Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: LSO
WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: London SO/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: LSO 0664

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Performed as part of Gergiev’s 2007-8 Mahler cycle, this Fifth Symphony also came after his Proms performance with the World Orchestra for Peace. I daresay it would have more of the required live impact if we listeners didn’t feel as if there were a glass window separating us from the orchestra, but even given that disadvantage uncharacteristic of this LSO Live series then my impression is that some bits work and others don’t. If the strings’ opening funeral march drags, however beautifully and with all accents keenly in place, then it’s bound to tug on the second movement’s already overlong tragedy train, just as the Adagietto needs more forward movement than this after its heavenly central vision. 

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The airlessness of Gergiev’s Mahler is most apparent as the scherzo lumbers its lopsided dance – the world with, rather than Mahler’s suggested without, gravity. Yet here, too, is the conductor’s most evocative piece of mood painting in not so much the usual twilight zones in between the waltzes as night pictures along the lines of his interesting Seventh Symphony (reviewed September 2008): a trumpet straight out of a village band, bullfrog bassoons and mysterious lower strings all enhance the nocturnal atmosphere. But the spring and charge arrive a bit too late in an initially academic finale, and though the LSO play well for Gergiev, with strings always articulate, I sense a conspicuous lack of love, at least alongside Bernstein or Abbado on the unbeatable Lucerne DVD. David Nice