This is only Haitink's third(!) recording of this symphony. Happily, he never remade it with the Vienna Philharmonic, having recorded it twice with the Concertgebouw. His first recording, the one that always has been reissued in the complete symphonies box and also as a Philips Duo, is a swift, somewhat pallid performance, shallowly recorded to boot. The later one, from 1978, just missed the digital era but remains one of the great performances. Not surprisingly it has been ignored by Philips in favor of its inferior predecessor. One of the most noteworthy qualities of thatRead more performance was the climax of the Adagio (with a resplendent cymbal crash), so perfectly timed that I never imagined I'd hear it repeated. Haitink does it again here.
In fact, this live performance is every bit as stunningly played as its 1978 predecessor. The tempos are just a hair more measured in the first movement and finale, but always supple, fluid, and perfectly judged between sections (and certainly not slow by today's standards). The transition from the second to third subjects in the first movement offers one example, and the continuation of the Adagio's main theme (after the "non confundar" motive from Bruckner's Te Deum) provides another. This being Chicago, the brass sound spectacular, but so do the strings and winds. In short, there is absolutely nothing here to criticize. When the results are this outstanding, it's pointless to complain that Haitink keeps recording the same music over and over. In the final analysis, a great performance must be its own justification, and this is a great performance. Happily, the sonics allow the music to leap from the speakers with the same vibrancy and impact as the interpretation itself, and the audience is very silent. Wonderful!