Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Haitink - Royal Festival Hall, 24 September 2009
Playfulness doesn't come any more easily to Bernard Haitink than it does to Gordon Brown. But the effort made his 'Clock' Symphony a livelier affair than last night's Mozart. Still, the CSO need to let their hair down more to sparkle convincingly in Haydn.
Bruckner's Seventh employed the glacial perfection of the Chicago sound to better effect. Haitink is skilled in constructing these gigantic works inch by inch, brick by brick. His subtle shifts of dynamic and balance, his diligent observation of tempo markings like 'a little slower' might not register in a more wayward ensemble. But here every ripple on the cool glossy surface told its own story.
Bruckner is frequently accused of being repetitive and by extension, boring (was that the reason for the many empty seats?) And if you simply look at the notes, there's a certain truth in that. But Haitink adds nuance, whether it's reflecting myriad facets in the central motif in the opening Allegro or shimmering through the descending strings of the coda. He creates a momentum that's not a mad burst of energy but a stately, almost imperceptible glide to the finishing line. And that's what Bruckner's all about. As Jaap van Zweden so eloquently put it "it makes you clean inside".