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3.0 out of 5 stars Textbook modern Beethoven 7th, missing something vital, 17 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Beethoven - Symphony No 7; Triple Concerto (LSO, Haitink) (Audio CD)
Budding conductors could learn a lot from this recording of the Seventh; Haitink seems to do everything so right that I'm hard to put to explain exactly why it leaves me completely cold. This is so obviously subjective that I'll try first to describe the performance as objectively as I can. It's fast, very fast in all four movements, with the light textures and preference for rhythmic crispness over weight that's characteristic of modern chamber-orchestra Beethoven. The only real clue that this isn't a specialist period-instrument band is that there is liberal vibrato throughout. The Barbican acoustic is very dry.

If that sounds like your kind of Beethoven, you'll like this; the LSO play with great professionalism -- although my sense that it's *merely* professional was intensified when I listened to another much-praised recent recording, Ivan Fischer's on Channel Classics. His Budapest Festival Orchestra really do play out of their skins, as though bowled over by the enormous energy of this most vital of symphonies. I found much to admire in Haitink's exposition of the score, but it never once really excited me; Fischer's has the visceral power (and tendency to occasional odd conductorial decisions!) of classics like Chicago/Reiner.

The Triple Concerto is a very different kind of performance. In the long first movement, which needs advocacy and a tight rein to avoid sounding thin in invention for its spaciousness, Haitink gives us a steady, soggy Allegro not helped by the lack of clarity in the recorded sound -- lots of well-focussed bass is nice but may contribute to the masking of detail. It's a world away from the crisp, spick-and-span 7th. Lars Vogt and (especially) Tim Hugh play nicely; my dislike of Gordan Nikolitch's unremittingly oleaginous vibrato is a personal matter. The Largo is pleasant when Nikolitch isn't playing, but it's hard to say anything much about it. Even the Rondo alla Polacca, intrinsically the most enjoyable movement, is a bit pedestrian. I don't think this recording was worth releasing; the three stars are for the symphony.
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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

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