This 1951 radio broadcast from WDR is nothing short of amazing. Yes, the playing isn’t perfect–the brass in particular slip up occasionally, but you will be hard pressed to find a fresher, more exciting, more intense Mahler Fifth on disc. Hans Rosbaud was, of course, an exceptional conductor generally, but his performances often were let down by the seedy quality of post-War German radio orchestras, which was a far cry from their current splendor. Here however, he and the Cologne Radio Orchestra attack the piece with a truly impressive level of commitment. They play hard, and Rosbaud’s swift, take-no-prisoners approach is captured in very good mono sound for its era.
There are two qualities in Rosbaud’s interpretation thatRead more stand out particularly. First, there is the wide dynamic range, more than adequately captured by the engineers. The very opening trumpet solo seems to approach as if from a distance, growing in volume until the first big chords explode with impressive power. The climaxes all have tremendous impact, and if the brass playing isn’t perfect, it’s also never timid. Second, Rosbaud emphasizes Mahler’s detailed tempo variations with remarkable precision, capturing the music’s eruptive qualities as have very few others. You can hear this very clearly in the contrast between the main tempo of the opening funeral march and its swift first trio section–a truly frenzied, hysterical outpouring of sound (sample below).
The remainder of the performance proceeds in similar fashion. The second movement truly defines Mahler ‘s call for “great vehemence;” the scherzo is not just jolly, but also sinister and more than a touch manic; the Adagietto flows with a real cantabile soulfulness for just under nine minutes; and the finale breezes along inexorably to a colossal closing chorale. No Mahlerian can afford to miss this performance. Had it come out as a commercial release when it was first recorded in 1951, I have no doubt that it would have become one of the standards by which all future performances would have been judged, and it would be a long while before anything came along that could match it.
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor: I. Trauermarsch
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor: II. Sturmisch bewegt, mit grosster Vehemenz
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor: III. Scherzo
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor: IV. Adagietto
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor: V. Rondo-Finale
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Top-Drawer MahlerAugust 27, 2013By Martin H. (Gilbert, AZ)See All My Reviews"This recording is a must for all Mahlerians. Exciting, insightful, thrilling. The mono sound is more than acceptable and far better than the sound of the similarly old Walter. It's another recording that gives lie to the myth that Mahler was unknown until Bernstein came around. In fact, this 5th is better than any of the three Bernstein's I have. And it makes one lament that Rosbaud didn't live longer to make a complete Mahler cycle in stereo."Report Abuse