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Bernard Haitink The Symphony Edition (Decca box set) Box set, Limited Edition


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With an international conducting career that has spanned more than five decades, Amsterdam-born Bernard Haitink is one of today's most celebrated conductors. Recentlyappointed Principal Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he has in addition led many of the world's top orchestras, including 25 years at the helm of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam as its music ... Read more in Amazon's Bernard Haitink Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD (20 Jan. 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 36
  • Format: Box set, Limited Edition
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B00GMVBL7W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,901 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Product Description

Bernard Haitink will be 85 on 4 March 2014, and this set presents his six complete symphonic cycles by cornerstone classical composers: Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schumann and Tchaikovsky. Originally recorded for Philips, the CDs are now smartly re-packaged in a collectible cube.

Every single symphonic cycle is played by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, recently voted by Gramophone Magazine as The Greatest Orchestra in the World .

The box inlcudes a substantial 128-page booklet including extensive essays in 3 languages (E, F, G) including essays by authoritative writers such as William Kinderman (Beethoven), Michael Kennedy (Mahler) and John Warrack (Schumann and Tchaikovsky)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Revd R. B. Miller on 18 Feb. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have not had the chance to listen to all 36 CDs as yet, but having heard all the Bruckner Symphonies, the Beethoven Symphonies (not the Choral so far) and Tchaikovsky Pathetique, I can only say this is a magnificent set of clear recordings with dramatic and sensitive conducting. I look forward to hearing the Mahler, Brahms and Schumann offerings. The recordings cover a period of thirty years, from the early sixties to the late eighties. Many recordings are ADD but the later ones are DDD. I really cannot tell the difference in sound quality. Haitink and the RCO really have made a an outstanding contribution to recording history and the whole set for £50 is outstanding value. Haitink is clearly a master conducter who knows how to bring the best out every instrument under his direction. This is a must have set even if you own complete recordings of symphonies such as Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler etc. conducted by Karajan, Kubelik and Bernstein or Stokowski.
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Philoctetes TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Jan. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Question: why has Bernard Haitink - at least on record - had so little to do with the symphonies of Mozart and Sibelius? He's found time for Shostakovich and Walton, so why not Finland's finest, or Salzburg's? Let's leave that one hanging.

The reissue of Haitink's Royal Concertgebouw symphonies cycles (1960s-80s) comes in a robust box with a lift-off lid, cardboard sleeves well proportioned, the exterior predominantly grey, the interior box lemon yellow. The booklet, with alphabetical and disc-by-disc tracklistings, reproduces essays printed when Philips reissued these recordings in the early 1990s. I can recall The Gramophone expressing some regret that Haitink's later re-recordings of certain pieces weren't chosen in place of his younger efforts (e.g. Mahler's No.1 - a likeable performance, nonetheless) and the same concern applies here. Reissuing the sets as they were, Decca do not take the opportunity of including Das Klagende Lied or Das Lied Von Der Erde, which would make sense under the circumstances and add value. In an era of 'original jacket' reproductions on CD sleeves, a different basic colour to demarcate each composer's discs would have been helpful.

The box is worth getting for a superb, comprehensive Brahms series and an outstanding Bruckner cycle. I've also encountered a lovely Mahler 4 with Elly Ameling and a stirring Manfred overture. Schumann's symphonies are given serviceable readings and the various short pieces are a pleasure to hear. Though some of the music in this box was recorded in the 1960s, Haitink's Beethoven cycle didn't arrive till the mid 1980s and the many beauties (No.8, for example) are ripe for rediscovery.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MR LINKS on 10 Dec. 2014
Format: Audio CD
Brilliant box set of some of the RCO's finest recordings of the great symphonic cycles. The Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler are some of the best available. Excellent essays on each of the cycles, too (which is rare for this type of edition: a nice bonus).
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By kevin a dixon on 7 May 2015
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ten out of ten great value
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Haitink's symphonic signature 26 Sept. 2014
By Terrance Aldon Shaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Let me state my biases up front; I come to this review as an avid life-long fan of Bernard Haitink. He is very probably my favorite conductor of all time, and youthful exposure to his recordings helped to form my own musical tastes and appreciation. I do not think it would be stretching a point to say that Haitink is one of the most remarkable conductors of the past fifty years. His recorded performances are unfailingly fine; brilliantly understated, technically impeccable, exquisitely detailed, probing, revelatory, moving and memorable. His readings of Brahms, Bruckner, Debussy, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky (among others) have attained a rarefied reputation, and still remain easily among the first-choice recommendations for much of the standard repertory. "Bernard Haitink: The Symphony Edition" is one of two recent box sets from Decca, marking Haitink's eighty-fifth birthday in 2014. Together with Haitink: The Philips Years this set offers a broad, tantalizing overview of the great Dutch conductor's compelling artistry, and makes a near-perfect introduction to one of the truly magnificent recorded legacies of our time.

Both sets are sturdily packaged in heavy, attractively laminated cardboard. Discs are individually sleeved in stiff--but not overly snug-- cardboard jackets, all reiterating the box-cover illustration on the front, with titles, track numbers and basic artist information on the back. Track timings and recording data are included in the large semi-glossy booklets accompanying the set. (Maddeningly, the booklet in my copy of "The Symphony Edition" was missing eighteen pages; others were bound out of order, and a few showed up twice.)

Re-mastered sound is consistently superb--as listeners have come to expect from these Decca retrospective sets. Levels vary somewhat from disc to disc; the complete Mahler cycle in "The Symphonies Edition" (SE) was transferred at an annoyingly low level, necessitating a rather substantial rightward twist of the volume knob. (Admittedly, once properly amplified, the sound of these performances is nothing short of breathtaking.) I did not notice the same problem with the two Mahler symphonies also included in "The Philips Years" (TPY).

Somewhat perplexing, too, is the SE transfer engineer's irritating habit of splitting up some of the symphonies across discs (Bruckner's #1, Mahler's #2, #6 and #9), which is neither necessary or desirable. The same recordings of the Mahler #6 and #9 both comfortably occupy single discs in the TPY set, and the "Resurrection" might easily have been accommodated on a disc of its own in the SE had the "Adagio" from "Symphony #10" simply been coupled with the `Titan' (#1) on Disc 19. But this is, at worst, a small-ish complaint.

There is relatively little overlap from one set to the other. Points of duplication include: Brahms "Symphony #3" from 1970; Bruckner "Symphony #8" from 1970; Mahler "Symphony #6" (1969), and #9 (1970); Tchaikovsky "Symphony #1 `Winter Dayreams'" (1980) and "Symphony #2 `Little Russian'" (1978). The SE features the superb analog Bruckner "Symphony #3" (1877 version) from 1964, and #9 from 1966, while TPY includes the early digital recording of #9 from 1982, and the 1989 reading of #3. The Beethoven symphonies included in the TPY box are the earlier 1977 readings with the London Philharmonic as opposed to the equally fine 80s-era recordings with the Concertgebouw in the SE.

The performances themselves are uniformly outstanding, revealing the conductor's deep rapport with his orchestra, a studied understatement which allows detail to emerge from even the most complex score while eloquently elucidating structure and line. The quintessential Haitink interpretation is distinguished by the conductor's ability to achieve just the right degree of emphasis on each note and phrase--no more, no less-- lending the music the precise momentum necessary to maintain structural cohesion and listener interest, while never drawing attention away from the composer's vision. Listen, for example, to the sublime opening bars of Brahms' Symphony #2 where the three-note figure in the bass gently propels the gossamer melodic statement in the horns and strings, like surface tension on water. This interpretive approach opens up new and unexpected dazzling musical vistas, especially in the symphonies of Mahler, a composer whose music often suffers from conductorly excess, sometimes to the point of caricature. By contrast, Haitink's 1966 recording of Mahler's "Symphony #6"; in highlighting details often hidden or overlooked by those more interested in the work's heavier, melodramatic elements, convincingly reveals the work as a kind of maturely dark reflection of the youthful, sunny "Third". A truly great performance, marvelously recorded.

It is true--and to be fair--that Haitink's "laid-back"--some might say "self-effacing"-- approach is not always equally effective; his Schumann is good, but hardly great, and his Tchaikovsky, while lithe, luminous, and gorgeously detailed, sometimes lacks the last full measure of drama and power. (I would give the laurel to Mariss Jansons with the Oslo Philharmonic on Chandos along with the classic recordings of Pierre Monteux for RCA, with Haitink a still very respectable second runner up.)

It seems fashionable nowadays for reviewers to complain about what these retrospective albums leave out, as opposed to celebrating what they include. Yes, it would have been wonderful--albeit very possibly cost-prohibitive--for Decca to have shoehorned Haitink's landmark Shostakovich cycle with the Concertgebouw and LPO into this already crowded box. The maestro's lovely recordings of the Schubert "Unfinished" and "Great C Major" are (happily) included in the TPY set, along with his very fine Dvorak "Seventh". As far as complete symphonic cycles go, there really isn't much left, certainly nothing that isn't readily available separately.

So, muted grumbles aside, "The Symphony Edition" is highly recommended along with its companion set, especially as they complement one another so well, and, side by side, offer a colorful and compelling portrait of a truly great musical artist.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Wish it was more complete 27 Mar. 2014
By Peter J Contos Jr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
These original Phillips recordings are both in terms of performance and sound quality are top-drawer! Wish that London/Decca would have also added the Shostakovich Symphony Cycle that Haitink recorded with the RCO and London Philharmonic.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A fabulous collection of timeless recordings 23 May 2014
By Steven L. Bashwiner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This collection is remarkably inexpensive for its vast scope and legendary quality. The recordings are all top quality from the late 50's through the early 70's and are some of Haitink's most famous performances.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This is a 36 CD set currently priced at $80 or ca $2.25... 17 Mar. 2014
By Kirk List - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
...per disc. I own five of the six cycles and did own the sixth (Brahms). All six cycles receive excellent
performances, but I found the Brahms more disposable contrasted especially to those of Eugen Jochum , George
Szell ,and- only in his Berlin PO/DG first and second symphonies (not in his 1970s remakes)- Karl Bohm. Haitink's
greatest set is the Beethoven. This may surprise some of those who consider him phlegmatic-uninspired, but I find them intense and fiery in #s 3,5,7,and 9. For examples, #s 3 and 5 do not pale beside Erich Kleiber's desert island RCOA versions and are superior sonically. #s 1,2,4,6,and 8, and 9 are no less impressive, and in the finale of the ninth,Lucia Popp
is incomparably stunning. The Schumann are very good also, but I am a recent convert to Christoph Von Dohnanyi's
set with Cleveland/Decca and still consider Kubelik's BPO #2 miraculous. The Tchaikovskys are equally good in the face of furious competition from Mravinsky, Kondrashin, Szell in #4 and Sawallisch/RCOA et al in #5. The Mahler and Bruckner sound fine, but here again acolytes
will dissent. In the Mahler I listen most to #s 1-4*
, 7 and 9. In the Bruckner, #s 3,4,8 and 9. I do not give Haitink Carte Blanche, do not care for his live LSO
Beethoven, for example. BTW, Haitink's superb Schubert #s 5,8 and 9 should have been included. The Ninth
is akin to his flawless complete MN Dream and Rosamunde (emphasis on COMPLETE)

*#s 3 with Forrester, 4 with Ameling and 2 with Ameling and Aafje Heynis are musts, I believe
Four Stars 18 Feb. 2015
By Esther bunny - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Great set, missing part of the insert for the music list though. (It was new).
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