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Mahler: Symphony No 5 / Mehta, Bayerishes Staatsorchester


Release Date: 09/29/2009 
Label:  Farao   Catalog #: 108052   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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MAHLER Symphony No. 5 Zubin Mehta, cond; Bavarian St O FARAO 108052 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 72:30) Live: Munich 12/15/2008


With this release on Farao, Zubin Mehta revisits another work in his Mahler repertoire. He recorded the Fifth twice before: with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (now Read more available on Eloquence) and with the New York Philharmonic (now on Warner’s Ultima label); both versions are eminently serviceable. Mehta’s interpretation remains a mostly sober-minded and sturdy one.


This new performance opens in a convincingly grim fashion; what follows is a march of military rectitude with little sense of wistfulness or lassitude. Not much inner-voice detail is noticeable, as the overall structure takes precedence, the whole over the constituent parts. In this view, the first movement is very much an introduction to the second, principal one. The frenzied character of that movement is well captured, its swiftly changing moods registering like blips on a seismograph as the landscape shifts. The striking cello cantilena is a sudden mournful cessation, and there is an especially plaintive quality to the more pathetic elements of the secondary subjects. Mahler considered this his “real” first movement, and Mehta is respectful of the more substantial thematic development here when compared to the opening march.


The jollity of the Scherzo is established through the entire ensemble rather than just the solo horn, which here isn’t particularly prominent. There is an easy amiability present that makes this movement the perfect transition between the anguished confusion of its immediate predecessor and the quiet beauty of its successor: the energy of the former is here transformed into a robust vitality, while the darker elements find their way into the passionate conclusion. Mehta communicates all of this with consummate skill.


The timing of the Adagietto—just over 10 minutes—puts it midway between those performances hewing close to Mahler’s own timings and those padded out to Bernstein-Scherchen proportions. As such, it avoids the overly bathetic quality of the bloated kind while not quite attaining the more concentrated emotional impact of the more authentic versions. The finale’s horn disturbs the decaying tones of the Adagietto, as it should, and the music is off and running. Mehta projects the joyous rediscovery of life’s promise at the heart of this music. The audience is heard in clamorous approval at the close of the movement.


The Mehta performance is a solid, likeable account, easily worthy of comparison to such SACDs as Zinman on RCA and Nott on Tudor. The sound (in stereo and SACD stereo), while not particularly noteworthy, is more than adequate; it possesses presence while not being overly bright, and there is good balance between the orchestral sections.


FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 5 in C sharp minor by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 

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