The London Symphony Orchestra recorded a complete Beethoven symphony cycle at their resident Barbican theatre between 2005 and 2006, this CD representing symphony 7 and the Triple Concerto.
There are three versions of this CD. This standard version, a hybrid multichannel SADC version, and a further SADC recording as part of the 6 CD complete symphony box set. All are of the same performance, recorded on the LSO Live label and combining digital recording methods with a `Live' venue (London's Barbican) to produce absolutely faultless versions of the works.
While I do appreciate the merits and historic importance of some of the many interpretations of Beethoven's symphonies, these LSO ones I think find their 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, and the performances are dramatic and enthusiastic but never succumbing to an over-personalised account by the conductor. Bernard Haitink does the job to perfection.
The sleeve notes provide the usual tracklist and times, plus a short analysis on each symphony, a brief biography of Haitink, and a full list of LSO orchestra members.
Of the three versions of this recording I would have to recommend the box set for sound quality, value and completeness, but any of the three provide a compelling and exciting interpretation of the symphonies.
An essential addition to any Beethoven collection.
on 3 November 2006
This might be the greatest recording of the Beethoven 7 ever made. It's not studio sound, of course, because it's a live recording; but the compensation is ample. The LSO plays with commanding viruosity and style and spirit. Haitink's concept of the symphony is genuinely fresh and utterly convincing, but never stroppily or pointlessly new-fangled. One feels almost there in the Barbican Hall. It's simply thrilling.
The Triple Concerto is less graceful than some performances (I'm thinking of the Oistrakh, Rostopovich, Richter recording with the Berlin Philharmonic and, oddly enough for grace, Karajan). But, again, one gets real character here and the whole gels, thanks to the rapport between the excellent soloists and Haitink's ever-present sense of structure and drive. Nikolitch is as sweet and Hugh as muscular as ever, but I was particularly impressed, actually, by the lovely sounds made by Lars Vogt's piano.
My advice: buy it. In fact, buy them all. You'd be mad to miss this inspirational Beethoven cycle.
on 17 October 2008
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.