Mahler: Symphony No. 5

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 458 860-2
This is the first in Chailly’s Concertgebouw Mahler series not to find room for the kind of unusual companion piece which has tipped the balance in favour of previous issues. It hardly matters; his Mahler Five is so full of strange and wonderful sonorities that it sounds like a new work. Not that Chailly’s fascination with what he once described as Mahler’s ‘spider-web of sound’ is an end in itself, as it sometimes seemed in earlier recordings. The lyrical hearts of both the funeral march and the Adagietto, for example, return to inform each movement’s sequel in an especially compelling way – decked out with unusually ‘present’ woodwind shrieks in the second movement, accompanied by gracious trills and chuckles in the liveliest, most compelling finale since Bernstein’s.

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Supreme honours there go to the Concertgebouw’s first trumpet, first bassoon and clarinet team. The strings are their usual warm and slightly soft-edged selves with a little extra lift to the phrases and care in the accents; the Adagietto is a miracle of naturalness, with just enough forward movement to keep airborne. Engineering this time favours a bolder, less subtle approach than before, yet still makes a significant contribution to the pleasure of an uncommonly interesting Fifth. David Nice