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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No 7 in A major, Op. 92 (1811-1812) [38:40]
Triple Concerto in C major for piano, violin and cello, Op. 56* (1803-1803) [35:53]
*Gordan Nikolitch (violin); Tim Hugh (cello); Lars Vogt (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
rec. live, 16-17 November 2005, *26-27 November 2005, The Barbican, London. DDD
LSO LIVE LSO0078 [74:36]
 


My ‘Seen and Heard’ colleague, Tristan Jakob-Hoff was lucky enough to attend the concerts from which these recordings derive. He was present for the 26 November performance of the Triple Concerto (see review) and the 16 November performance of the Seventh Symphony (see review).
 
The Seventh Symphony is done very well here. In his succinct booklet note Lindsay Kemp describes the first movement as “massive”. I’m not entirely sure I go along with that – and certainly not as presented by Haitink. To be sure, the music sounds powerful, as it should, but this conductor keeps it moving forward in a very satisfactory way. The main allegro has an excellent spring in its step and the music unfolds with admirable buoyancy. The LSO are on excellent form for Haitink; their playing has ample athleticism but the requisite amount of weight is present too.
 
Is the second movement “melancholy”, as Lindsay Kemp says? I’m not sure it is, though the wind chords with which it opens and closes may give that impression. Haitink lets the music develop easily and naturally. In lesser hands it can sometimes sound trudging but that’s emphatically not the case here. The scherzo is lithe and then we’re on to the finale. As Mr. Kemp so aptly says, this movement is an “unstoppable swirl of ebullience and energy.” Haitink may not equal the all-embracing vigour of Carlos Kleiber in his famous DG recording – but that’s a matchless account – yet he ensures that the music is vivacious and very exciting. Yet it never sounds excessively driven. It is, in fact, a joyful and hugely enjoyable reading of this life-enhancing music, which I’m sure earned an enthusiastic ovation on the night – as usual LSO Live edit out applause.
 
The coupling is the Triple Concerto, which was paired in concert with the ‘Pastoral’ symphony. For this Haitink has as two of his soloists the LSO leader, Gordan Nikolitch and cellist Tim Hugh. They played together in Haitink’s 2003 recording for the LSO Live label of Brahms’s Double Concerto (LSO0043 - see review of the concert). I could never understand why that Brahms cycle was so coolly received in many quarters, but that’s another matter. Here Nikolitch and Hugh are joined by pianist Lars Vogt in an effective trio partnership.
 
I’m afraid I’ve never really warmed to this concerto. The thematic material isn’t desperately interesting and, frankly, both of the outer movements rather outstay their welcome, the finale in particular. That said, this is a performance with much to commend it. Haitink has always been a sympathetic accompanist and he’s on top form here, which is important with no less than three soloists to accommodate. It’s also notable that all three soloists give every impression of playing as a team – as a true trio – rather than as three soloists who happen to have found themselves playing together. Lars Vogt must take some of the credit for this. The piano can easily dominate in this work but he uses a nice light touch and always keeps his part in proper balance with his colleagues.
 
The short slow movement contains the best music. Tim Hugh plays the opening cello solo quite beautifully and later on Nikolitch’s playing is equally pleasing while Vogt’s rippling accompaniment is delightful. The finale is genial enough but here above all I wondered if the soloists were projecting their lines with sufficient strength and personality. I’m afraid I found this movement just a bit dull.
 
Personally I wouldn’t buy this CD for the concerto but the symphony is another matter. It’s an excellent performance, captured in good sound and it’s worth the reasonable asking price by itself. Others may well find a good deal more in the concerto than I did, of course. Lindsay Kemp contributes useful notes and the only disappointing aspect of the production is the cover photograph, which is as uninspiring – and meaningless to me – as has been the case with previous issues in this series. 
 
Having now heard three instalments of this Haitink Beethoven cycle (see review of Symphonies 2 & 6), I think it’s shaping up to be a considerable addition to the catalogue and the Seventh is a worthy part of the set. 
 
John Quinn

 

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