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SACD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Complete Symphonies

  • Symphony #1 in C Major, Op. 21
  • Symphony #2 in D Major, Op. 36
  • Symphony #3 "Eroica" in E Flat Major, Op. 55
  • Symphony #4 in B Flat Major, Op. 60
  • Symphony #5 in C minor, Op. 67
  • Symphony #6 "Pastoral" in F Major, Op. 68
  • Symphony #7 in A Major, Op. 92
  • Symphony #8 in F Major, Op. 93
  • Symphony #9 "Choral" in D minor, Op. 125
  • Leonore Overture #2 in C Major, Op. 72
  • Concerto for Piano, Violin & Cello "Triple Concerto" in C Major, Op. 56 **
* Twyla Robinson, soprano
* Karen Cargill, mezzo soprano
* John MacMaster, tenor
* Gerald Finley, bass
** Gordan Nikolic, violin
** Timothy Hugh, cello
** Lars Vogt, piano
London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Bernard Haitink
LSO Live LSO0598 6 Hybrid Multichannel SACDs 325m DDD
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This fabulous set is jam packed with thrilling performances of symphonies that consistently fascinate and pose new questions. Haitink is of course no stranger to these works having recorded them in the studio at least three times but I do feel that the live performances recorded here do scale new interpretative heights especially in the outer movements.

The first two symphonies are given the full on treatment and not relegated to being mere precursors of the Eroica. The Larghetto of #2 is particularly expansive and the finale of the same symphony is imbued with all that Karajan like energy. The "Eroica" is particularly enthralling with a vigorous slow movement and expansive opening statement which truly goes to the heart of the matter.

Haitinks' Fifth is also quite superb, matching previous fine conductors in this work (Klemperer and Walter come to mind) while his Pastoral is perhaps slightly underwhelming although no less brilliant for that matter. The Seventh and Eighth are reminiscent of another fine LSO cycle with the late Wyn Morris – my introduction to these great works but Haitink obviously has the benefit of the live experience.

The Triple Concerto is also given a fine performance by Nikolitch, Hugh and Vogt and the Leonore #2 Overture is winningly done.

The Dutch conductor's Choral is something of a mixed bag but there's nothing to criticize in his superb team of soloists although tempi may seem to be slightly wayward especially in the Finale. The set is superbly presented and has equally fine SACD sound with detailed notes by Lindsay Kemp who is a master of descriptive biography. With all the sets of this cycle available on offer, one is spoilt for choice but this is definitely one of the pick if you are looking for a fresh new version of the Nine.

Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech