Bernard Haitink

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 [Special Edition]

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Beethoven's nine symphonies -- what can one say? The greatest body of orchestral works ever composed? Probably. The most performed body of orchestral works ever composed? Certainly. The most recorded body of orchestral works ever composed? Absolutely. Not only has virtually every conductor recorded a Beethoven cycle, some of them have gotten to record it multiple times: Abbado, Bernstein, Solti, Karajan, and Haitink, among others. What does this proliferation tell us? Usually nothing about the music that hasn't been heard before, but sometimes something about what the conductor thinks about the music. These performances with the London Symphony Orchestra recorded in 2005 and 2006 tell what Bernard Haitink thinks about the greatest body of orchestral works ever composed. And what does Haitink think? Pretty much nothing that hasn't been thought before. His tempos are neither too fast nor too slow, but straight down the moderato. His dynamics are neither too loud nor too quiet, but right in the mezzo. His textures are clear and lucid. His colors are blended and smooth. His interpretations are solid and sincere. But what does Haitink tell us about what he thinks about Beethoven's symphonies? Pretty much nothing except that he is an experienced conductor with a superb baton technique who keeps his opinions to himself. The London Symphony's playing is enthusiastic but too often ragged around the edges for comfort. LSO Live's recording is transparent but the perspective seems to shift from work to work -- sometimes the strings are too far away, other times the brass are too close.

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