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2.4.09

Dip Your Ears, No. 98

available at Amazon
Mahler, Symphony No.5, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/ V.Neumann
Berlin Classics 0185502BC

available at Amazon
M5, Gewandhaus O./Neumann
Berlin Classics 0014332BC


available at Amazon
M5, Gewandhaus O./Neumann
Brilliant Classics 93278


available at Amazon
M5, LPO/v.Zweden
LPO-0033

In any good performance of a Mahler Fifth Symphony, no matter the sound quality, there should be moments where the symphony takes you by the lapels and forces your concentration for at least moments, if not the duration of the entire work.

You’ll find plenty of those in Václav Neumann’s first, 1967 recording with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester on Berlin Classics. Taking the symphony at a wonderfully unsentimental clip, Neumann finishes in under 66 minutes and is exemplary for his natural style, colorful woodwinds, and driven passion. The Adagietto, a definite highlight in the Czech conductor’s hands, is not cloying in the least and therefore uncommonly beautiful rather than laying it on thick.

The sound is, slight distortions at the climax of the last movement notwithstanding, good. There is no documentation that comes with the three recent super budget issues I have seen (one on “Basics”, another on “Schätze der Klassik”, and most recently on Brilliant Classics 93278), but Mahler veterans won’t really need it and Mahler neophytes will seek it out on their own after hearing it. A dark horse Fifth-of-Choice.

Jaap van Zweden and the London Philharmonic have added to glut of Mahler Fifths in the catalog on their LPO Live label. Another new recording of an orchestra that isn’t in the highest tier, under a conductor who isn’t widely (though apparently locally) known for his Mahler. What a happy surprise then to find it such a solid performance, bordering excellence. Nothing outrageous or exotic in this interpretation; it’s simply well and passionately played, with tasteful choices and measured tempos exhibited throughout.

The opening trumpets’ crescendos could be more forcefully staggered (why does Kubelik still remain unmatched here, 58 and 38 years after his first two recordings?), the first tutti more impressive. The second movement—“Boisterous. With the utmost vehemence”—is particularly successful, tanks to the gripping momentum van Zweden builds up. The sound doesn’t compare to the best (Levi, Chailly), nor the interpretation to the most compelling (Boulez, Bernstein), but it’s a Fifth that anyone could live with happily, and for everyone who particularly cherishes the artists involved, it can be recommended.


A list of other reviews of Mahler symphonies on ionarts can be found here.

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