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LSO/Haitink Beethoven Boxed Set (SACD)

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Well, I'm a relative noob when it comes to classical, although I've always enjoyed a lot of it. I went on a bit of a classical binge this week, collecting a number of budget titles (via labels such as Naxos), when I came across this boxed set. At $70CDN, I figured it was a great deal: 6 hybrid disks, recorded live in high-density DSD.

I haven't had much time to really dig into it yet, although this weekend should yield some quality time with my SACD player, amped, through K701s. Honestly, I really can't wait; it sounded great on a train through Grados, of all things, so my expectations are very high. What I do know, is this:

- The packaging is spectacular. This is most certainly a "premium" edition, with a hard cardboard box containing the six disks (sleeved in LP-style, medium-weight cardstock) and well written booklet containing interpretations/histories of each symphony and biographies of all the major players. The booklet is presented in English, as well as French and German.

- The photography for the individual disks is breathtaking. I haven't had a chance to review the photo credits, but the subject is unknown. You can see the individual covers here.

- The box contains symphonies 1-9, along with Overture No. 2, and Triple Concerto. All in all, we're talking about a total playtime of around 7 hours here! The performances were captured live between late 2005 and April 2006.

Now, even after I give it some time, I'm really in no position to comment on the collection's placement in the spectrum of mediocre to reference quality recordings of Beethoven's work. If nothing else, this seems to be an excellent opportunity to hear the LSO and a very well respected conductor performing live, for a private audience of one. I can at least state categorically that so far, the sound quality is impressive, and the performances are exceptional. In my listening, I have kept with the familiar: Symphonies 5 and 9, naturally.

Has anyone else had any experience with this collection or any of the individual disks? The reviews on the LSO website are nothing short of glowing and I see it as a great value for the money, both for the production quality in the packaging (a collector's item to be sure) and the fact that we have a live performance captured through DSD.

I'll post more as I spend time with it, but it would be interesting to hear impressions from Classical afficionados more intimately familiar with the material (especially those familiar with multiple renditions) and how this one stacks up!
post #2 of 14
This is pretty high on my wish list. I have been very interested in it ever since I read some of the reviews and listened to some clips on iTunes. It looks very promising for a modern orchestra Beethoven cycle in great SACD sound. I'm very interested to hear the rest of your impressions.

I'm reallt hoping it shows up on BMG/Yourmusic.

-Jay
post #3 of 14
GlendaleViper,
this set should be very good, I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive. The LSO/Haitink Beethoven cycle received glowing reviews at sa-cd.net (http://www.sa-cd.net/showtitle/4014 or see the individual symphonies). I'm looking forward to your impressions too.

One note, how secure are the sleeves holding the CDs? Are they reasonably scratch resistant? I would hate to get my discs scratched after several listening sessions.
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karlosak View Post
One note, how secure are the sleeves holding the CDs? Are they reasonably scratch resistant? I would hate to get my discs scratched after several listening sessions.
This is an excellent consideration. To be honest, I'm not totally secure that the sleeves WON'T ultimately scratch the discs, and I may end up buying a few jewel cases just for storage (honestly, the photography on the "album covers" are so striking, they beg to be displayed anyway). However, I haven't really taken a serious look at it. One thing I did notice was the fold where the sides are bound is inside the sleeve, which could be a problem, depending on how you replace the discs (not a problem if the printed side faces that edge). I'm particularly anal about my discs too.
post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by GlendaleViper View Post
This is an excellent consideration. To be honest, I'm not totally secure that the sleeves WON'T ultimately scratch the discs, and I may end up buying a few jewel cases just for storage (honestly, the photography on the "album covers" are so striking, they beg to be displayed anyway). However, I haven't really taken a serious look at it. One thing I did notice was the fold where the sides are bound is inside the sleeve, which could be a problem, depending on how you replace the discs (not a problem if the printed side faces that edge). I'm particularly anal about my discs too.
Your CDs will be safe and won't get scratched - I am in the process of scrapping the jewel boxes from my CD collection of around 2000 discs and moving them into PolyPropylene sleeves aslong with the booklets, liners etc - the space saving is enormous - I hate jewel boxes and the space they take up on shelves.

I reviewed this Beethoven set on iTunes - see the reviews there associated with the release of Nos 4 & 8 and you should find mine under 'jirams'. A great set indeed - ENJOY
post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by jirams View Post
Your CDs will be safe and won't get scratched - I am in the process of scrapping the jewel boxes from my CD collection of around 2000 discs and moving them into PolyPropylene sleeves aslong with the booklets, liners etc - the space saving is enormous - I hate jewel boxes and the space they take up on shelves.

I reviewed this Beethoven set on iTunes - see the reviews there associated with the release of Nos 4 & 8 and you should find mine under 'jirams'. A great set indeed - ENJOY
I'm moving my cds to polypropylene sleeves as well because jewel cases just take up too much room! I can store 3 or 4 times as many cds in the same space using sleeves. The only thing that I advise about the sleeves is to make sure that they are polypropylene and not polyvinyl. The vinyl sleeves can stick to the cds or jackets and leach into the paper of the graphics over time whereas the polypropylene sleeves are "archival" quality and will protect the cds and graphics over time. In addition, polypropylene is far better for the environment as it is easily recyclable.
post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears View Post
I'm moving my cds to polypropylene sleeves as well because jewel cases just take up too much room! I can store 3 or 4 times as many cds in the same space using sleeves. The only thing that I advise about the sleeves is to make sure that they are polypropylene and not polyvinyl. The vinyl sleeves can stick to the cds or jackets and leach into the paper of the graphics over time whereas the polypropylene sleeves are "archival" quality and will protect the cds and graphics over time. In addition, polypropylene is far better for the environment as it is easily recyclable.
Yeah - otherwise a disaster waiting for the future
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Impressions!

Well, as promised (to all two of you), I had a chance last night to lay back in total darkness and really bite into this collection. I listened to Symphony Nos. 3, 5, 7 and 9, for familiarity.

For the record, my gear was as follows:

Marantz DV6600 DVD/SACD player>Monster RCA-mini>RSA M Hornet>AKG K701

Through headphones, it's probably obvious that I chose the STEREO layer to listen to... will do some experimentation later to see if there's a "secret binaural recording" to be found if I connect my cans to the rear left and right channels.

At any rate, before I spill my guts here (and I won't go into too much detail), I just want to remind everyone that I am a relative Classical newbie. I've been listening casually for a long time, but I've really only just started to dive headfirst into the Classical scene as a budding audiophile. As such, please forgive my utter lack of any common terminology or experience.

Well, what can I say? This collection is AMAZING. No, superb. Of all the most notorious composers, Bach and Beethoven are easily my favourites and as such, I've had the opportunity to listen to many different renditions of their most famous works (most often symphonies 5 and 9, with Beethoven). I can say without a doubt - and in my own opinion, of course, that Bernard Haitink's interpretation of these masterworks, and the sheer passion and virtuosity he pulls from the London Symphony Orchestra is nothing short of an epiphany. These recordings are absolutely bleeding with emotion. Sad or melancholy passages are wrought with tears, with notes being drawn out to the very limits in volume and decay, the pace slowing like molasses - but retaining a liquid flow. Jovial or violent passages are like explosions of pristine sound, emoting perfectly that here, we should be full of joy or rage. I recall reading a sticker on the packaging before my greedy little hands ripped it open, something to the effect of "Truly a cycle for our times"... I would have to agree. Never have Beethoven's compositions seemed so relevant to me.

As far as the sound quality, I can't see how anyone would be disappointed by what's on offer here. The dynamic range is nothing short of astounding, and if there was any compression used in recording these works, I can't pick it out. At a moderate listening level, I can enjoy the smooth, sweeping, quiet passages at their intended level, only to be properly blasted by the raucous magnitude of Brass, Bass and Kettle Drums that hold scale nearly as well as being there. Truly, you are listening where Bernard Haitink stands. Listen to the clatter of woodwind keywork, bows caressing strings - even the orchestra turning pages. Some people find this distracting, or TOO real. I find it just adds to the illusion of being there. RIGHT there. That's just icing on the cake, however. The sense of reality these recordings provide in the instruments' sound and timbre is astonishing. Instruments are well seperated, but not unnaturally so. Strings blend together appropriately, as do brass and woodwinds and the result is high detail with the full, lush sound that is really the point of a large-scale orchestra. And the choral work - especially the outstanding lead voices of Karen Cargill (mezzo-soprano), Gerald Finley (Bass), John McMaster (tenor) and Twyla Robinson (soprano) are simply to die for. When Ode to Joy kicks into full swing, you can't help but revel in the delight of such a famous staple of Classical music, sounding this good.

I'm going to stop here - my knowledge and experience are really too limited to go on much more. I certainly cannot comment as to whether this can be considered a reference recording, nor can I say how it stacks up with the dozens of other extremely high quality renditions out there. All I can say, is at 70 Canadian dollars, you would be buying yourself a seven hour night at the orchestra hall any time you want. This is a simply astounding live recording, and one that will likely fit in my collection for the rest of my lifetime - perhaps even passed down.

On the merits of sound quality, performance and virtuosity, and value for the money, this gets a perfect 10 from me.
post #9 of 14
If you like the Haitinck, then you should start acquiring the Vänskä Beethoven symphonies as well. To really understand Beethoven you have to collect multiple cycles. (Sorry about your wallet. hehe.) That set has the advantage over the Haitinck because it isn't being recorded in the notoriously dry accoustic of the Barbican Theater (or Theatre as they prefer in Jolly Olde England) and the sound quality is even better. Start with the just released 9th which Gramophone has reviewed in the current issue which is dedicated to Beethoven. Then go on to the 4th and 5th and then the 3rd and 8th. I know you will love them.

Here's Gramophone's take on it:

So many Beethoven sets fall at the final hurdle (ahem, Bernard Haitink and Roger Norrington), but Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota players bring their best, overwhelming form to this symphony. There’s simply no gainsaying Vänskä’s fresh, to-blazes-with-tradition yet utterly convincing way with the score. Musicality and power go hand in hand in a must-have recording.
post #10 of 14
is this set better than the Karajan 1963 one?
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Couldn't tell ya. Anyone know this one and heard the LSO version too?
post #12 of 14
If you read the critics (Gramophone and ClassicsToday), it's not as good as Karajan's 63 cycle, but from what I have heard, it sounds much better.

Btw Richard Wigmore lists the 5 greatest Beethoven Cycles of the 20th century in the cover article and they are:

London Classical Players/Norrington (Virgin)
Zurich Tonhalle/Zinman (ArteNova)
NBC SO/Toscanini (RCA)
Berliner Philharmoniker/Karajan (1975-77 DG)
Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique/Gardiner (Archiv)

Anyone else find this list a bit strange?

While I can't quibble with any of these cycles (except maybe the Norrington which is imo very uneven and the '70s Karajan rather than the '63), the list is more interesting for what it omits: Szell and the Cleveland! It examines Haitinck's newly rethought cycle, and describes the Pastorale as "wonderfully limber, joyous." It also talks about Vänskä's cycle and gives the new 9th a separate box. Wigmore really likes it and describes it as groundbreaking, while heaping the superlatives on it. The other editors seem to agree as it's an "Editor's Choice" for orchestral and it's described as delivering "shock and awe." (I guess the war has affected even the Gramophone staff.)
post #13 of 14
Just received my copy of this collection from Amazon, and I'm happily enjoying it this very moment (though I wish I have a nice SACD listening setup to experience the surround mixes). I have listened to Karajan's 9th from the 70's, and this recording is as lively as Karajan', and the sound quality better (especially the vocal passages in the last movement of the 9th). I have to listen to the other versions listed to get a sense of the different interpretations of the Nine Symphonies, but this boxset is quite sufficient for my taste. It's currently on sale at Amazon for $53.97.
post #14 of 14

Loving my copy of this box set, this review helped me make the decision, thanks guys!

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