Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

So it was with great expectations that I came to hear him perform with
the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and its assembly of superb musicians.
However, after tonight’s performance it became clear, that the
octogenarian conductor has lost much of his vigor and grip. Haitink’s
masterful technique to sustaining suspense from beginning to end lacked,
resulting in more than a few moments of monotony. Still, this is Bernard
Haitink! So even if he is not performing as he used to, he is still more
awesome than most conductors. The performance included several
exhilarating, hair raising passages.

In the opening Allegro moderato, Haitink generated a thick,
rich sound from the strings that he never let go. Lucas Macias Navarro
(Assistant Conductor, Orchestre de Paris), a former soloist at the Royal
Concertgebouw, where he has performed under Haitink, made his oboe passages
sound ever so delicate against the backdrop of this lush texture.

In between Bruckner’s lengthy movements, Haitink was able to take
a moment on the chair behind him to regenerate. The Scherzo was full of
buoyant optimism. The flute solos by Chiara Tonelli (from the Mahler
Chamber Orchestra) enjoyed vibrancy. Raymond Curfs (Bavarian Radio Symphony
Orchestra) made his timpani roar, though Haitink made sure never too
loudly. In the Trio, the Dutch conductor, and longtime citizen of Lucerne,
kept a steady tension going.The elegance of the dreamy harp (a rare usage
by Bruckner) contrasted sharply with the horns and trumpets. Slowly and
deliberately with minimal direction, Haitink brought to life
Bruckner’s heft.

In the third movement, the symphony lost its intensity. Haitink used to
be a master at Bruckner’s and Mahler’s Feierlich
passages. He would generate and sustain a slow burning suspense throughout
an entire symphony, but here is grip was missing. The person next to me let
out a deep, seemingly impatient, sigh–the third movement did feel a bit
tiresome. On the other hand, the chemistry between oboist and flautist
produced playful contrasts in their duets.

The energetic surge at the beginning of the final movement woke up the
audience again. Thrillingly bellicose sounded the triumphing Brass. The
Wagner tubas added to their glow. The dark timbres of the bassoons offered
their distinct shades. Haitink’s minimal conducting here generated an
awesome intensity that made for a stupendous finale. He intended to
elongate the delicate tension after the last note of the symphony, but an
eager audience broke the silence too soon and erupted in a feverish

David Pinedo

image_description=Bernard Haitink [Photo by Peter Fischli/Lucerne Festival]
product_title=Haitink at the Lucerne Festival
product_by=A review by David Pinedo
product_id=Above: Bernard Haitink [Photo by Peter Fischli/Lucerne Festival]