Mahler: Symphony No. 5

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich/Georg Solti
CATALOGUE NO: 475 9153
Georg Solti’s 1970 studio recording with the Chicago SO of the Fifth, not the most successful of his Mahler cycle, gave hostages to those who considered him a brash, even brutal conductor. In this present CD, recorded at Solti’s last concerts in 1997, he’s lost none of his vigour, but there’s a greater depth to the sound, with weight rather than edge in the attack, especially noticeable in the violent second movement. The orchestra present a few hairy moments, particularly in the tricky tempo changes in the third movement and finale, which may prove annoying on repeated listening despite the charge of a live performance and faithful, unfussy recorded sound.

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Sakari Oramo and the CBSO, also live (on Warner), may be more technically secure but don’t always have the end goal in sight, and can skate over the surface, something that also affects Dudamel’s recent DG recording. It’s the experienced veterans who bring the most to this symphony – Barbirolli with his expansive view, Abbado with his acute sense of balance and pacing, or Bernstein, refulgent in his late Vienna version. None of these wallow in the Adagietto, and neither does Solti – in fact he might seem rather cool here, despite his rubato. Martin Cotton,/i>