BR Klassik’s output lately consists of first class performances. Like its recent Haitink Mahler 3, this Mahler 5 with the Bavarian RSO and Mariss Jansons could easily gain benchmark status, alongside the recordings of Barshai, Karajan, Barbirolli and Abbado. This is not a surprise: Jansons previous recording with the Concertgebouw, only a few years earlier, was also excellent and he has been praised by many critics as a true Mahlerian conductor. As for the present recording, one is aware of the great things to come by just listening to the opening trumpet
This is not a roller-coaster Mahler 5. Instead, Jansons’s vision is introspective, highlighting the darkest elements of the music. Tempi for the first two movements are a bit slower than usual and while all the loud climaxes are splendidly captured, it is the softest passages that impress in his account. Strings and winds have a strong presence, the brass reminding us this is a funeral march. Overall an earthy, mellow, sombre sound that could only be attributed to a European orchestra.
Nostalgia is a word I would never associate with this symphony, yet, under Jansons’s baton, that was the main impression it left me with. A few things every here and there might strike the listener as a bit odd, since the tempo fluctuations allow for greater transparency which, instead of being clinical (like Vanska’s recent account with the Minnesota Orchestra), reveal new colours in this work.
Sample tracks on Spotify:
Of course, the recorded sound plays a significant role, and as is the case with all the latest BR Klassik recordings it is first class, despite this being a live recording. By sampling the Scherzo or the life-affirming finale one realises the virtuosic playing of the Bavarian orchestra.
As for the Adagio, the famous love-letter to Alma, here it is performed in just under 9 minutes but never sounds rushed. This is magical stuff, the way Janson’s shapes the flowing string themes as if sculpting in time (to quote Tarkovsky), the strings full-bodied without being over-sentimental, the whole movement sounding nearly ideal (and maybe such beautiful things are never really meant to sound ideal).
Earlier I mentioned Barbirolli, Karajan, Barshai and Abbado as the golden standards of this symphony. It is no exaggeration to say that Jansons now joins their company.
Rating: ***** (Gold)
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Mahler, Symphony 5
Mariss Jansons (conductor) / Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks
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