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Beethoven: Symphonies 1 & 5 - Haitink

Beethoven: Symphonies 1 & 5 - Haitink

LSO Live  LSO0590

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 5

London Symphony Orchestra
Bernhard Haitink (conductor)


Beethoven again raised the expressive force of the symphony with the Fifth and introduced a theatrical element to it. Beginning with the most famous phrase in classical music and one of the most joyous, uplifting movements as a finale it is an exhilarating experience. Beethoven didn't complete his first symphony until he was almost 30 and it marks the beginning of his remoulding of the Symphony away from the Classical ideals of Haydn.

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Review by John Broggio - October 3, 2006

Incredible as it might seem that this (most?) famous symphony might yield new facets to experienced listeners, Haitink and the LSO bring off the impossible and prove that there is always a new way of looking at great art. From the initial motive, one senses that we are in for a very special performance indeed. The energy imparted is extraordinary and I'm astonished that in the same concerts, other symphonies of this cycle where recorded - the LSO & Haitink sound as though they are giving their all.

Just as with the miraculous 7th, this 5th puts the famous Kleiber completely in the shade and any other performance that I've had the priviledge of listening or watching. Line flows from instrument to instrument and the intensity of the playing is something to behold - I am sadly not used to orchestras from the UK playing with such commitment; long may this standard from the LSO continue. The pacing is not particularly special compared to other accounts, rather it is the care that the textures are layered, the refinement of the dynamics and the conviction of the playing that impart such a sense of rediscovery. The impatient and impassioned power of the first movement give way to as noble an account of the slow movement as one could wish for; the conversations between strings and woodwind are very touching indeed.

The almost cheeky menace that opens the third movement is brushed aside by the brilliant horns. The lower strings really shine in the trio where the quavers are dispatched with tremendous vigour. Then, as we all know, the tension builds and builds until daylight breaks through - under Haitink, this is an almost unbearable occasion which has one jumping out of ones seat in delight. The playing is simply sensational and I cannot imagine it being matched never mind bettered for a considerable amount of time. The voyage that ones emotions undertake is very powerfully evoked by the LSO and the feeling of triumph in the closing peroration is total. Giving all five stars for such a performance seems very mean!

As with the Pastoral, an early symphony follows. Even here after such a momentous performance of a titanic symphony, Haitink and the LSO still persuade us to carry on listening the music making is so compelling. Here, for once, the textures are lighter and the LSO delight in showing off how versatile their sound can be. There is nothing more to say than, like the 5th, it is hard to imagine a better rendition - this is no mere filler.

The sound is as good as the Barbican will allow and so I will award a full five stars for what has been the most reinvigorated symphony of the cycle as a token of my appreciation to the LSO Live team for the radical improvements since the early efforts they made.

Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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