Bernard Haitink

Mahler: Symphony No. 4

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Having a hybrid SACD of laureate conductor Bernard Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 4 in G major seems almost too good to be true, since any performance of this masterpiece by this fastidious conductor and this spectacular ensemble would necessarily be heard to best advantage in this state-of-the-art format. Unfortunately, this is a live performance, and bearing in mind that the DSD sound is incredibly sharp and focused on the finest details, it should come as no surprise that absolutely everything can be heard, both in the music and everything around it. One wishes the coughs, heavy breathing, and other extraneous noises could have been eliminated because the sound is remarkably crisp and colorful, the interpretation buoyant and bright, and the polished tone of the orchestra is nearly ideal. The singing in the fourth movement by soprano Christine Schäfer is utterly serene, intimate, and joyful, and the jubilant feeling of the performance as a whole makes listening to this SACD an uplifting experience. Perhaps most listeners will appreciate the music for its exceptional qualities and overlook the audience's infiltration, but audiophiles and other sensitive listeners may find the noises too much to bear, being so close to having a performance that is practically note-perfect and almost sublime in its happiness.

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