Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Arming
Classical - Orchestral
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
New Japan Philharmonic
Christian Arming (conductor)
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Review by John Broggio - October 4, 2006
This is the first disc that I have heard from the young Austrian conductor Christian Arming and I really hope it won't be my last as he promises a great deal for the future. The Gramola disc is licensed from Fontec and one imagines that more should be made available from this source in future.
Whilst this would not be the ultimate Mahler 5 for many on disc (what version is?) it has some very imaginative touches and at times, Arming made me completely re-think my approach to the score. Taped from two concert performances, this is full of vibrant and enthusiastic playing from the New Japan Philharmonic which is only marred by occasional lapses of tuning or ensemble.
The opening march is rhythmically taut but flexible with tempi, allowing Arming to ratchet up the tension at will. There is no gratuitous mauling of the pulse so the steady build-up of the musical argument is unhindered - this really is very clever conducting on an intellectual and emotional level. The second movement (I like to think of it as a distorted version of the first) is particularly well handled, with a many felicitous details being heard that enhance rather than detract from the structure of the score - indeed, Arming outshines Abbado at this point with his careful balancing of the dense textures (no mean feat considering how Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Abbado has been lauded in many circles).
The Scherzo is very volatile, ranging from wild fury to mock-Landler territory with frightening rapidity. This is the one movement where the enthusiasm spills over into slightly rocky playing at the horn climaxes but it is very exciting.
The famous Adagietto is treated tenderly without the excess of emotion that some conductors bring to this beautiful music. There are touching moments of echt-Viennese slides which shows how well the NJP have been tutored under successive music directors and, in this piece, by Arming. Concluding the symphony, the Finale has a nice spring to it; not too fast and definitely not slow, just joyful. The richly deserved applause is left in and for those who are allergic to such matters, there is not even a seconds pause before the first "Bravo!" rings out.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable reading and there were moments when the NJP sounded like they were playing out of their skins and then some! The recording is very good indeed, with an incredible amount of detail of this incredible score registering - this doesn't always spare the NJP's blushes however. This aspect might rule it out for some choosing one version to sit on their library shelves - still, I would strongly encourage those who wish to hear someone who is surely a rising star to acquaint themselves with a refreshingly selfless account of a great musical work.
I note that Arming works a lot with the Vienna Symphony - perhaps Pentaman should get in touch...
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net