Bruckner: Symphony No. 5

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: EMI Encore
WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: LPO/Franz Welser-Möst
CATALOGUE NO: 5 75862 2 Reissue (1994)
It’s hard to believe that this is the same Franz Welser-Möst who was critically pilloried during his years as music director of the London Philharmonic. True, his view of Bruckner’s huge Fifth Symphony is controversial: no expansive, reverential tempi, but tautness, concentration and rhythmic focus (especially valuable in the Adagio’s difficult two-against-three patterns), plus an orchestral sound that often reveals sharply featured details rather than subsuming them into plush homogeneity. But justifications for all of that can be found in the score, and Welser-Möst argues his point so cogently and with such obvious passion that it’s hard to dismiss it, even if you don’t ultimately like it. I find him particularly convincing in the outer movements, and in the scherzo’s fascinatingly mercurial central trio section. The Adagio misses that inward intensity so beautifully caught by Günter Wand in his magnificent Berlin Philharmonic version. But this is well worth hearing – and more than once. Stephen Johnson

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