Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - Haitink
LSO Live LSO0592
Classical - Orchestral
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 "Choral"
Twyla Robinson (soprano)
Karen Cargill (mezzo soprano)
John Mac Master (tenor)
Gerald Finley (bass)
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink (conductor)
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is a landmark in the history of music, changing the concept of what a symphony could be. The use of solo singers and a chorus in the final movement was revolutionary, and the emotional journey to a glorious vision of a world of love and tolerance paved the way for idealistic symphonies to come.
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Review by John Broggio - September 22, 2006
This superlative account of the "Choral" symphony must surely, good or great as the rest of the cycle is, be the jewel in this wonderful crown of the Beethoven symphonies from Haitink and the LSO.
Opening with a pulse that is strongly reminiscent of Karajan's 1970's recording (Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - Karajan (1976)), this is a very different beast - at once more refined in the recording aspect but much more vivid in the drama of the music. At one climax, one can almost imagine that the timpani needed new skins after each performance! One feels the steely firmness of the LSO under Haitink with almost frightening intensity and it is no small relief when the final blows of this titanic struggle are over. For all the number of strings, the sound is gratifyingly lean (not undernourished) and allows all details to be clearly heard and further enhance the emotional impact of this astonishing symphony.
Any such similarities with Karajan are quickly forgotten in the Scherzo where the "extra" notes of the (repeats included) Barenreiter tell marvellously. The articulation is very sharp and biting which only serves to highlight the more pastoral nature of the trio section of this highly contrasted movement. The woodwind are at once brilliant and relaxed with the strings providing a lovely carpet of sound to play over.
In the great slow movement, the tempo is flowing but combined with a great sense of line. One might draw a parallel with the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th symphony and current thinking suggesting that it should be played as a love song rather than a funereal outpouring of grief; this is the comparison with older recordings that Haitink brings - a real labour of love (for humanity?) from all concerned and is very, very touching.
Somewhat unusually, the Finale is only granted one track (which I happen to think is a good thing when the playing of the introduction is of this quality). Haitink manages to completely capture Beethoven's evocation of the first 3 movements in a snapshot before ushering in the great melody which is then treated to a staggering set of variations. The LSO Chorus and soloists match all that has gone before and soon one can almost "see" the stars referred to by Schiller. Unlike some modern interpretations set down on various media, there is no headlong rush into the concluding outburst but a carefully managed, yet joyously triumphant explosion of sound.
The LSO Live team also deserve every praise as this is by far the best sound from the Barbican that I have yet to hear. Even though the sound is dry, it is not distracting and is very clear - just like being there & what could be a better compliment than that? In any event, such is the quality of the performance that one could still enjoy it tremendously even if you were hearing it in mono!
Hugely recommended & as Edvin has said about other issues - this is Beethoven for *all* times; a modern classic.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net