Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bernard Haitink conducts the Slavic highlights

One of world’s best conductors in last decades and one of most prolific recording artists is Bernard Haitink. Born in Amsterdam, he studied in Conservatorium van Amsterdam and start career as violinist in orchestra. His rapid career became in 1954 when he started studies under direction of Ferdinand Leitner. Next year he took the post of second conductor of Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra. One year later, November 7th 1956, he made his debut with Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Koningklijk Concertgebouworkest). Three years later, after death of Eduard van Beinum on September 1st, 1959  he took the position of first conductor then in 1961 post of principal conductor which he shared with Eugen Jochum until 1963, when he took this post exclusively. He continued working on this position until 1988. In 1999 he was appointed as honorary conductor of Concertgebouw. In years he work with his primary orchestra, he was associated with many orchestras as a guest artist or contracted principal conductor. He was working as principal conductor with London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  
In many respects Bernard Haitink is the conductor of extraordinary features. Vast majority of great conductors are individualists of extremely high self-esteem and charisma. Haitink’s charisma comes from his professionalism and diligence. Also his effictiveness was phenomenal and legendary. For this reason he’s been often drawn for most challenging performances of late romantic massive works and twentieth century symphonic music. He was widely appreciated as interpreter of nineteenth century symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and operas including operas by Igor Stravinsky he performed in Glyndebourne Opera and complete Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.  

Bernard Haitink with Concertgebouw Orchestra

The works of three Slavic composers constitute the program for the very special album of Concertgebouw orchestra and Haitink repertoire milestones - Bedřich Smetana’s Symphonic Poem No. 2 "Vltava" (The Moldau) from the cycle Ma vlást (My Fatherland), Mikhail Glinka’s Ouvertüre from the opera Ruslan and Lyudmila and Antonin Dvořak’s first five pieces from first cycle of Slavic Dances op.46. It is highly interesting album highlighting music always appreciated by public and requiring full range of both orchestra and conductor’s artistic possibilities. I guess for Bernard Haitink it was not only the matter of professional proficiency. Slavic music is not really close to musical sensitivity of artists from West Europe so he was not only the one who needs to interpret the music but also conductor creating orchestra’s style and attitude. 
The situation was even more complicated. Album was not recorded as one project. Recorded with Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam and published by Philips (6566 012) somewhere around 1970, these recordings were taken at different occasions and published before – Smetana’s Vltava in 1962, Glinka’s Overture in 1969 and Dvořak’s five parts from Slavonic dances op.46 were recorded between 1959 and 1967 – No. 1 Furiant and No. 3 Polka were recorded in 1959, No. 2 Dumka and No. 4 Sousedská were performed in 1963 and No. 5 Skočná was recorded in 1967. And it is really hard to believe these pieces were recorded in span of a decade. The rich sound of the orchestra, perfect phrasing and dramatic expression demonstrate excellent understanding of conductor’s intentions and enough good taste to catch the Slavic idiom in the perspective as it was present in romantic music.

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