Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Finely crafted, cautious approach
Pater Ecstaticus | Norway | 10/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is Bernard Haitink's first 'Mahler Five' commited to record - originally on LP and now on a very clear sounding CD, matching the performance. And the performance is vintage Haitink, which I find satisfying.
In this early, 35 year old recording you can feel Bernard Haitink holding back - on excess in general but mainly on the emotion, not wanting to delve to deeply into the world that is being created through the music; Haitink here is avoiding the risks that later might have consequences, which, by this time in his (early) dealings with Mahler, would be incalculable, and at this moment in his career Haitink was not ready to give loose to Mahler as he was willing to do later on in his dealings with this composer. Indeed it could be said that this performance is too 'calculated'. But the result is a sharp focus on 'simply' the notes, counterpoints, melodic development and symphonic structure - and not so much on wanting to convey any 'meanings' or (extreme) 'emotions' - which is refreshing in a way.
This calculated approach by Bernard Haitink was mainly the result of the fact that he (at the start of his dealings with Mahler's Symphonies) did not feel at all comfortable with Mahler's extreme outpourings of emotion. Later, as he became more and more comfortable with Mahler's worlds through his many performances, he came over this initial fear of Mahler completely and - through his growing and ultimately great familiarity - became one of the best Mahler conductors ever, witnessed especially in his live performances, for example his wonderfully extravert and very lively (as well as beautifully recorded) Eurovision Christmas Matinee Concert performances out on CD as well (9 CD's on Philips 464 321-2).
But this holding back on the most intense feeling is in this particular recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony compensated by a nicely taut vision of the music. From beginning to end Haitink keeps a tight rein on the orchestra and the music itself, keeping it down, which results in a finely crafted, cautious reading of the work. Some may not like the end result, some may do, but this recording remains a nice testament of Bernard Haitink's art with Mahler, which has so much developed and grown over the decades, and as such, this recording is to be treasured.
And so, although not a definitive recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony - for that maybe go to Zander or Bernstein or Chailly or Barbirolli or... Haitink's 1986 Christmas Matinee Concert (one of the liveliest and most forceful performances, this) - this recording has one appreciating the colorful polyphony to the finest detail. The same kind of attention to detail without ever losing sight of the bigger picture, can be witnessed (and even more greatly appreciated) in Benjamin Zander's intelligent, clear but exhilarating and keenly insightful recording of the Fifth: my own favorite at the moment. Both Zander and Haitink know their way with Mahler like no other. Bernard Haitink's succes with Mahler to my feeling has been kind of a hard-fought one and has gone through some evolution and growth to arrive at the summits that it has reached. Benjamin Zander has proved to be one of the most insightful Mahler conductors of this day as well, but it remains to be seen though, that Zander will prove to be as much a giant in this repertoire as Bernard Haitink has done over the decades..."