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Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Haitink

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Haitink

PentaTone RQR  PTC 5186 183

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Bernard Haitink (conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - September 18, 2007

This second release of Mahler from Haitink and the Concertgebouw on Pentatone's RQR label is not as easily recommendable as Mahler: Symphony No. 8 - Haitink. Exactly why is hard to sum up.

It is not that Haitink seems intent to downplay the hysteria that some find in the music - I find this approach quite refreshing from time to time and whilst he is not one to provide the range of expressive intensity that Bernstein and his followers offer the score, as there is more than enough drama in the playing. One could argue that this is a "natural" level of the neurosis on offer.

The Concertgebouw play wonderfully which, in such a popular work (both in the hall and on disc), is essential for a reading to retain any sort of prominence before the public. The kaleidoscope of tone colour and the inherent drama is all put honestly before us. What is perhaps missing is the overall impression of a coherent conception that conductors like Bernstein and Abbado have offered us in their very different ways. Ultimately, in this symphony that can sound disparate, middle ground can feel as though it is falling between two stalls.

More than that, the sound conveyed is problematic. The engineering in itself is fine with a wide dynamic range, great detail and wonderful bloom from the ever-generous Concertgebouw. However, the RQR presentation seems to indicate that the master tapes were not as well preserved as others in the series - there is an ever-present brightness that makes the violins and trumpets sound rather shrill at all times; thrilling on occasion, it becomes wearing over 75 minutes and on repetition.

To be sure, this interpretation will offend no-one but I find it hard to get excited listening to this - perhaps Haitink is just a bit too reserved here. Probably only for admirers of Haitink and/or the Concertgebouw.

Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comment by Waveform - August 27, 2016 (1 of 1)

Review by Luukas - August 27, 2016

"This must be one of the earliest productions with quadraphonic sound (December 1970). PENTATONE has released the 8th of the composer, so far (Mahler: Symphony No. 8 - Haitink). The other symphonies of the cycle seems to be recorded in stereo though the 10th Adagio (September 1971), the 9th (June 1969) and the 7th (December 1969) could includes the ¼-inch quadraphonic tapes, as well.
Anyway, someone might think that the surround sound could beautify the atmosphere of the performance. Unfortunately this album is a lackluster by all odds. One finds it even at the beginning of the first movement.
The trumpet fanfare sounds strangely smooth. The following funeral march is melancholy but Haitink has lost the natural flow of the music. His uninteresting view of the score becomes clear although the musicians of the Concertgebouw Orchestra plays with passion. The great climaxes are less effective as they should be while the beautiful moments decreases the attention of the listener.
The original 4-channel recording surprises in its bleakness. There is not deep bass at all. And the high percussion - triangle and cymbals - sounds horrendously strident. The surround speakers repeats the echoing of the concert hall but this fact cannot increase the value of the album.

Not recommended".

Performance: **1/2
Sonics (Multichannel): **