Symphony than this.
Further details of Barbican concerts can be found at barbican.org.uk