GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphony No. 5

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GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphony No. 5 - Ivan Fischer (Conductor) - Budapest Festival Orchestra - 723385342137 - Released: December 2013 - Channel Classics CCSSA34213

A Mahler 5 very much in the same league as the excellent Bernstein (live Vienna Phil on DG). But whereas Bernstein captured it whole, seeing the "big picture" from a high and lofty perspective, conductor Ivan Fischer swoops down for a more intimate frame of reference, and in doing so, reveals the beauty hidden behind the stern facade of this complex symphonic work. Fischer has always had a knack for exposing, in haut-relief, and without micro managing, the melodic lines of specific instrumental groups when called for and at the right moment. And this in turn seems to convince the Budapest Festival Orchestra musicians to play at their best, and to flesh out the inherent natural beauty of their individual instrument's sound. At the 4:00 minute mark into the opening movement you get the first hints of this orchestra's expressive qualities of which there are many throughout this performance and all of their other recordings.

Further comparisons with the Bernstein tenet on this symphony reveal an oddity. Bernstein's reading emphasized, particularly in the first three movements, this work's depiction of dark days to come and a general sense of fear of the outside forces tracing a course for the 20th century. A sort of premonition of Mahler's own Symphony No. 6. Ivan Fischer, on the other hand, leads a more positive account but oddly enough, it's in the beautifully serene Adagietto movement that he allows a sense of unease, a certain malaise if you may, to find its way within the music. Quite an accomplishment on his part to express within this movement emotions that are poles apart. This alone casts a very different light on this symphony. Along with this orchestra's sonic beauty and Fischer's expressive take on the counter melodies, it makes this a must-hear version, even if you already own multiple recordings of this powerful symphony.

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2014