Revelatory would be my one-word summary of this Beethoven symphony cycle by the London Symphony Orchestra under Bernard Haitink. He may now be 85 but Haitink is never predictable or boring. (These recordings were made in 2005 and 2006 when the Dutchman was a relative youngster.) It's big band Beethoven but the sense of attacking the music that Haitink produces from the LSO shows just how much historically-informed performance has transformed the way Beethoven is played nowadays. And I was pleasantly surprised not to encounter the now almost legendary acoustical problems associated with the Barbican venue in London. The way the timpanis leap out of your speakers/headphones makes this an edge-of-seat rollercoaster experience. Try the 4th symphony for starters. At the time of writing, the whole lot ( and you get the Triple Concerto as a bonus) will cost you under £9 as an excellent MP3 download. It's the old story. Just when you think you couldn't possibly stomach yet another Beethoven symphony cycle, one comes along that blows your cynicism right out of the water. It's called genius and wasn't Ludwig van Beethoven the ultimate of the breed ?
Playing and recording are excellent, so this is fundmentally a very worthy account of these masterworks. However, to me there is something elusive missing. Maybe the pace is sometimes slightly too fast, or the ambience a bit dry?
The set is certainly worth four stars, though. And a nice bonus is the inclusion of a very good account of the (in my view) under-appreciated Triple Concerto instead of the selection of overtures normally used as filler (the only overture here is the famous Leonore No. 2).
Overall, I'm happy to have this version in my collection alongside several other accounts.