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The LSO and Haitink bring Beethoven to life
on 13 April 2008
Beethoven's complete symphony cycles increase steadily through the years, from the early 1940's Furtwangler mono recordings, to the much cherished 1960's Karajan analogue stereo vinyl pressings, and now the digital versions on CD.
What's best is a matter of choice depending on whether the importance lies in authenticity in terms of both period instruments and accuracy of playing to the accepted `correct' score (currently the Barenreiter/Jonathan Del Mar versions), or maybe just sheer excitement in listening experience is of priority.
This set of recordings by the London Symphony Orchestra on their own LSO Live label has combined digital recording methods with a `Live' venue (London's Barbican) to produce an absolutely stunning version of the complete Beethoven symphonies.
In my view this set finds its way to the top of the ever-increasing pile for several reasons. The recordings are of a stunningly clear quality - even better if played on a SACD player - the performances are dramatic and enthusiastic but never succumbing to over-interpretation by the conductor. Bernard Haitink does the job to perfection. All the recordings were made between 2005 and 2006, each symphony recorded over two consecutive days, and although the sleeve notes state the performances are `live' there is absolutely no sign of audience noise so presumably there was none.
The highlights of this set are many, but for me the dramatic 4th movement of the 5th symphony and the entire 9th symphony are Beethoven played to perfection.
The CDs are presented in card sleeves in a compact box containing a 64 page booklet (English, French & German) with symphony notes, soloist biographies and photos, and a complete list of names of all the LSO players and London Symphony Chorus singers.
An essential addition to any Beethoven collection.