LSO/Haitink – Beethoven (5)

Beethoven
Fidelio – Overture
Symphony No.8 in F, Op.93
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67

London Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink


Reviewed by: Andrew Toovey

Reviewed: 24 April, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

What makes Bernard Haitink so exciting a conductor is that he needs to do very little to galvanize orchestras. His technique is honed, precise and innate. Thus the merest gesture ignites a full range of responses, in this case from a very alert and energetic London Symphony Orchestra. The mutual respect is tangible, not only in attention to all aspects of the music but also in the impact of its overall structural power. From Haitink the music is at the forefront – and what great music this is, although sometimes it takes a fantastic performance like these to remind of the sheer power that exists within such well-known repertoire: here, with Haitink, the LSO injected life and passion into it.

The Overture to “Fidelio” was a majestic start, with particularly beautiful horn-playing and a taut grip on the work’s dramatic dynamic range. The Eighth Symphony (not often enough performed!) has a rich palette within its relatively slender dimensions and allowed the LSO the impression of a chamber group, the sound wonderfully balanced.

The Fifth Symphony was a tour de force from hammering start to jubilant finish. There was no let-up in the tension of the first movement. The Andante con moto (faster than is usual) ebbed and flowed eloquently with many fine details: one such being a long-held clarinet note that seemed to suspend time itself; and, just after that, a series of quiet chords seemed to dislocate time – the essence of beauty had somehow been captured. The pizzicatos linking the scherzo and last movement sounded as if the effect had just been invented, the finale being joy itself – given with a momentum and tumult that sent spirits soaring.



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