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Mahler: Symphony No. 5
 
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Mahler: Symphony No. 5

1 janvier 2002 | Format : MP3

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x8a262678) étoiles sur 5 2 commentaires
22 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8a2874a4) étoiles sur 5 A real find, - fresh, vigourous Mahler from Haenchen and co. 28 novembre 2003
Par P. SIMPSON - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: CD
I bought this with my fingers crossed, - unreviewed, a live recording (not my usual cup of tea), Holland's third orchestra and a relatively (internationally) unknown conductor. My fingers are now uncrossed, - this is a "bit of a find", - an excellent, exciting performance captured in splendid sound.
I've long thought that this work has been distorted by association with Mann's Novella and Visconti's film of "Death in Venice" and as a result has been over-adagified (listen to Abbado's Chicago recording to hear what I mean). But when he wrote this (in the Austrian countryside, nowhere near Venice) Mahler was at about the happiest point in his life, - 42 and just met Alma, and before the tragedies immortalised in the Sixth. And, although it's "in C minor" the 5th works towards an optimistic, blazing, D major ending.
So it's terrific to hear Haenchen and his players present a vigorous, virile performance which strips some 8 minutes off Barbirolli and Bernstein (the VPO version), including a minute off the Adagietto. I still love the Barbirolli - nobody does dark radiance and sheer humanity better - and although I've owned the first Bernstein and the Philips' Haitink my other favourite is the second Bernstein, with the Vienna Philharmonic, who have this work in their blood and whose strings are simply the crème de la crème (as Miss Jean Brodie would have said). Sadly, my copy has been languishing in a box in a shed in Alice Springs for the past three years (while the Barbirolli has kept me company) but my memories of it are strong
If, in the final analysis, Haenchen's account, in striving to be scrupulously clean and whole, ends up lacking some of that visceral punch, the "wow" that Bernstein delivers, he is still exciting and involving (but objective at the same time, - a difficult balancing act, reminding me a little of Haitink).
The sound supports the performance gloriously. It was recorded using Polyhemia's (i.e. Pentatone's) custom-designed and built recorder, microphone pre-amps and mic. buffer electronics with DPA 4006 and Neumann KM 130 mics routed directly into a DCS DSD AD converter and a Studer 962 mixer. The result is bloody good. The soundstage is wide and realistic, the sound itself warm but clear and, although I (only) listen in stereo, the acoustic is captured brilliantly. At one point there's a door-noise in the hall and even on two speakers you can place it as being behind you, at the right and the rear of the hall. My guess is that the surround mix will be superb.
The sound makes the Netherlands strings sound as present as the Viennese (no mean compliment). Kettle drum and other percussion and clear and sharp but also deep and thunderous. At times the brass seemed a bit reticent, but you gradually notice that that is always when they need to maintain a proportionate relationship with the strings. When needed, as in the glorious chorale like peroration that closes the Symphony, they sound brilliant and bold.
A minor complaint is that whilst the instantaneous applause is well-deserved (for the performance, - just attention seeking for some audience members) I would have preferred a second or two's (sampled) silence to be inserted to allow me to let out my breath and relax (like a stunned mullet) before it came in and I joined in.
And another note of irritation, - this is a performance which strips away the externally-imposed distortions of Mann's and Visconti's Venetian associations so why the hell did the cover-artists have to go and plaster the case and booklet with pictures of bloody Venice ???!!!! Zero stars for artistic comprehension and marketing to the graphics boys.
But, with an excellent reading as well as a fine performance with great sound, five stars to Haenchen and the Netherlands Orchestra and to producer/engineer Erdo Groot. Not 5 stars with an "extra-special something" Rosette, like the Bernstein, but a very good disc in its own right.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8a287be8) étoiles sur 5 The best of 15 often recommended recordings 29 janvier 2008
Par Musicus - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: CD Achat vérifié
NB: This review is not from 2008, but from july 2014:

I promised to replace my former review with a new one. Now I will first briefly tell my view of the work and then my opinion on the present recording by Haenchen, which in my view is the best in my collection of more than 15 recordings of Mahler's 5th. Then I will explain how I happened to collect all those records, and give my brief assessment of each performance, all of them enthusiastically recommended by different reviewers.

First my view of the work's "meaning". I think it is kind of a life story, starting with a state of suppression - the funeral march − with small outbursts of anger and despair, then going to youthful revolt, liberation in the 2nd movement. The long scherzo is manhood unfolding, the adagietto is falling in love and the rondo-finale is happy ending, wedding, celebration.

This Haenchen-recording got a nice review by Mark Wagner comparing more than ten Mahler 5th recordings at the site 6moons, but now that review seems to be removed, perhaps Wagner has changed his view? I quote anyway, Wagner complained that "the famous horn obbligato is a little more distant as is typical in the hall and generated no goose bumps" − that very remark was the reason that I didn't order the Haenchen in the first place, yet "this is a very fine recording that offers a splendid performance and a superior mastering job". For the first movement he noticed "the strings have a wonderful and sweet sound throughout..." I am not a soloist like Mark Wagner, and have never ever got any goose bumps by the horn obbligato.

I think Haenchen has 1) a first movement among the best, when it comes to responding to Mahler's «In gemessemem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Konduct». Streng (Strict) is the key word; the funeral marsch is about facing tragedy with dignity. Haenchen delivers, although the brass could sound a bit more rough, Haenchen is second only to Solti 1970 − Solti 1990 is good too − in this movement,
2) a second movement that is almost as good as the very best in this movement, Neeme Järvi − apart from the bombastic, heavy handling towards the ending of the movement, from 11'50" to 12'59", which I find annoying, even the almost cronically slow Bernstein (Vienna/DGG) handles these bars much, much better than Haenchen; but OK, it's a quibble, about one minute of disgust,
3) a third movement which is on the brisk side, but never feels hurried, but that is a matter of habit, perhaps,
4) an adagietto which is timed almost perfectly at Mahler's own tempos, and is good, if not excellent,
5) a finale which without any shade of doubt is the very best of all the recordings I've listened to, with clear contrapuntal lines and very much joy, yes, it is fresh and giocoso, a wonderful celebration!
The sound is warm and pleasant, the strings are a little better recorded than the brass, besides I don't have to repeat P. Simpson's review.
This is not the most exciting, but in the long run a very satisfying Mahler 5th, pleasant and good sounding, although the brass could be more thunderous.

About 4  years ago, Timothy P. Koerner wanted my review of my 15 other recordings, and now I have some time to keep my promise, although I don't have time to do it properly. All of the 15 were bought because of various glowing recommendations by different people, mostly at amazon.com, others by Tony Duggan at Music Web and some by David Hurwitz at Classics Today and some more or less by Mark Wagner, who also warned about some of the recordings I yet have collected...
The fact is that after all this collecting and too much listening, I needed a break. My estimation of each recording has gradually changed during this process.

My history with recordings of the symphony is as follows: I first listened to it by a friend of mine in Florence more than 20 years ago, the recording was by Sinopoli and impressed me greatly. I am not sure it would do so today.
Returning to Norway, I bought all the Mahler-symphonies in the recording by Kubelik (DGG-box). I was never satisfied by his 5th, with the exception of the adagietto, which was most beautiful. I gave up listening to the Kubelik, and started searching for a perfect recording of the 5th, to complete my otherwise satisfying Kubelik box.
I never wanted a collection of Mahler recordings, all I wanted was one single performance that I could enjoy, but after a while, I started to check out other recordings of most of the other Mahler symphonies as well, and a collector's craze started. (To my excuse I will say that I earned well that time and didn't have any responsibilities. Anyway, I am not proud of my Mahler-collection, I never have been.)
When I finally ordered the Haenchen after almost two years, I was exhausted by my search and felt that I didn't like the symphony anymore. However, Haenchen proved me wrong, there.

1) Before starting my collecting frenzy, I had received the Barbirolli as a birthday gift. It was a performance I never liked, in spite of gloriously recorded sound, exceptionally good capture of details in the strings, for example a very sweet violin getting through early in the Tempo 1-part of the first movement (ten seconds from 9'03" to 9'13" in that recording), and this not at expense of the brass section, which sounds great too. The problem is the heavy conducting. A depressing funeral march − not strict (streng) as Mahler requires, but dark, yes, almost suicidal. And apart from the Stenz/Melbourne-recording, this has the slowest 2nd movement of my about 15 recordings of this symphony. Barbirolli is however the only one who manages to make the "Stürmisch bewegt" not moving like a tempest at all, it starts deliberately, and becomes never more than a breeze, not even a gale, certainly no tempest. Even Stenz makes it stormy. The rondo-finale is one minute slower than Barshai, who is already too slow with this movement. Mahler wants it to be "frisch" (fresh, brisk) and giocoso (playful); Barbirolli's finale is neither, in my humble opinion. He dosen't care about Mahler's instructions, which are not to be misunderstood. But this recording, captured back in july 1969, gives wonderful details. So much for progress in recording sound; it is easy to understand its fame.

2) I believed my search would end with Neeme Järvi/Scottish National Orchestra, recommended by Mark Wagner. Very exciting and, as I said, featuring the very best performance of the 2nd movement, which is so good that I barely have words for it. In spite of clear sound, and overall good reading and playing, there is a monochrome feeling of much of that recording. The brass section sounds much more impressive than the strings. The scherzo is among the slower, and in the long run I'm not so impressed by it, but all of this may be due to the sound of the strings. I missed warm and detailed strings.

3) I tried to balance the Järvi with Maazel's recording, since I was still happy with his 4th. Maazel has very warm sound and a lovely feeling, but unfortunately, after some months it became boring and less convincing. I don't think Mahler wanted it shaped that way. But that recording gave me pleasure for a long time,and the walzing in the scherzo is not schmalzy, but really good.

4) Then I went to the Barshai which I found very attractive due to the enthusiastic playing and a very clear sound, both strings and brass sound wonderful. A sunny recording! The violin from the Tempo 1-section is easy to hear from 7'52" to 7'57" (gradually drowned by brass). Everything sounds great in the Barshai. However, I disagree with the tempo choices. The funeral march lacks a little gravitas, although there are recordings who are worse in that respect. The scherzo is too slow and the adagietto too fast - Mahler took it at 9 minutes; at 8'18'' it barely feels slow, and Mahler requires very slow. The finale is on the slow side again. It may be due to slow conducting that the horn obligato in the scherzo never catches my attention, my mind drifts away. As it is, I only listen to the first two movements. The Barshai has a great reputation, however, it was enthusiastically recommended by both David Hurwitz and Tony Duggan; it is rare that reviewers agree with each other. And I was so proud of getting the last CD from Laurel Records, the original company!

5) The Abbado/Chicago recommended by a German reviewer at amazon.de takes the opposite strategy of the Barshai, making contrasts by extensive use of dynamics. That's OK with me, but the adagietto is too slow, not syrupy, rather sleepy. Abbado/Chicago gives a sunny feeling to Mahler's 5th, which I like. I have enjoyed this recording a lot, but now I dislike the dynamics, things can get too quiet at times.

6) Then I went to Bernstein/DGG, which sounds great. It was almost a revelation to me! What an impact! So in the beginning the listening was pure joy, it is that juicy! But in my case it outweared its welcome, because it is very slow, not only the adagietto − which is not the slowest on disk, as somebody seems to believe − but after an extremely slow funeral march, a slow 2nd movement and the slowest scherzo in my collection, it is already too much slowness. I should have heeded Mark Wagner's warning. If you can take slowness in Mahler, you might have a happy choice in Bernstein. The sweet violin in the 1st movement, I mentioned concerning Barbirolli, is not impressive here. It sounds great, but the sound is not that detailed.

7) Then I let curiosity guide me, so I turned to Chailly, buying his box, in spite of Mark Wagner's remarks, which I didn't fully comprehend. The Chailly is good, but the overambitious sound quality ruins it. Chailly - or his engineers, I don't know - wants to capture every detail and it sounds like microphones are placed almost inside each instrument. Add a wet empty hall sound, and you get this artificially sounding recording. Sometimes some of the instruments sound shrill. Chailly stands the sweet violin test of course, but the brass drowns it pretty soon. There is a lonely feeling about most of Chailly's Mahler recordings. His Mahler 5th is like getting early up a sunny summer morning, drinking one espresso too much and smoking some cigarettes too; it has rained during the night, in the garden all colors are extremely clear and shiny, the green is green as green can go, the sky is deep blue and the sun is so sharp that you can't stand it and there is no human being awake. You are alone. I guess that a weak stereo equipment could make the sound less shrill...

8) The sound of Levine − don't remember who recommended it − is just the opposite of the Chailly, warm sound, but there is something misty, opaque about it. Pretty good recorded strings − the sweet violin from the Tempo 1-part is however not so well captured as in the Barbirolli-recording. Anyway, the adagietto is too slow and not exciting, so it is no perfect Mahler 5th, after all, my search had to continue.

9) Then came Gatti, reviewed by Tony Duggan. Perfectly timed and well thought out. Good sound. Everything is done with great care. So why am I not happy about it? I have a feeling that Gatti's perfection isn't relaxed. Something is contrived here. Perhaps there is a lack of risk-taking, of spontaneity. I applaud that Gatti follows Mahler's instructions to the letter, which not many conductors care about, frankly, they often don't give a damn. But with Gatti I have some feeling of being to a party where everything is perfectly arranged, but the guests are still not having a good time. I skipped the sweet violin test.

10) Kubelik 1981 live (Kubelik Audite) is somehow the opposite of Gatti's perfect evening, I get a feeling of being by shabby cottage at the sea, it is nice, everybody is having a good time, but I don't get the seriousness of the work. This is a Mahler's 5th that is happy go lucky from the very beginning. No problem with risk-taking here, no problem with spontaneity, the scherzo starts really fast, but ends up at 17'55" − now and then I lose attention during this movement. Perhaps it's only me, but I get a sense that everybody involved has done this many times before and is happily doing it once more, playing with it, enjoying it, or should I say even having fun with it, but there is no feeling of exploring a new country and no feeling of having a message to convey. If I didn't know that Kubelik was the conductor, I would not guess it. No sweet violin test.

11) Stenz Melbourne was a disappointment, good sound, but his "Stürmisch bewegt" is way too heavy to my taste, even slower than Barbirolli, hence no perfect Mahler's 5th.

12) On the other hand has Bertini a too lean and lighthearted funeral march, hence no perfect Mahler's 5th.

13 + 14) Solti 1990 Live is very strict. That works perfectly in the funeral march, one of the very best readings of just that movement. To make things short: Solti hurries through the scherzo. That is the case in Solti 1970 too, which goes even faster, and in that recording he hurries through the finale as well. Long time I believed that Solti 1990 live had the most impressive funeral march, but the Solti 1970 is even better when it comes to strictness. Solti was always good with brutality.

15) Then I ordered this Haenchen, which ended my search.

But I have friends:
Karajan − belonging to a former girlfriend of a friend of mine − seemed really good, even the too slowly played adagietto had no trace of boredom − how is that possible at reportedly 12 minutes? − and I was quite a critical listener then; after the blind listening, I was surprised to learn that the conductor was Karajan, who is not considered a good Mahler conductor. But by then I had my Haenchen, and honestly, I don't need more recordings of Mahler's 5th.

16) Now, before writing this review, I returned to the recording that spured my buying spree, the Kubelik 1971 DGG − only available in the Kubelik DGG box, as far as I know. After all this listening to Mahler's 5th, I just wanted to return to it, checking what is wrong about it, after all my experiences with this symphony, I feel somehow competent to do the diagnostics. Well, listening again to the Kubelik 1971 DGG some days ago was rather a shock to me: I am stunned about the quality and attention to details in the recording that I eventually spurned, believing it wasn't inspired or not having pleasant sound or something else, I don't reallt know. For the sound quality, I tested the sound of that sweet violin in the Tempo 1-part of the Trauermarsch, and lo and behold, it is gloriously captured from 7'44" to 7'52", as good as in the Barbirolli! But I would lie if I said the sound ambience is only pleasant to the ear; it can feel like too much is going on in too narrow a space. A little more spacious sound, it would easily be my favourite Mahler 5th, brimming with energy, sunny of course, I always felt it was, and a great sense of structure. The problem was obviously that it is kind of demanding, many details combined with brisk tempos, but I am finally able to appreciate it fully. Listning from the beginning to the end I have not one single objection. It is only the ambience of the glorously recorded sound and the lack of thunderous brass. Well, mostly I happen to prefer substance to gloss.

So I have to admit that I have crossed the stream in order to fetch some water. For pleasantness and nice sound, I still prefer the Haenchen, all things considered. Besides I don't think there is any perfect performance of Mahler's 5th; if I want intensity, I can listen to the Kubelik DGG; if I want a more nicely sounding and laidback approach which still isn't boring, I take the Haenchen. It sounds more like luxury.

We are all different, reacting differently to different kind of stimulus, so please don't feel insulted if I have a poor opinion on a recording you happen to cherish. Remember, your own opinion is always the right one in art and love. (And we may all change, now and then. My former high opinion of the Maazel-recording was fully justified then, although today it is not justified to me anymore.)
Final remark: If you happen to like a conductor in one performance of a Mahler-symphony, it doesn't follow that you will like him/her in another performance. The only conductor who has been almost consistently good in Mahler is Kubelik, but his case is exception, not a rule.
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