About the release
Bernard Haitink’s revelatory Brahms recordings with the LSO demonstrated why fresh new interpretations of his major works are so important, and why the composer’s music is still so relevant today.
The London Symphony Orchestra’s cycle of Brahms symphonies was Bernard Haitink’s first set of recordings on the LSO Live label, originally released individually throughout 2004–05, and then as a boxed set in 2005. This collection of remastered recordings is now available on SACD, and digitally in spatial audio.
After struggling for years to come to terms with his fear of comparison to Beethoven, Brahms finally completed his First Symphony at the age of 43. It was hailed as a triumph and the remaining three symphonies followed relatively easily. His Symphony No. 2 overflows with a relaxed, pastoral beauty, while the Third Symphony contains some of the most dramatic music Brahms was to compose. Finally, loaded with German Romanticism and including variations on a Bach cantata, Brahms’ final symphony is a remarkable example of his mastery of symphonic composition. A rich, warm work that builds on a sense of movement and intensity right up to the final bars.
Along with the symphonies, this release also includes Brahms’ Double Concerto, Tragic Overture and Serenade No. 2.
Reviews of the 2005 recordings
“The opening bars of the [First] symphony, hammered out with real force and energy, set the tone for a fine, full-blooded performance … hard to beat.”
– Mail on Sunday
“An expressive performance of the Concerto for Violin and Cello from LSO principals Gordan Nikolitch and Tim Hugh. The opening cello statement is rich in tone, and the second movement is full of eloquence, not least from the LSO under Bernard Haitink. It’s coupled with an equally splendid performance of the Second Symphony, with some great brass playing at the end of the work.”
– Presto Music
“Not a nuance is misjudged, as Haitink takes us on a hair-raising version of the journey Brahms envisaged: long, scenic and never a dull moment.”
– The Observer
“[Disc four] is the crowning instalment in a series … This ranks with such classic Fourths as Kleiber’s, Karajan’s and Toscanini’s.”
– Hi-Fi News
This reissue of Brahms: Symphonies Nos 1–4 will be released on Friday 2 September 2022 on CD (Hybrid SACD) and via all major streaming and download services.
About Bernard Haitink
With an international conducting career that spanned over 60 years, Bernard Haitink is considered to have been one of the most celebrated conductors of his generation.
Born in 1929 in Amsterdam, Haitink studied the violin and conducting at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, later studying with the German conductor Ferdinand Leitner. His first concert conducting the Netherlands Radio Union Orchestra (later the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest) in 1954 led to roles as the orchestra’s second conductor and, in 1957, its Chief Conductor. In 1956, he made his debut with the Concertgebouworkest, and became its Principal Conductor in 1961, a position he held until 1988. During his tenure his substantial recording output with the orchestra included Bruckner, Mahler, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky symphony cycles, as well as works by Strauss, Shostakovich, Ravel, Debussy, Brahms, Beethoven and Bartók.
Bernard Haitink also held posts as Principal Conductor or Music Director with: the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1967–1979); Glyndebourne Festival Opera (1978–1988); Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1987–2002); Staatskapelle Dresden (2002–2004); and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (2006–2010). He was Conductor Laureate of the Concertgebouworkest and Conductor Emeritus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (having been Principal Guest Conductor from 1995 to 2004), and performed regularly with the world’s leading orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, and Berliner Philharmoniker (who made him an honorary member in 2004).
Despite his reputation as a Mahler and Bruckner specialist, Bernard Haitink’s extensive recording legacy encompasses a large variety of symphonic repertoire, recorded with some of the world’s greatest orchestras. His recordings of the complete Brahms and Beethoven symphonies, as well as discs of Bruckner and Strauss, for the London Symphony Orchestra’s own label, LSO Live, garnered numerous accolades, with the complete Beethoven cycle being named the “Benchmark Beethoven Cycle” by BBC Music Magazine and earning a nomination for Best Classical Album at the 2006 Grammy Awards. He was awarded a Grammy for Best Opera Recording in 2003 for Janáček’s Jenůfa with the Royal Opera, and for Best Orchestral Performance of 2008 for Shostakovich’s Symphony No 4 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Bernard Haitink was awarded a number of state honours, including ‘Chevalier’ of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France, 1972); honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (UK, 1977); Officer of the Order of the Crown (Belgium, 1977); Honorary medal for Arts and Science of the Order of the House of Orange (Netherlands, 2000); honorary Companion of Honour (UK, 2002); and Commander of the Order of the Netherlands Lion (Netherlands, 2017). He conducted his final concert in Lucerne on 6 September 2019, with the Wiener Philharmoniker, and died on 21 October 2021 at his home in London.