Over the years, Bernard Haitink has performed Bruckner’s symphonies with the Berliner Philharmoniker on many occasions. For this concert from 2011, the programme includes the Fifth. The work is not least a monument to Bruckner’s self-assurance, composed at a time when he saw almost all of his life’s plans come to nothing. He was denied recognition as a composer as well as a hoped-for professorship at the university in Vienna. Even his marriage plans remained unfulfilled.
The appeal of the Fifth lies in its ingenious polyphony with which Bruckner wanted to persuade the last doubters of his abilities. Wonderfully floating, transcendental choral melodies form a counter-world to the bright construction. The message of the deeply religious Bruckner is clear: that there is something higher than all earthly endeavours.
There are few music fans who would disagree that Bernard Haitink is one of the outstanding interpreters of Bruckner of our time. The Chicago Tribune summed up Haitink’s qualities as follows: “His plain-spoken humanity is fully in keeping with Bruckner’s humility. His flexible control of the music’s vast expanses of cathedral-like sound is matched by the sureness with which Haitink the arch-classicist illuminates detail.”