Symphony No.2 in D, Op.36
Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 (Pastoral)
London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded in the Barbican Hall, London in 2005 on 21 & 22 November (Symphony No.2) & 26 & 27 November
Reviewed by: Michael Quinn
Reviewed: July 2006
CD No: LSO LIVE LSO0082
Duration: 76 minutes
As nimble, fleet and sweetly scented as the first spring breeze, Bernard Haitink’s ‘Pastoral’ is a sublime creation and one to cherish. Throughout, his sensitive, finger-tip-delicate phrasing pays due regard to Beethoven’s own description of this most agreeable of symphonies as “More an expression of feeling than painting”. Certainly, the musical brushstrokes applied in this captivating live recording, taken during last winter’s complete symphony cycle at the LSO’s London home, delicately dab away at the canvas, accruing delightful detail throughout in the most heartfelt and hypnotic of ways.
Which is not to imply any criticism of pace, for orchestra and conductor both keep this ‘Pastoral’ moving forward at an agreeably measured speed, pausing momentarily to feel the warmth of the sun, admire a view opening up before them, enviously watch the merrymaking of peasants or to shelter from a sudden shower. In fact, what sets this performance apart is its sense of place, at once bucolic and poetic.
The Second Symphony, shorter but no less cheery, if a little more straight-laced in places, is a more than an apt coupling. Haitink is very adept here at subtly underlining the Haydnesque tinges in the writing, pushing the music along at a pace that generates its own energy and excitement. Again, this is an enjoyably relaxed reading, one that the LSO, as in the Sixth, play with due grace and elegance and a sprightly footfall where necessary.
Throughout Haitink conducts with an impeccable sense of shaping thorough understanding of substance, and is Heaven-blessed by an orchestra clearly at the top of its form.
The recorded sound is magnificent, open and wide enough for these airy symphonies to breathe naturally, but sufficiently detailed for their refinement to blaze through in every note. Delightful through and through.