Classic recordings: Bernard Haitink and the LSO – Beethoven Symphony No.6 ‘Pastoral’/Symphony No.2

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Bernard Haitink and the LSO – Beethoven Symphony No.6 ‘Pastoral’/Symphony No.2

Bowers and Wilkins (24-bit FLAC)

By Paul Rigby

Two symphonies are covered in this single FLAC. The first of those, the 6th Symphony, popularly known as the Pastoral features the iconic Erwachen heiterer Gef hle bei der Ankunft that has appeared in umpteen films, advertisements and pastiches. Written around the same time as the 5th symphony, this Pastoral work shows the composer’s love for nature and short repetitive musical snippets that resemble a flitting bird. Szene am Bach, in fact, takes bird-like themes from cuckoos and quails. This piece is utilised as a spotlight on the detail of the environment. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute’s structural musical motifs then collapse into a more free-form mode with Gewitter Sturm towards the final, Hirtengesang Frohe dankbare Gef nach dem Sturm, which is almost like a prayer of thanks for all that we are about to enjoy.

Symphony No.2 is remarkable because it was created at the time that the great composer was going deaf. Now, most people would find the onset of such a major and, to most, catastrophic disability not only traumatic but depressing in the extreme. If his music were the only gauge, however, that would not be the case because it is remarkably upbeat.

Split into four movements: Adagio Molto Allegro Con Brio; Larghetto; Scherzo & Trio Allegro and Allegro Molto, the first notes are almost reflective of Walt Disney, “Ta-Daa!” say the horns, possibly conducted by Bugs Bunny. A number of stop/start-isms proceed to offer promises and disappointments as the movement fails to truly get going. This is the ‘starting a car on a wintry day ‘section. However, the piece then finds its feet and the movement builds into a rip-roaring fling, skipping to its denouement.

The second movement, the Larghetto, is typical of symphonies of the period. It flops down in a heap and takes a breather. This is Beethoven collecting his thoughts but also it’s a period of contemplation and introspection for the listener.
The Scherzo movement (Italian for ‘joke’) is light and frivolous and almost waltz-like in its rhythm.
The final movement lives up to its forbears, a wholly joyous party of a piece complete with toothy smiles, extravagant gestures, balloons and fizzy pop.

Another classic theme, eternally hummed and a brilliant piece of music that is well played and conducted by the LSO and Haitink.

Stand-out track: Hirtengesang Frohe dankbare Gef nach dem Sturm

A busy, busy piece that will ask a lot from your source. It is easy for this movement to collapse into a muddle while the string section sometimes lacks air and movement if not carefully reproduced.

Stand-out track: Symphony No.2: Allegro Molto

A conglomeration of both brass and strings will pose a challenge to any hi-fi speaker that will require some dexterity for both the upper and lower frequencies but also in the critical cross-over region where control can sometimes be lost.

Tracklisting

Symphony No.6
Erwachen heiterer Gef hle bei der Ankunft
Szene am Bach
Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute
Gewitter Sturm
Hirtengesang Frohe dankbare Gef nach dem Sturm

Symphony No.2
Adagio Molto Allegro Con Brio
Larghetto
Scherzo & Trio Allegro
Allegro Molto


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