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Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Gergiev

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 - Gergiev

LSO Live  LSO0664

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Mahler: Symphony No. 5

London Symphony Orchestra
Valery Gergiev (conductor)


Mahler’s Fifth Symphony marked a new direction in his compositions and a step away from the choral elements of the previous three symphonies. The work was completed during one of the happiest periods of Mahler’s life, and the symphony showcases virtuosic orchestral playing, an exquisite love song without words for his wife Alma, and a jubilant finale.

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Review by Graham Williams - January 28, 2011

During last summer's BBC Proms Valery Gergiev conducted a compelling performance of Mahler's 5th Symphony with the 'World Orchestra for Peace' that made one eager to discover what he would achieve with an orchestra that was more familiar with his individual conducting style.
This recording, the penultimate in Gergiev's cycle of Mahler symphonies with the LSO, is taken from concerts given in the Barbican in September 2010, and Gergiev's approach to this symphony is broadly similar to that heard at the Proms concert referred to above, just over a month earlier. Here, however, he does adopt slightly slower tempi in all five movements and the end result is simply not as gripping.

Gergiev's sombre opening funeral march has a not altogether inappropriate world-weary quality, but later on it tends to drag and, in spite of committed playing from the LSO, the music's underlying pulse is often lost. The same is true of the second movement that, surprisingly for this conductor, lacks some of Mahler's '...mit grosster Vehemenz' and also appears at times too episodic. The scherzo is fleet and Gergiev effectively points up much of Mahler's orchestral detail while stressing the darker side of this movement rather than any of its joyous nature. He does, however, mould the 'Adagietto' with a winning tenderness, and the strings of the LSO respond with absolutely ravishing sonorities. At 10' 35” this movement lasts a little longer than is currently fashionable, but manages to convince with the sheer sincerity of the playing. The energetic Rondo-Finale is delivered with the virtuosity one expects from this team, but the final impression of the performance as a whole is of one lacking a convincing and cohesive conception.

Unfortunately the recording is, inexplicably, below the standard of most of the earlier issues in this cycle, and the low level at which it is cut makes it difficult to achieve an acceptable aural picture. The sound is bass-heavy and often rather opaque. The tuttis sound coarse and congested and percussion lacks clarity. Those who regularly criticise the 'Barbican sound' will find much to carp about here, without even including the maestro's occasional mumbling and exhortations to his players.

There is such an abundance of fine recordings of this symphony available to collectors, even on SACD, that sadly, this one is not really competitive with the best out there.

Copyright © 2011 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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