No one would argue that Bernard Haitink and the London Symphony's May 2003 performances of Brahms' Symphony No. 2 and Double Concerto were not splendid. Haitink's conducting is poised and alert and the drive of his fast tempos is balanced by the repose of his slow tempos. The London Symphony plays with assured virtuosity and affectionate enthusiasm for the conductor and for the music. The soloist in the Double Concerto -- violinist Gordon Nikolitch and cellist Tim Hugh -- are robust, passionate, and vigorous. The audience at the Barbican that night would surely have felt they got their money's worth.
But is this a performance that deserves preservation? Haitink has recorded both works before and one could argue that his recordings with the Concertgebouw are richer and deeper. The LSO performs superbly but with a certain amount of facility. Other orchestras have performed it as if the music mattered more than life itself. The soloists are terrific but faced with competition from dozens of pairs of previously recorded soloists, they are only terrific. A splendid performance, surely, but an enduring performance, perhaps not.