Bernard Haitink / Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Webern: Im Sommerwind

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Listeners looking for more swagger should try Reiner, or for bombast, Karajan. But for anyone who wants beauty, depth, respect, and even love in a performance of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, this recording with Bernard Haitink leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the one. Haitink clearly knows the piece like the back of his hand; he knows when to push forward (the love music) and when to pull back (the battle music). More than that, Haitink obviously cares about the music, and his performance is not about riding an old warhorse to glory but about showing the piece to best effect. The Chicago Symphony delivers a performance of consummate loveliness with silvery strings, characterful woodwinds, brilliant brass, and a rich blend that is all its own. Coupled with what may be the most perfectly realized performance of Webern's early tone poem Im Sommerwind ever recorded, this disc is well worth hearing by anyone who admires either composer.

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