Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 5 - Gurzenich Orchestra of Cologne

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GUSTAV MAHLER - SYMPHONY No. 5 - MARCUS STENZ (Conductor) - GURZENICH ORCHESTRA OF COLOGNE - Hybrid SACD - 4260034866508 - Oehms Classics OC650

Marcus Stenz may just be the next great German conductor. While many aspire to membership in that elite and long-standing fraternity, Stenz has the inside track for the laurels based on his decades of international podium experience, personal championship of the music of Hans Werner Henze and the remarkable evidence of this recording. Choosing to begin a recording contract with a cycle of the Mahler symphonies is a rather unusual step for a German conductor. And looking back on the ranks of past Kapellmeisters, it is surprising how few demonstrated a recorded facility for Mahler. After Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer from the composerís own time, we have had Carl Schuricht, Hermann Scherchen, Kurt Sanderling, Klaus Tennstedt, Herbert von Karajan and Michael Gielen. With his studio account of the Fifth (premiered by this orchestra in Cologne on October 18th, 1904, with Gustav Mahler himself on the podium), Stenz proves that he is a Mahler conductor of the first echelon and worthy of mention among the august musical personages of the foregoing list.

Letís not be analytical; this is a performance that can be felt as well as heard. Sit back and let loose the emotions generated by a superb rendering of the music. It is certainly the best version to come along in many years. The engineering in super-audio is equally impressive. The record label founded by Dieter Oehms only seven years ago has built up an extensive catalogue. This is included with the CD in a 184-page German/English illustrated booklet.

It has been officially announced that the people at Oehms plan to release a complete cycle of the Mahler symphonies. Now there's something worth anticipating!

Stephen Habington