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Reviews: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 - Haitink

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Reviews: 6

Site review by Polly Nomial October 2, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by krisjan October 10, 2006 (12 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by thepilot October 16, 2006 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This the spirit of Beethoven and the true voice of Beethoven. Exemplary playing from the LSO, spirited conducting from Haitink and splendid recording (I would have liked a little more bloom), that combines crystal clear clarity, wide dynamic range and extraordinary immediacy. The definitive Beethoven symphony cycle, more from Haitink, LSO and LSO Live please.

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Review by theaudiohiffle December 4, 2006 (14 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I bought this box set very soon after its release, after reading three reviews of the individual releases here on SA-CD.net. The reviews stressed the nuance and attention to dynamics and dance-like quality that I had heard Haitink bring to a performance of Mahler's First at Tanglewood this summer. That performance had me going away shaking my head in wonder (and I'm not a big Mahler fan).

I decided to to listen to the symphonies in natural order, rather than by release. So I started with No. 1, listening on my five-full-range Thiel multi-channel music setup. I could hardly sit still I was so excited as the piece unfolded, and at the end I found myself saying to the empty room "wow-o-wow-o-wow"!! Out loud! I can never remember having such a strong reaction to a piece of music in my life.

The remainder of the symphonies never failed to please...I rate them all at or near the top of any other perfomance I have or have heard...although the 8th is a little rushed to my taste, and the orchestral and choral forces a little too light to convey the necessary "gravitas" of the Ninth. But still, these are fine interpretations. That slight, little symphony called the "First", however, for me still conveys the most magic of Haitink's conducting.

Frankly, the last Beethoven cycle that I found compelling was Walter's...and that was back in the late '60's. Until now, it has been my favorite although I also have Klemperer and Kleiber's output, plus a few others.

When I try to describe the Haitink approach, I tell people to mix Walter's lyricism and sense of propulsiveness, with Kleiber's lean, uptempo approach, and then to throw in Szell's attention to balance and nuance and detail...and then prepare to have that mix bettered. This is an unbelievable set, and I am happy to see that the NYC critics agree (I was really interested in whether they would embrace this fairly radical approach.)

The fine sound is not just icing on this cake...in multichannel it is like adding another layer and a half-inch of icing. These recordings come as close as I have heard in multichannel to capturing the sound of a full orchestra in a good hall (the boxy bass excepted). I use a Sony SACD player (C2000ES) that decodes direct in pure DSD, and despite the Barbicons dryness, I still can hear enough ambience to make the sound in my room gourgeous. When I attend concerts, I tend to clost my eyes to concentrate on the music...when I do that in my living room, I can very easily suspend belief...the sound is that close to "being there".

I will treasure this set until the end of my days, and hope others will attain the same joy from it after I am gone.

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Review by Ian Xavier Roskell June 14, 2012 (3 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I don't need to say much...buy if it's possible that a recording can be called a masterpiece that is exactly what has been achieved. A masterful collection of masterpiece recordings by a master of music who wrote masterpieces all of which are perfectly captured in this collection. This is a crown jewel and I hope that these recordings are never forgotten and are never out of print...which can be said for many of the fantastic LSO Live label's releases.
Once more...run, fly, drive what ever the fastest transportation resources that are available to you, use them and get these hybrid SA-CDs As fast as concievably possible (or alternatively just order them) hear these great sources of wonder! Right now as you read this buy! these are Worth more than money these recording are worth more than money they are a source of immeasurable wealth...buy!! Listen!!

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Review by Little Nemo March 23, 2013 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is a review of the 2ch program only, and focuses mainly on the sound quality.

Don't pre-judge this cycle by the other mainly-disappointing LSO Live recordings. With LSO Live we have come to expect overzealous spotlighting which results in flat two-dimensional sound due to everything sounding up-front and crammed together. This is usually put down to the theory that because the Barbican has poor acoustics, multiple close-miking is necessitated. Check out the Mahler cycle or Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet for bad examples of this.

Slight over-spotlighting is still occasionally evident here - the sound is still a little flat at times, with flutes and other quiet instruments sounding too up-front - but not to the same degree as other recordings from the same label. And it sounds natural enough to immerse oneself in so that the fine performances come across well. There's exactly the right amount of ambience - which for all I know may be fake convolution reverb - but it sounds great, so who cares.

I also like the richness of the sound; it has an almost "valve" quality; strings sound dark, not thin and over-airy, and brass sounds gorgeously warm. This makes the cycle easy to relax into, even during loud passages, without suffering ear fatigue. Check out the 5th as a great example.

I have dropped just one star for sound as it doesn't live up to the very best classical audiophile recordings out there (the RCO Live label's Mahler cycle, for example). But for the LSO Live label this is surprisingly good, and I'm delighted with it. Recommended.

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