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Customer Review

24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haitink's 85th year and Decca reissues the classic RCO sessions, 21 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Bernard Haitink The Symphony Edition (Decca box set) (Audio CD)
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. I don't suppose the Mahler set ever dropped out of the catalogue once it was remastered: BH's interpetation of the Ninth is much admired so it won't surely surprise you to hear that he's equally in tune with the final symphony of Tchaikovsky.

To date, the great hall of the Concertgebouw is the best concert acoustic I have encountered in situ. When you add the quality of the orchestra, the excellent sound goes a long way to compensating on those occasions when BH keeps his feet too firmly on the ground, isn't 'sent' by the music (e.g. the more spectacular Mahler or Tchaikovsky pieces). Sample the woodwinds flitting along with Byron's Alpine Fairy, or the thrilling orchestral dynamics brought to bear on Pyotr Ilyich's 'Pathetique' vivace. The worst you can expect is some very faint hiss in the earliest recorded offerings (maybe some noises-off on the much recommended Mahler 9).

A very handsome tribute to a great conductor and there's plenty more live material out there to explore. Recent live concerts recorded for CSO Resound, Profil, BR Klassik, LSO Live. Other golden oldies are reappearing on Decca Eloquence. A rich harvest.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Jan 2014 09:42:34 GMT
A shame they didn't include his very fine Shostakovich cycle.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jan 2014 16:06:50 GMT
Philoctetes says:
Because it's not all Amsterdam.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2014 15:29:45 GMT
Amazon give no idea what is on the discs- there are a lot of them and most customers would want more info before shelling out £69.If you can provide a very brief summary of the contents it would help. I assume the Mahler cycle is 1966-72, same with the Bruckner. presumably also Brahms earlier cycle (not Boston) Beethoven (Concergebouw not LPO) Also, presumably Schumann and Mendelssohn.The Philips analogue recordings were classics of their kind. Richard Francis

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2014 19:16:34 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Feb 2014 19:18:33 GMT
Philoctetes says:
Both my review and Amazon's synopsis make it perfectly clear this is an all Amsterdam affair. Look under "Product Description". For the fullest breakdown of the contents, try Presto Classical's website.

Posted on 6 Feb 2014 09:01:48 GMT
In my view, this is a good and helpful review. Thank you, Philoctetes! I agree that the omission of Sibelius is curious in Haitink's discography - I would have thought that his particular gifts would have served the Finnish master well (I would like to hear him in 4,6 and 7 particularly). Nielsen also would have been an interesting addition to his discography. Still, there is much treasure here. I approve of the Concertgebouw focus. Those recordings (Volker Straus) really stand the test of time.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2014 13:10:07 GMT
SS says:
Yes, thank you Philoctetes and as for even more recordings/composers, I think 36 cd's is quite enough to be going on with; ................. at least for now! Another great bargain box - is there no end to them?

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2014 21:10:08 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Aug 2014 21:10:32 BDT
BJ says:
If these recordings, as one reviewer stated, were from the late 1950s through the early 1970s they predated significantly the Shostakovich box set which were recorded from the late 1970s through the mid 1980s. Further, the Symphony edition which I have ordered were recordings from Philips original masters and I believe the Shostakovich series which I own was a Decca original and that's the reason for it's exclusion.

Posted on 30 Jul 2015 10:41:37 BDT
Precession says:
Excellent comments but for most if not all of these performances the orchestra's name would not have included 'Royal' - this was not added to the orchestra's name until 1988. I daresay this error comes from the details on the box itself - I've noticed it on several recordings. The orchestra was famed for itself and doesn't need any 'Royal' addition!

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Dec 2015 08:00:58 GMT
So what? The Box is called 'The Symphony Edition' and not 'The Concertgebouw Symphony Edition' and as such should include the Shostakovich cycle irrespective of which orchestras are used. Thisis blatant mis-selling and you know it as well as I do. Thank goodness he has avoided Mozart Symphonies . We've got enough recordings of that drivel thank you very much!

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Dec 2015 08:29:24 GMT
SS says:
I do not follow why are you so indignant and uptight the box excludes the Shostakovich cycle - if you want that you can buy it separately, as a current issue (about £33) and there is no reason why it should be included here if the record company decides not to. This box does not say ''complete'' or similar and the contents are clearly displayed so any suggestion of mis-selling is incorrect and inappropriate. I realise nothing that I nor anyone else can say is likely to make you alter your view. I see it is now the Bah Humbug season; how quickly it has again come round. For myself I am grateful to have this excellent value box with its many superb performances.
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Location: England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 759