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Reviews: Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, Triple Concerto - Haitink

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Site review by Polly Nomial October 2, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is an account of the seventh symphony that puts Carlos Kleiber's famous VPO rendition (Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 - Kleiber if still available) completely in the shade. Throughout, the playing is more vital and, more importantly, the joy inherent in the music is so strong that one cannot stop beaming from ear to ear as the coda to the finale concludes.

As the illuminating notes from Lindsay Kemp mention, the Beethoven scholar David Wyn Jones suggests that a better summary than Wagner's "apotheosis of the dance" would be the "continuous, cumulative celebration of joy". This certainly is how Haitink projects the work, even in the second movement it is hard to escape the brightness of mood that is evoked both before and after. Before this, the grand opening is given a detailed but unified performance by the LSO with Haitink guiding them unerringly into a ebulliant Vivace. The climax to the movement is built upon some marvellously solid playing from the double basses who cannot be persuaded to move (far) from their low e's.

The Presto is very fleet of foot for the large forces (that are audibly so in the outer movements), especially in the trio where the woodwind are very songful. Around these episodes the woodwind and strings chirrup in exultation as Haitink encourages a very tight, light approach. The finale goes like the wind but with great weight from the strings and marvellous horn playing, there is no feeling of breathlessness. As in the first movement, the coda is built on a bass line that seems to be made out of steel; the close is exhilarating and as in the other discs to this most remarkable cycle I regret the lack of a spontaneous explosion of applause that must surely have greeted the performances.

The Triple Concerto is hardly less special and it must be counted as a version that is musically more cohesive than the famous Berlin recording on EMI. Lars Vogt constantly illuminates the structure of the piano writing, Gordan Nikolitch (who apart from being a leader of the LSO also directs one of the myriad chamber ensembles in the Netherlands, with a particularly good example being Britten: Frank Bridge Variations etc. - Netherlands Chamber Orchestra) is a sympathetic partner to both Vogt and Tim Hugh who responds with composed directness to Vogt's inspired playing. As in the symphonies, the LSO under Haitink play like gods and the balance between the protagonists and their accompaniment is highly successful - perhaps the very best I have heard.

The recording is a very good example of how the Barbican sounds; thus the sound is not ideally expansive which robs the orchestra of the last degree of tonal lustre but this is a world apart from the earlier LSO Live efforts and is really very enjoyable. In fact, one might argue that the acoustic is highly appropriate for Beethoven when performed on this scale.

Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and

Review by Edvin March 13, 2006 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Judging from this new 7th Haitink has done some serious re-thinking on how to perform Beethoven. This is far from his previous efforts with LPO and RCO and shows a new Haitink.
Tempi are fast, they are even quicker than Kleiber on DG. But nothing is sacrificed, on the contrary. It is all gain. The introduction is paced quite fast with heavy accents, maybe Haitink is inluenced by the "period lobby"? The movement proper bounces along with some lovely punctuations from the vey clear timpany and Haitink manages to find a perfect balance between the dance and the song. It is a very dynamic performance.

The allegretto is rather swift and has some absolutely marvellous dynamic shades, or gradings rather. The playing is incredibly lovely.

Follows a presto of both speed and power, as well as a myriad of delicate dynamics. The trio section(s) is fast and sort of phrased with a cut off..hope you get it.

The finale is furious and absolutely marvellous in it´s ability to build up tension. The last pages are tremendous and Haitink brings the symphony to a triumphant close.
This is surely one of the most exciting sevenths ever and if the rest of the cycle continues in the same vein we have a classic.

The Triple Concerto is not so dependable on interpretation to convey it´s message. This performance is, as you might gather by the names, really something special. All I can say is that I have never enjoyed this piece as much before.

The sound is perfectly acceptable on it´s own. But as soon as you start to compare you miss the space and room for some of the more dynamic instruments to expand in. The basses near the end doesn´t sound as sinister as they should because the accoustics dont allow the sound to expand.
Don´t let this put you off, this is high powered Beethoven and you are unlikely to find better played or conducted performances.

I have always admired Haitink, but never really thought he had this in him. His interpretations where often safe and very good, but they seldom stood out. This is something different alltogether, and I applaud the LSO for giving him the opportunity to realize these volatile ideas. I am not sure the RCO would have done this.

Hideous cover, and worse is to come.

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Review by terence April 14, 2006 (3 of 8 found this review helpful)
i've only heard RBCD stereo, unfortunately, so just a quick line to report that artistically these are outstanding performances, very clear textured and bubbling with energy. i enjoyed them a great deal.

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Review by Amfibius July 2, 2007 (7 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
OK, this is going to be the LAST time I buy a CD based on reviews on Of the Beethoven 7's, I have the Kleiber, Klemperer, Abbado, Karajan, Bohm, Harnoncourt, and Walter. This performance scrapes the bottom of this list. I place it even lower than the Harnoncourt, which until now was the king of my "massively disappointing but well reviewed discs".

I don't know how anyone can compare this disc to the Kleiber 7th and place it on top. Just listen to the emasculated orchestral sound (drums sound like toy drums, violin sections sound thin, the whole orchestra lacks "oomph") and the uncoordinated playing. Kleiber takes the finale of the 7th in a maelstrom of sounds rapidly escalating in tempo and volume. In comparison the Haitink/LSO clumsily saunters to the end with occasional passages of disconnected playing.

I am sorry to come out so negative, but so far nobody has posted a contrary viewpoint. And these reviews have already misled one person (me).

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