Brahms: Symphony No. 4

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: LSO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms Symphony No. 4
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: London Symphony OrchestraBernard Haitink
CATALOGUE NO: LSO 0547
Since I was rather underwhelmed by

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Haitink’s Brahms Third Symphony

in this series (reviewed in January),

it’s a pleasure to say that this is,

on the whole, a sterling Fourth, at

once purposeful and elegiac. Each

of the four movements is firmly

and satisfyingly shaped, detail and

phrasing always nicely judged.

Haitink finds more light and shade

within the big spans than many

interpreters do, effectively pointing

the expressive and textural extremes.

For example, the intimate, chambermusical

quality he brings to the first

appearance of the dolce cello tune in

the Andante, as contrasted with the

majestically opulent sonorities he

conjures from the LSO strings for its

transfigured reprise towards the end.

Indeed the orchestra plays superbly for

him throughout. The scherzo exudes

a rough yet elegant dynamism, the

finale is measured and well controlled,

suggesting rather than embodying a

sense of tragic inevitability. In the end

it lacks a little of the rock-like weight

and solidity we’ve come to expect.

Though it’s best to hear the disc on

an SACD system, the sound is also

excellent on a standard two-channel

CD player. With no coupling, at just

over 41 minutes this is perhaps rather

short measure, but Haitink fans will

presumably not be hesitating. And

even they could not claim this as a

benchmark reading in a crowded

field that includes Abbado (more

incandescence), Carlos Kleiber (more

urgency), Blomstedt (richer in overall

expression) and Barenboim (just

generally inspired) even before one

starts on the timeless classics of Walter,

Toscanini, Koussevitzky… Still, it’s a

distinguished, safely recommendable

version. Calum MacDonald

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benchmark Abbado DG 435 3492