Friday, June 30, 2017

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 9; Das Lied von der Erde (Bernard Haitink)


Composer: Gustav Mahler

  1. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 1a. Andante comodo
  2. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 1b. Mit Wut (Allegro risoluto)
  3. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 1c. Tempo I
  4. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 2a. Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb
  5. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 2b. Poco piu mossso subito
  6. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 2c. Ländler, ganz langsam
  7. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 3a. Rondo-Burleske. Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig
  8. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 3b. Presto
  9. Symphony No. 9 in D major: 4. Adagio. Sehr Langsam und noch zurückhaltend
  1. Das Lied von der Erde: 1. Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde
  2. Das Lied von der Erde: 2. Der Einsame im Herbst
  3. Das Lied von der Erde: 3. Von der Jugend
  4. Das Lied von der Erde: 4. Von der Schönheit
  5. Das Lied von der Erde: 5. Der Trunkene im Frühling
  6. Das Lied von der Erde: 6. Der Abschied

Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
James King, tenor
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Bernard Haitink, conductor

Date: 1969 (CD1), 1975 (CD2)
Label: Philips



Symphony No. 9

"In a review in "Gramophone" in 1970 that great Mahlerian Deryck Cooke declared he had just heard the greatest Mahler Ninth on record. He was reviewing the then new LP recording by Bernard Haitink and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips. I can vividly remember that review and the influence it had on me as a young Mahler enthusiast finding my way through the record catalogues. Also the anticipation I felt after I had persuaded my local library to buy a copy of it. Cooke concluded his review by saying that in the Haitink recording he felt he wasn't faced with Barbirolli's (EMI), Walter's (Sony) or Klemperer's (EMI) Mahler Ninth, but with Mahler's Mahler Ninth. Perhaps the highest praise any critic can give. There is no question in my mind that after all these years this still is one of the greatest recordings of the work you can buy and I'm pleased Philips have decided to re-issue it in this new series.

Haitink takes great care with the opening material, a particular care with the rhythms of the motivic fragments especially, and one of the finest of all ears to the balancing of the various parts. This is all helped by a superb analogue recording, very much the kind of sound coming from the Concertgebouw in those days with less hall acoustic allowed for than we have become used to recently. All this means that, among other things, Mahler's high upper lines are superbly apparent at every climax, all of which arrive with splendid dynamic surges. Time after time Haitink is in Barbirolli's class at the balancing of the various elements in this movement. Characteristically, though, he is less passionate though he makes up for this in his attention to the subtle shades of debate that characterise this movement. There is no part of this immense statement of Mahler's state of mind at that time in his life when Haitink doesn't have something important to say about it. Take, for example, the "Leidenschaftlich" passage following the "collapse climax" at 201-203 where there is an almost Klemperer-like trenchancy to the music. Following this the wisps of theme that play around the muted trombones prior to the "Lebwohl" lead-back sound especially desolate and remote giving lie to thoughts you occasionally encounter that Haitink is too safe a conductor in Mahler. At the main climactic passage of the movement listen to the wonderful Concertgebouw strings tumbling all over the music, pitching into a superbly dramatic resolution, as fine as any. I must also pay tribute to the deepest of bells Haitink's percussionist makes use of. I assure you, once you hear these in this recording you never want to hear any other kind. The coda of the movement finds Haitink in a surprisingly dreamy mood with Mahler's unique orchestration coming to us as though through the very veil of memory itself. A very interesting presentation indeed with horns especially evocative.

The second movement Ländler finds the massed strings all country-dance and rough-hewn with those crucial tempo changes marked well. Notice also how the woodwinds seem to be really mocking us in a way few recordings manage and one of the characteristic sounds you will take away. This is so much the cruel parody of the Ländler that I think Mahler wanted and which so many miss. In many ways I find Haitink to be giving the same kind of performance of this movement Michael Gielen did later - cutting and rebarbative. The crucial difference, however, is that Haitink injects that little bit more humanity and humour. He certainly has the finer orchestra and it should go without saying that hearing one of the greatest Mahler ensembles playing this music at the height of their own powers is an experience in itself. The coda is masterly - ironic, poisonous, unsettling - it sets us up for the Rondo Burlesque splendidly. Here too Haitink is in the same neck of the woods as Gielen but, again, with that little bit more humanity. Again the orchestra's contribution cannot be praised too highly and this allows us to hear echoes from Das Lied Von Der Erde in the maelstrom. By some wonderful alchemy Haitink also manages to achieve what few others do and that is a delivery of the central interlude that seems to fit perfectly. It's neither too fast in that it loses its power to move nor too slow that it impedes the structural integrity of the whole. Following this the anarchic frenzy of the Rondo's return concludes this movement unforgettably.

Haitink crowns his recording with a performance of the last movement of rich eloquence, more than worthy to stand beside the greatest. He succeeds in spite of never having to pull the music around, letting it speak for itself and relying on the great playing of his orchestra; not least in the second presentation of the main material (bars 49-107) which has a cohesion like a microcosm of the whole movement. Notice especially at the start of this passage how Haitink keeps the principal horn under control where many will give the player his head. It's an example of Haitink's care and means that when more heft is needed, as at the movement's great horn-led peroration at the main climax, the sheer power of the moment lands even more weightily on us. A case of keeping your powder dry until you need it, examples of which can be found right the way through this great recording. Also notice how Haitink gets his violinists to play the three great descending sforzandi that precede it almost as three separate notes. In my experience the only other conductor to also produce this special effect was Jascha Horenstein (Music & Arts or Vox). Finally in the closing pages the sense of desolation is remarkable, but with the thread maintained even though Mahler's slower and slower markings tell."


"One of the greatest recordings of Mahler's Ninth Symphony, remastered and rightly restored to the catalogue."

-- Tony Duggan, MusicWeb International


Das Lied von der Erde


This 1975 Concertgebouw performance of Mahler’s Song of the Earth, led by Bernard Haitink with soloists Janet Baker and James King, rates as the finest of all recorded versions of the work. Both soloists are superb. King invests the opening “Drinking Song of the Earth’s Misery” with a palpable sense of outrage–even disgust–at the human condition. Take his lines in the third stanza, “An all dem morschen Tande dieser Erde!” (“in all the rotten trash of this earth!”); seldom has the venom, terror, and ecstasy registered so graphically. King’s portrayal of Spring’s Drunkard (No. 5) is fine, too, but Janet Baker’s delivery of the mezzo’s allocation of Hans Bethge texts is no less moving nor apposite. Particularly memorable are No. 2, “Autumn Loneliness”, and “Von der Schönheit” (“Of Beauty”). Baker’s vocal inflection always is carefully modulated to give maximum emphasis to individual words, and in this regard her contributions invite direct comparison with the legendary Kathleen Ferrier/Julius Patzak/Vienna Philharmonic performance (1952) under Bruno Walter, available on Decca.

Walter’s personal contact with the composer often gave his Mahler interpretations special legitimacy. However, I don’t find Ferrier as effective as Baker, particularly in the closing “Der Abschied” (“Farewell”), and the haunting nostalgia that Baker breathes into the final lines is special indeed. A word, too, about Bernard Haitink’s direction. Few conductors attain comparable gravitas while remaining absolutely faithful to Mahler’s directions. Note how the Concertgebouw violins really do play “As if tired” at the start of No. 2, and how Haitink makes us aware of the importance of the pentatonic (five-note) scale underscoring the Chinoiserie that runs throughout the work. Best of all is Haitink’s masterful elucidation of the half-hour long finale. Baker’s last “ewig” (“forever”) hangs in the ether–and it’s one of the most breathtaking moments ever captured on disc! This is the only Das Lied you’ll ever need, and the recorded sound is of demonstration quality–superior, even, to the new Reference Recordings version with De Young, Villars, and the Minnesota Orchestra under Eiji Oue, released earlier in 2000. [1/8/2001]

-- ClassicsToday


More reviews:


Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. In his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, but his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of neglect. After 1945, Mahler became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. Mahler's œuvre is relatively small. Aside from early works, most of his are very large-scale works, designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists.


Bernard Haitink (born 4 March 1929) is a Dutch conductor. In his glowing career, he is the principal conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw (1959-1988), London Philharmonic (1967-1979), Chicago Symphony (2006-2010) and and principal guest conductor Boston Symphony (1995-2004). Haitink has conducted and recorded a wide variety of repertoire, with the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler, Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams, and the complete piano concertos of Beethoven and Brahms with Claudio Arrau notable among his recordings.


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