Berlin Philharmonic/Haitink, Barbican, London
Friday 01 October 2004
The 75th-birthday celebrations of Bernard Haitink have been a lengthy affair, and they still have one party to go.
The 75th-birthday celebrations of Bernard Haitink have been a lengthy affair, and they still have one party to go. Not only have they featured the orchestras that, over Haitink's career, have consistently been Europe's best; they have brought them to the Barbican, where, before the recent acoustic changes, many visiting bands feared to tread. Now it's Haitink who has got even the Berlin Philharmonic there, rather than the orchestra's chief, Simon Rattle, marking a climax not only to the birthday bashes but, in a sense, to the whole trajectory of the great man's music-making.
There was just one piece: the vast Third Symphony of Mahler, one of the composers, alongside Bruckner and Shostakovich, whose ascent into public favour has paralleled the conductor's career and, to an extent, been driven by it. He has often conducted it with London orchestras, but in other halls. Would it fit? The players packed on, within two metres of the front row, but the question was about sound rather than size. Larger symphonies have been crammed into the Barbican, but not played by an orchestra that has been famous for its big sound since the times of Von Karajan.
An explosive bass drum near the start seemed to surprise even the players. But Haitink is not the man for straining tone and hyped-up drama, and while the horns certainly filled the house, they did so with restraint. The full force of the orchestra was kept for three or four peak moments, the impact all the more shattering for leaving the ears space to recover.
In the Barbican's close-up you could enjoy to the full the subtleties of craft and practice that go into making the big picture a great one. Prime among them was the shading of one orchestral colour into another, trumpets into trombones and over to the basses, as one of Mahler's shrill outbursts winds down into a fading growl. The moments when an off-stage posthorn emerges are always magical, but never more seamlessly brought off.
Anna Larsson's warm, secure singing, at a testingly slow pace, was punctuated by a stark note-bending oboe, and into the short choral episode with neat singing from London Symphony Chorus and St Paul's choristers - not enough of them, the one point when size did matter.
At the end, the audience let the final massive chord hang on into a silence as unexpected as it was affecting. Whenever did you hear a British audience do that? It was a greeting more profound than all the subsequent ovations, a tribute not just to a concert but to a life.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What if 35 Palestinians had died, and 800 Israelis?
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45 after suffering from cancer
Led Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
50 best running songs: From Avicii and Pharrell Williams to the classic 'Eye of the Tiger'
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies trailer unveiled at Comic-Con
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
- < Previous
- Next >