Thursday, September 13, 2007

Greatest Conductor of the last 100 Years?

I love music, and especially symphonies. There are only a few things that thrill me as much as a great orchestra playing a great symphony (such as Beethoven 3, Schubert 9, Bruckner 7 or Mahler 6) really well.

I've been listening to a wonderful recording of Brahms 2 tonight. It features the London Symphony, with a conductor who is distinctly unglamorous, and who is not particularly famous in the US. But compared to him, Bernstein (who I really like, by the way) is too fussy; Karajan is too slick, Solti and Toscanini are too driven, Furtwangler is too sloppy, and Abbado is too slack.

Bernard Haintink has been making extraordinarily satisfying recordings for more than 40 years now, before with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, and now with the London Symphony. His Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler and Bruckner are all great. He did a wonderful Zauberflaute, too. Now if only he'd get around to Haydn, Berlioz and Sibelius, but I guess we have Colin Davis to take care of that.


jrsnfld said...

Perhaps Haitink is better known (and appreciated) in Boston (where he has been Principal Guest Conductor) and Chicago (where he is now Principal Conductor) than in other American cities, but undoubtedly you are right that his fame is tempered, likely because of his reputation as a modest and moderate--perhaps even self-effacing--personality, much like Sir Colin Davis. Brahms is something Haitink has always done very well and often (what is this now...his third recorded cycle?).

By the way: Do you really find Solti's Brahms 2 so "driven"? I think of it as one of his most patient and measured recordings and one of his best. Autumnal and then thrilling at the end, but never reckless or hectic, if quite different than Haitink's recent performances.

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