Haitink's integral set of Beethoven Symphonies with the London Symphony has none of the stodginess that sometimes afflicted his earlier recordings with the Concertgebouw. His restudy of the works, and the presence of concert audiences translate into faster tempos, sharper accents, wider dynamic range and an overall sense of energy that imbue these nine masterpieces.
The Piano Concerto No. 2 is also Beethoven in classical mode, using an orchestra that would have suited a Mozart piano concerto equally well. What marks it out from other classical works of the time are the solo outbursts in each of the first two movements. In the first, a contrapuntal cadenza with exciting modulations takes us into new and more individual territory, in which the keyboard becomes absolutely the composers focus; in the second we are treated to some powerful, improvisatory solos. The last movement, a rondo with a highly rhythmic main theme in 6/8, manages to introduce a descending chromatic progression towards the end and closes with the piano oscillating rapidly between major and minor chords (a light hearted conclusion to the piece, but one which taxes every pianist).
Maestro Bernard Haitink evokes a triumphant performance from the Berlin Philharmonic with this rendition of Mahler's fourth and seventh symphonies. In addition to Haitnik's mastery over the material, Sylvia McNair's solo vocals add another layer of aural texture to a performance that reveals the genius of Mahler's compositions.
This Philips Classics DVD Video is part of a series of films from the legendary Mahler cycle performed by Bernard Haitink and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the early 1990s. This title presents Mahler's ground-breaking Symphony No. 1, subtitled "Titan" with its mighty successor, the Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection". Sylvia McNair (soprano), Jard van Nes (mezzo-soprano) and the Ernst-Senff Choir appear in the Symphony No. 2, along with Haitink and the Berlin Philharmonic. As a bonus feature, each DVD contains a Mahler Chronology (Life, times and Important dates) as well as a Mahler Gallery. Sound LPCM Stereo & DTS 5.1 Surround.
"Bernard Haitink: The Symphony Edition" is one of two recent box sets from Decca, marking Haitink's eighty-fifth birthday in 2014. Together with Haitink: The Philips Years this set offers a broad, tantalizing overview of the great Dutch conductor's compelling artistry, and makes a near-perfect introduction to one of the truly magnificent recorded legacies of our time. Haitink will be 85 on 4 March 2014, and this set presents his six complete symphonic cycles by cornerstone classical composers: Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schumann and Tchaikovsky.
Karl Böhm's Beethoven is, on balance, the best complete cycle available from Deutsche Grammophon. This will come as a surprise to many, given the fact that the label relentlessly promotes performances by Herbert von Karajan (three complete cycles!) and Leonard Bernstein, but for quality of playing, as well as superb sound, these versions are just about unbeatable. And at a "twofer" price, the complete set on three pairs of discs is a terrific value. –David Hurwitz