A hopeful, almost happy, reading of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony by Bernard Haitink and the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival this evening.
This is the second year in a row I have heard the Philharmoniker perform this work here – last year with quite a different interpretation under Herbert Blomstedt. This orchestra premiered the symphony and has been performing it for 123 years, but each conductor will bring something else to it. Blomstedt conducted like an architect building a massive cathedral. Haitink may have lacked the same hewn approach, but the one he took worked.
This symphony often brings the listener to hear the destruction of the world, which is what made tonight’s performance so surprising. Haitink accentuated the joyous aspects in the music, more prevalent in Bruckner’s early symphonies (up until his Fourth). The rhythms superimposed on the massive blocks of sound ensure the work remains off-kilter, but rather than foreboding the result tonight stressed the positive.
The world is still going to end. But if it is going to end, maybe that’s a good thing.