A trip with Captain Haitink into Bruckner’s Cosmos

This time, he
led another first-class performance in Bruckner’s Te Deum in C Major
with the Groot Omroep Choir and four excellent vocalists, followed by his
Symphony No. 9 in D-minor. “To the beloved God” Bruckner dedicated
his last symphony, and Haitink brought that cosmic love to light today.

Bruckner called his Te Deum the pride of his life. Haitink
definitely did it justice in this performance. The conductor commenced “Te
Deum laudamus” with the strings highly charged. Then the Groot Omroep Choir
bellowed with a powerful grandeur. Underneath all this force, the magnificent
Maarschalkerweerd Organ, the centre piece in the Great Hall, reverberated
heavily reaching all the way to the balcony. What a spectacular opening!

Beginning with the strings’ crisp transparency and electrifying intensity,
Haitink immediately anchored his trademark tension that he sustained throughout
each movement. The brass, especially the trombones players, must also be noted
for glowing sound resonating soulfully in their passages throughout the

Of the vocalists, Sally Matthews impressed most. From her first passages in
the opening to finale, her rich vibrato and powerful volume fought off the most
intense of Bruckner’s fortissimos. In the quieter passages, where the
suspense thickened, Matthews charged her voice with a subtle intensity that
enriched Haitink’s tension.

Mark Padmore applied a solemnity to his voice, particularly in the second
movement. There, in a wonderful duet with the concertmaster, he sung with clear
diction and darkened colours, although his voice did not match up to
Matthews’ intensity. In the third movement, the strings throbbed
energetically in the low registers, and here the choir delivered vocal purity
in the mighty “In Gloria”. This Dutch choir impresses with the seeming
ease, with which it moves from crystalline fortissimos to simmering pianissimo.

Gerd Grochowski had his moment in the middle of the fourth movement where
his deeply resonant bass created a haunting atmosphere with the choir. In the
last movement, as the vocalists sing together “In Te, Domine speravi”,
Karen Cargill emerged with her voice noticeably adding a deeper dimension to
the quartet. With her darker contrasts she especially complimented Matthews.

During “In excelsis” Haitink conducted at his most expressive, raising
his hands high up. As a result, the climax became a physical experience. With
all this power, it almost felt as if the Concertgebouw was going lift off and
ascend…producing plenty of goosebumps. Bruckner called his Te Deum
the pride of his life. Haitink definitely did it justice with this performance.

Before the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra made Bernard Haitink famous in the
1960s, he was violinist and later Principal Conductor of the Dutch Radio
Philharmonic. This afternoon with Bruckner’s Ninth, he continued their
successful collaboration. The composer’s last symphony was left incomplete
after his death, lacking a fourth movement. Still, the symphony is over an hour
long, but with Haitink the piece flew by.

The conductor established a similar intensity but perhaps even stronger in
underlying suspense. From the slow-burning opening, Feierlich,
misterioso, he kept the strings highly charged. The highlight of the
evening, in the the second movement the Scherzo-Trio Haitink nearly
bruised his audience with the intensity of the Scherzo. The pizzicato strings
opens, but then timpani and brass explode. Another visceral sensation! A
youthful oboe solo softened the tone in between heavy beats. Haitink made for a
very fast paced Trio, that surprised by its nervously adolescent,
romantic mood.

For the final Adagio, it felt very much like an ode to Wagner—the
most suspenseful slow passages in the strings, dripping with longing, almost
sensually. The brasses resonated with a golden glow, full of promise. The
flautist held her own during her solo against the high strings and the brooding
basses. With the calm ending and tapering down of the intensity, still highly
romantic, we returned from our trip up in Te Deum. With Haitink as our
venerable Captain into Bruckner’s cosmos.

David Pinedo

image_description=Bernard Haitink [Photo by Clive Barda]
product_title=A trip with Captain Haitink into Bruckner’s Cosmos
product_by=A review by David Pinedo
product_id=Above: Bernard Haitink [Photo by Clive Barda]