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Mahler: Symphony no 5

Notes & Reviews:

Gustav Mahler features heavily in the Gurzenich Orchestra Cologne's program for this and future seasons. Parallel to their performances at the Cologne Philharmonic Hall, they are making studio productions of the highest audiophile sound quality which document the tonal and musical culture created through the orchestra's years of collaboration with its GMD Markus Stenz. The beginning of the complete cycle of Mahler's symphonies features the Fifth, which received its premiere in 1904: in Cologne, with the Gurzenich Orchestra, under the composer's baton! All CD in the series are being produced as hybrid SACDs.

”.whatever befalls the eventual series as a whole, this first installment makes for an auspicious beginning. From this unanticipated source comes a Mahler Fifth worthy to rank with SACDs by Zander and Jansons, and it receives my highest recommendation.”-Fanfare


Mahler symphony #5-the beginning of a new cycle
Mahler Symphony #5.-The beginning of a new cycle The Cologne orchestra premiered Mahler’s fifth symphony during its 1904/05 season. Mahler liked this orchestra and”stole” its first trombonist for his Vienna Court Opera Orchestra. From a compositional standpoint, the fifth was Mahler’s nemesis. He was revising it for the fourth time (!) at his death. It was a clear compositional break from the first four “ Wunderhorn “ symphonies. It broke new ground for Mahler in many creative ways – orchestration, movement configuration, overall structure- just to name a few. His comments over the last six years of his life regarding the work and its interpretation were changeable in the extreme. His exhortations were mainly about tempo and interpretive insight. Bruno Walter’s early and late performances were, by today’s standards, quite quick in tempo. Markus Stenz and the current Cologne orchestra (the Gurzenich ) adhere to this approach. In fact, as quick as Stenz’ performance is, Walter’s Sony recording from 1945 is seven minutes shorter!!Rhetorically, have all performances from the 1960’s on been too slow?? I personally don’t think so. In general, Stenz’ performance is taut, controlled, and yet fairly dramatic. I liked his 1st and 5th movements best. While movements two through four ( including the famous Adagietto ) are well played, they are lacking in penetrating involvement . Mahler may have “liked” the Scherzo quick, but it is still marked Kraftig, nicht zu schnell !!! I have heard many live and recorded performances of this great work since 1961 and it has become one of my favorite Mahler symphonies. I may not return to this recording very often, but I am now curious about Stenz’ future Mahler recordings. The sound is quite good overall but I only heard the CD layer. The SACD layer may bring out better string placement. The soloists are fine (trumpet and horn) as are all the orchestral ensembles throughout the performance. The Gurzenich takes no back seat to any orchestra playing this music. Notes and bio are sufficient and the package comes with a complete 2010 Oehms Classics catalogue.
Submitted on 11/20/09 by ProfessorJF 
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