Mahler: Symphony No. 5

WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6545
Let’s be in no doubt of the phenomenon: the sheer joy of music-making produced by the cream of Venezuala’s ‘system’ of music education for all, which Sir Simon Rattle rightly calls ‘the most important thing happening in classical music anywhere in the world’. Eighteen years ago, the young players romped their way unforgettably through Estévez’s Cantata Criolla in London’s Royal Festival Hall. Now the gifted Dudamel has produced world-class levels of sophistication.


Does DG service its new talent best, though, by showcasing it alongside the best Mahler performances on CD, including its own phenomenal Fifth from Bernstein? In the total confidence of the trumpeter’s highly rhythmic opening solo and the tender string nuancing of the Adagietto, this Fifth holds up well. There’s a buoyancy about the playing and articulation which offsets the lack of real heft, the occasional undercharacterised wind solo, while surges of exhilaration in scherzo and finale run Abbado’s Lucerne Festival Orchestra experience very close. Dudamel’s tempo relations in those movements are idiosyncratic: for me, the studied reflection and the slackening just before the final leap to the stars don’t quite work. Clean, clear studio recording leaves some room for doubt, then; ultimately Dudamel and his ‘family’ need to be seen, in the live Caracas performance extracted in the promotional DVD, as well as heard. In that medium, their Mahler 5 would no doubt be a five-star experience to set alongside equally moving films of Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan and Abbado’s Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in action (hence the DVD benchmark). David Nice