Sometimes, under attack from so many directions, from the need to make classical music relevant at all cost, to make it cooler, from the pressure exerted by the recording industry to use younger, sexier musicians, from so many opera house managers willing to bend immortal works to the will of incompetent directors more interested in fisting than in Da Ponte's peerless writing and sense of structure, sometimes we kind of forget that classical music is supposed to be classical, too.
Bernard Haitink, that sweet laconic man, is one of those conductors who always remembers us that so important fact: he's a classical conductor of classical music. If Opera Chic were a conductor, she'd sell her soul on eBay to gain Haitink's simple, lean, monstrously effective gesture, and his deep scholarship, and the precision he manages to extract from the greatest orchestras.
He's just been strutting his stuff at the Proms.
There are times when the music seems weirdly abrupt, such as those strange passages where a massive fortissimo suddenly vanishes, leaving 60 strings shimmering in pianissimo, or the numerous startling changes of tempo. But the Concertgebouw gave these sudden reversals just the right soft-edged exactness to make them seem epic rather than eccentric.
After the stern opening, the mood lightened in the Scherzo. Haitink didn't smile, but the music did, and the feathery harp decorations had a lovely, tender grace.