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Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Vänskä

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Vänskä

BIS  BIS-2226

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä (conductor)


As a team, Osmo Vänskä and his Minnesota Orchestra began their collaboration with BIS in 2004, launching a Beethoven Symphony cycle that made reviewers worldwide sit up and take notice: a modern reference edition was the verdict on web site ClassicsToday.com, while Gramophone Magazine described it as a Beethoven reforged for today's world . Twelve years later saw the release of the third and final disc in the Minnesota-Vänskä cycle of Sibelius's symphonies, with individual discs receiving distinctions such as a 2014 Grammy Award (for symphonies Nos 1 and 4), Gramophone's Editor's Choice, Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine and inclusion on the annual list of best classical recordings in New York Times.

The present disc launches yet another series, of even more monumental proportions, with Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony, recorded by the orchestra under Osmo Vänskä in Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in June 2016. Composed in 1902, the purely instrumental work followed upon three symphonies that had all included vocal parts. This and the opening trumpet motif, an allusion to the rhythm that begins Beethoven's Fifth have been interpreted as Mahler's return to a more conventional idea of the symphonic genre. Other features are less traditional, however a sometimes bewildering mixture of musical idioms reminds us of the melting-pot that Vienna was at the time, with allusions to Austrian, Bohemian and Hungarian styles. To an unsuspecting audience, the famous Adagietto for strings and harp probably the best-known of all of Mahler's music must also have been surprising, appearing at the heart of a work which is otherwise lavishly scored and orchestrated.

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PCM recording

Recorded in June 2016 at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, USA

Producer: Robert Suff
Sound engineer: Thore Brinkmann (Take5 Music Production)
Editing: Matthias Spitzbarth
Mixing: Thore Brinkmann, Robert Suff
Executive producer: Robert Suff

Equipment: BIS’s recording teams use microphones from Neumann and Schoeps, audio electronics from RME, Lake People and DirectOut, MADI optical cabling technology, monitoring equipment from B&W, STAX and Sennheiser, and Sequoia and Pyramix digital audio workstations.

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Comment by Luukas - July 7, 2017 (1 of 3)

Here it is: the first album to Vänskä's new Mahler symphony cycle with Minnesota Orchestra! I just ordered my SACD copy directly at BIS online store. I assume it should arrive on Tuesday next week. Can't wait to listen to it!

The next releases might be available as follows:
- Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic" (October 2017 - they recorded the album in November 2016 at the Orchestra Hall; usually it takes about a year to bring an album from this point to its physical form)
- Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection" (March (or April) 2018 - they have recorded this at the end of June after the 2016/17 season finale concerts)
- Symphony No. 1 in D major "Titan" (November (or December) 2018 - Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will perform the work in March 2018)

In addition to this the rest of the symphonies (and quite possibly the Symphony No. 10 as well) to be available in the years to come. So my careful expectation is that the whole cycle will be finished in 2020 and BIS will release a 11-disc box set at the time. And of course the individual albums will be available to purchase online and from all good music stores (we should not forget the hi-res digital downloads that will be hosted by eClassical.com).

As you can see this will be a large and significant project for BIS and for everyone behind it. Personally I am very excited to hear these discs albeit we are even now almost overcrowded by Mahler symphonies. The symphony cycles of Beethoven and Sibelius have proved the thing that Vänskä has some interesting and insightful views of familiar scores. He has managed to breath a new lease of life to the works we have heard countless times.

Comment by Luukas - July 11, 2017 (2 of 3)

"Oh no, not again! We have already Bernstein (twice), Abbado, Tennstedt, Kubelik, Haitink, Solti and Sinopoli. Why we should record and collect another Mahler cycle? Is something wrong with these?" I think quite many of us received the news of Minnesota Mahler cycle with those feelings. We are almost overwhelmed by Mahler symphonies and multiple cycles have been released and some of them have been recognized as the legends.

Against this background it was really a brave choice from BIS to start this recording project with Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä. At first Beethoven, then Sibelius. Both projects - especially Beethoven - raised Minnesota Orchestra to the international music map as one of the greatest symphony orchestras in the world. Thanks to Vänskä's detailed views of the scores as well as BIS's wide-range surround sound the albums were warmly received among the consumers. For many - including me - they offered totally new way to understand these masterpieces.

You may think Vänskä is not a suitable conductor for the music of Mahler. He is a Finn and Finland has been a country of Mahlerians just for a while. The composer's music was undervalued there for decades and just recently it has received a status where it should have been many years earlier. So what will happen when a conductor - from the country like this - raises his baton and begins to conduct Mahler's Fifth Symphony? A MIRACLE - supported by exceptionally realistic multichannel sonics.

Vänskä has read this music very well. The famous trumpet fanfare at the beginning sounds ideally mournful yet never careful or doubtful. When the whole orchestra rushes in its heavy tone bursts out of the speakers. The most conspicuous track on the disc was the famous Adagietto - it is one of the slowest to have ever recorded, even slower than Bernstein (11'16)! But this does not mean vacuity - actually doing it in this way Vänskä finds the true heart of the music which means restful transitions between phrases and coherently realized climaxes. Scherzo has all aspects what it requires to come into full bloom. Playful and innocent beginning, affecting and sensitive trio section (pizz.) and finally a rousing, brief coda. Briefly speaking Vänskä's interpretation did full justice to Mahler's lifelong symphonic theme - from darkness to light, from the death to life.

As mentioned before BIS Records has managed to capture a stupendous surround sound at the concert hall in Minneapolis. You will never hear as realistic symphony orchestra recording as here. Every detail is audible from the softest bell of the glockenspiel to the loudest stroke of the bass drum. Centre channel has been used in a pleasant way to add perspective to the front, e.g. timpani has been recorded and mixed to it. Surround speakers have been used for the ambience and they will reproduce the acoustical bloom of the hall in a natural way. Demonstration stuff, definitely.

No matter how many Mahler 5 you may own, this one is a sheer delight. Can't wait to hear the forthcoming releases!

Comment by William Hecht - July 14, 2017 (3 of 3)

And that's not to mention sacd complete series by Stenz, Nott, Gergiev, Zinman, and Tilson Thomas, plus the RCO blu-ray set under several different conductors and significant chunks by Fischer and Zander. According to this site there are now 47 hi-res versions of the 5th, and that doesn't include other blu-ray videos. I will buy the Vanska recordings as they appear in order to support BIS because Robert does more to feed my habit than anyone else, especially by issuing numerous recordings of unusual repertoire. But really, enough is enough.