WORKS: Symphony No. 5 in B flat
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 9031 73271-2 DDD
Barenboim’s second commercial recording of Bruckner’s Fifth derives from concerts given in the Berlin Schauspielhaus in November last year. It has been laced together from several performances, but the atmosphere of a live event is well preserved, as is much of the sense of occasion and excitement. Sometimes, though, that excitement seems feigned or inappropriate.
With its estimable tonal resources and super-refined blend, the post-Karajan Berlin PO remains the ideal Bruckner orchestra. Throughout this account the brass playing is magnificently resonant, while the strings have inexhaustible depths of sonority.
Barenboim’s virtues in Bruckner, though, are more problematic. He manages isolated passages in the Fifth splendidly – the opening pages of the symphony have a numinous mystery that promises very well. The great paragraphs of the Adagio are boldly sculpted, but his handling of transitions is consistently unconvincing. Changes of gear and choice of tempi within each movement seem to bear little relationship to any overall scheme; for Barenboim, the Brucknerian journey matters far more than the points of arrival. Andrew Clements