Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 - Haitink

Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 - Haitink

LSO Live  LSO0598 (6 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9, Leonore Overture No. 2, Triple Concerto

Gordan Nikolitch (violin), Tim Hugh (cello), Lars Vogt (piano)
Twyla Robinson (soprano), Karen Cargill (mezzo soprano), John Mac Master (tenor), Gerald Finley (bass)
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
Bernhard Haitink (conductor)

The release of Bernard Haitink's new cycle of the Beethoven symphonies was one of the most talked about classical events of 2006. Over recent years many people had questioned whether another complete set of Beethoven's symphonies would ever be recorded. But Haitink's revelatory recordings have demonstrated why fresh new interpretations of Beethoven's music are so important and why the composer's music is still so relevant today.

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35 of 40 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

DSD recording
Reviews (2)

Review by John Broggio - October 3, 2006

This is the easiest review I shall ever have the pleasure of writing & can be summed up in two words: buy it!

It is not often one can hail a modern classic, especially of music that has been recorded so often in the past, but this is a rare standard of music making.

Full reviews can be found following the links given below but suffice to say that this is the most musical set of performances of Beethoven I have heard since first hearing Schnabel; it is also the most impressive I have heard from a playing perspective in Beethoven & I have never heard the LSO play like this on disc before now. Lastly, it is wonderful to hear Haitink bring all his experience with a truly fresh vision (for both him and us) of how this great music can sound.

From the opening of the first symphony, the notes sound as though the ink is still drying and this impression continues through the other 8 masterpieces. It is more than just sounding newly minted; the honesty, structure and emotion are all vividly conveyed too in the best sound that LSO Live have achieved to date from the Barbican. The Triple Concerto & Leonore Overture No.2 are just as successful and makes one wish for follow-up sets to complete the orchestral music together with a concerto cycle and Fidelio all under the baton of Haitink.

The box-set brings together all 6 discs (in slip-cases) with the original artwork used and the notes conflated into one booklet - very neatly done, even if not everyone admires the concept of the photos.

As I said before (and it cannot be said often enough) - buy it, not just for yourself but for all your friends/family/colleagues... they will all be profoundly grateful.

Beethoven: Symphonies 1 & 5 - Haitink
Beethoven: Symphonies 2 & 6 - Haitink
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 - Haitink
Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 8 - Haitink
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, Triple Concerto - Nikolitch, Hugh, Vogt, Haitink
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - Haitink


Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and


Sonics (Multichannel):

stars stars

Review by Mark Novak - October 11, 2006

This is a young man's, vibrant Beethoven set. The thing is, its conducted by Bernard Haitink who's been around the track a few times (i.e. no spring chicken). These performances are urgent and alive like none I've heard before and the conducting and playing befits the music. The term "stodgy" definitely does not apply. Believe me when I say I was floored by this - its not what I expected from Haitink at this stage in his life. This urgency applies to each and every symphony. The only place I find it somewhat detrimental is in the 1st mvmt of 9, where the quick pace blurs the triplet figures. In fact, I find the 9th to be the least compelling performance yet still enjoyable overall with good singing from the soloists and choir.

Now, I haven't pulled out some of my other recordings to compare timings (save for one - more below) so I can't say for sure that they are all as fast as they seem. It's just that the conducting is so well done that the works come off as fresh and exciting. And when you are talking about warhorses like these syms, it's quite refreshing to hear. The LSO's playing is fantastic throughout! The fact that these are live recordings makes the final superb results almost unbelievable. In the one comparison I made, I listened to the Vanska/Bis recording of the final mvmt of Sym 5 after listening to the LSO. Both mvmts have very similar overall timings yet the Haitink seems more energetic and urgent to me. Very Nice.

In my 2-channel system, the sound is close-up but excellent. The close-up perspective really allows the inner voices to be heard (and eliminates audience noise which I could not detect). The violins don't screech but have a nice body to them. Woodwinds, brass and percussion are all very fine sounding. The Vanska/Bis recording is a bit farther back with more hall sound. I actually like the LSO sound better oberall. I did seem to hear a very slight improvement in sound between the batch of recordings made in November, 2005 versus those made in April, 2006. In the earlier recordings, the violins sound ever so slightly opaque which is gone in the later recordings.

I bought this set based on the very positive reviews from several of the site reviewers. I can only add my own urgent recommendation to those (unless you prefer ponderous, stodgy Beethoven).

Copyright © 2006 Mark Novak and


Sonics (Stereo):

stars stars
Comments (3)

Comment by Waveform - October 21, 2016 (1 of 3)

Guys, it is a strange thing. We have mocked the dry acoustics of the Barbican but here the sound is simply wonderful, specially in surround. If your subwoofer is switched on it will create a pleasant glamour for the multi-channel mix. My personal favorites are "Leonore Overture No . 2" and the "Choral" Symphony (No. 9). The performances of Haitink and the LSO are idiomatically powerful. I think that even Vänskä and his Minnesota forces will lose the game after all. What a gorgeous box that should be part of every audiophile's SACD library!

Comment by William Hecht - October 21, 2016 (2 of 3)

At one time I had the first couple of releases in this series. Performances are very good but not exactly revelatory. Instrumental timbres are rendered beautifully but unfortunately the sound is very dry like most of the Barbican recordings.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - October 28, 2016 (3 of 3)

I'm an old time Haitink fan. But I agree with Bill that the recorded sound is not amongst the best, so I stopped buying them.