This excellently varied set enshrines the diversity and technical ability of Bernard Haitink who recently celebrated his 80th birthday. His tenures at the London Philharmonic and particularly the Concertgbouw Orchestra have only confirmed his panache for the big boned symphonic repertoire which is well represented here.
The Dvořák 7th is an interesting item as it has not been available before on CD and one can only marvel and admire the young Haitink's control of form and sense of exhilaration in a recording that is half a century old. The Mahler First is also legendary, recorded in stupendous stereo sound in 1962 and which justly deserves pride of place among the great recordings of this symphony.
The romantic repertoire is well served with Haitink's justly famous Beethoven 7th, Brahms 3rd and a white hot reading of Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini". Other interesting items are Liszt's "Festklange" from Haitink's rather underrated symphonic poem cycle, an intense reading of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and a rare 1877 version of Bruckner's Third symphony. Throughout, Haitink's flair for balance, top quality sound and judicious tempi is constantly evident.
Robert Layton's concise but informative biographical note is just the right accompaniment to this splendid set which deserves the best possible recommendation as an honest-to-goodness portrait of one of the last remaining "great" conductors.
Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech