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Mahler: Symphony No. 5 [CD]

Benjamin Zander , Philharmonia Orchestra Audio CD

Price: 13.33 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Disc: 1
1. Trauermarsch. In Gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie Ein Kondukt - Philharmonia Orchestra - Philharmonia Orchestra
2. Sturmisch Bewegt, Mit Grosster Vehemenz - Philharmonia Orchestra - Philharmonia Orchestra
3. Scherzo: Kraftig, Nicht Zu Schnell - Philharmonia Orchestra - Philharmonia Orchestra
4. Adagietto: Sehr Langsam - Philharmonia Orchestra - Philharmonia Orchestra
5. Rondo-Finale: Allegro - Philharmonia Orchestra - Philharmonia Orchestra
Disc: 2
1. Introduction - The Orchestra - Benjamin Zander - Benjamin Zander
2. The Motives - Benjamin Zander - Benjamin Zander
3. The Structure - Benjamin Zander - Benjamin Zander
4. The Adagietto - Benjamin Zander - Benjamin Zander
5. The Scherzo-Vienna - Benjamin Zander - Benjamin Zander
6. Experiencing The Symphony - Benjamin Zander - Benjamin Zander

Product Description

BBC Review

Enlightening details, plain common sense and generalised platitudes intermingle strangely in both Zander's performance and the lecture-disc which accompanies it. The first movement kicks off with focused rhythms played off against a determined driving-through of the songlines, and culminates in an impressive arch from what Zander later describes as a proto-Dietrich or Lenya vamping towards the most extreme of the climaxes and back down to oblivion. Then there's the memorable rook-like cawings which mock the procession of the funeral bier through the second movement's riven landscapes and the fluid metamorphoses of a scherzo which Zander sees as Mahler's love-hate relationship with Vienna. So far, so good. But in that case, what of the rondo-finale with its mock-academe and its hurly-burly? Nothing more, it seems, than a solemnisation of matrimony between Mahler and Alma, ponderously realised in performance. Zander has much to say in his talk about treating the preceding Adagietto as a supple love song without words rather than a dirge-like memorial, offering crucial snippets of Mengelberg's seven-minute Adagietto - to which his own comes close - and twice-as-long Scherchen. Curiously, though, Zander's reprise of the Adagietto melody feels uncomfortably sluggish, and this surely has something to do with his failure to light the Philharmonia strings from within, to make them his own (never blame the exemplary recording). His woodwind and brass soloists - including an unusually imposing trombone - all characterise superbly, but the ultimate impact, for all its fresh textures and the space it gives darker emotions to resonate, sorely needs the identification of a Bernstein with Dionysian ecstasy.

Performance ****
Sound *****

© BBC Music Magazine 2001

Product Description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The second installment in a complete series? 7 May 2001
By Bob Zeidler - Published on Amazon.com
This Zander/Philharmonia Mahler 5th follows, by approximately 18 months, Zander's highly-acclaimed Mahler 9th (a performance so enthralling that I found myself writing a second Amazon.com review many months after I initially reviewed it). The good news, aside from the fact that this Mahler 5th, like Zander's Mahler 9th, is a great performance, is that it appears as if Telarc has committed to a full Mahler symphony series by Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra, with his performance of the Mahler 4th already announced in the booklet for this Mahler 5th album as being available this August.

My total immersion in Zander's Mahler 9th was done in full awareness of the fact that he is a maestro not without controversy. Yes, I've seen the CBS "60 Minutes" segment on him. Twice. And yes, in that portrait, there is a zany, even manic, side to him. But there is a side of "missionary zeal" as well, perhaps of the magnitude of Bernstein, which not only came through in that "60 Minutes" piece but is also everywhere evident in his Mahler performances. I have had the pleasure of seeing and hearing him perform Mahler live, complete with his customary pre-concert lecture. And, to me, he is the Genuine Article: A Mahlerian who has both the knowledge and the directorial skills to get inside a Mahler symphony and present it with great expression.

This Mahler 5th fully lives up to the reputation set by his Mahler 9th. In fact, in at least a few respects, it is even better, if not greater, but that only because the 9th is a greater work. Starting at the top, one respect in which this performance is greater is the recorded sound. Unlike the 9th, which was recorded at a live performance at the Barbican Center in London, this is a studio recording (but done in conjunction with a series of live performances) recorded in a vastly superior acoustic venue. The shortcomings to that earlier 9th were related not to the fact that the performance was live but to the fact that the Barbican is simply not a particularly "flattering" venue for recording purposes. That particular "deficiency," minor as it was in the face of a shattering performance, is now history; the sound on this album is simply stunning: The usual Telarc stunning, in fact.

Another advantage to this Mahler 5th album over the 9th is the approach Zander has taken this time around with his discussion disc. (At 78 minutes, this discussion disc runs 10 minutes longer than the actual symphony does!) Where the 9th was challenging to a new listener from the perspectives of Mahler's themes, harmonies and polytonal style, the 5th is challenging from a structural perspective. So it is the structure, and the interrelationships of the five movements, which Zander elucidates in his discussion. And, by going outside this symphony, using examples from other works, both by Mahler and by other composers, Zander shines a light on precisely those areas which confound the first-time listener to this work. Best of all, he lovingly labors over the descriptions of a broad range of earlier approaches to the famous fourth movement, the Adagietto, showing how, over the work's lifetime, this movement has been played at tempi which result in timings varying from as little as 7 minutes to as much as 15 minutes, with each extreme, and everything in between, having its performing and listening advocates. With this discussion disc, Zander comes much closer to the approach that Bernstein did in his own famous Omnibus discussions, much of which ended up in his book "The Joy of Music." And that is good. As with Bernstein, no matter how much one knows about a piece of music, Zander can show you those seemingly little things which make you feel as if YOU are now the expert for having taken this journey with him.

The performance is first-rate. While I remain partial to Bernstein's later performance on DG, Zander's comes out no worse than second-best in a very crowded field. Like Bernstein (and unlike so many others who have made complete, or partial, traversals of the Mahler canon), Zander is a natural Mahlerian. Like Bernstein, he observes Mahler's detailed markings and achieves the inner rubatos, the ebbs-and-flows, the suppleness, that elevate the performance above the pedestrian and achieves a result which one could well imagine Mahler himself achieving. Unlike Bernstein, Zander, here in this 5th and earlier in the 9th, gives the sense of being able to suspend time without stretching the timings almost to the breaking point (as only Bernstein was able to do): The EFFECT is as if Bernstein had been on the podium, but the MEANS strike me as more Mahler than Bernstein. Quite remarkable, really. (In fact, Zander makes note of the fact that his timings mirror almost exactly those of Mahler in a performance during which one of Mahler's friends was using his watch to time the Mahler performance. He also makes note of the fact that these timings of Mahler were not known to him until after he had completed the performance recording and was assembling his discussion materials and notes.)

I can now look forward to the Zander Mahler 4th just a few months from now, with its own discussion disc. More to the point, now that there is every appearance that Telarc has in fact committed these forces to a complete Mahler cycle, I look forward to a cycle that may just measure up to the Bernstein II cycle without being a clone of it. And to a fresh performance of the Mahler 6th by Zander to eventually replace an absolutely shattering Mahler 6th, on Carlton Classics, which Zander recorded with his own Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. This particular recording is an "underground" masterpiece - almost impossible to find but well worth the search. It is THAT definitive!

Bob Zeidler
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zander's Revelatory Mahler 9 May 2001
By Thomas F. Bertonneau - Published on Amazon.com
GUSTAV MAHLER (1860-1911) enjoys very nearly the same popularity today as Tschaikovsky did thirty years ago when the classical music bug bit me and I started collecting long-playing records. Mahler's very popularity has an ambiguous effect on his music, however, since in the proliferation of concert and recorded performances really exceptional interpretations become fewer while a certain characterless rote becomes the norm. Those who once felt passionately about the music, as they heard it from Titans like Bruno Walter or Hermann Scherchen, find themselves growing averse to the "Warhorse Syndrome" of overexposed masterpieces. Ennui sets in...Where it concerns Mahler, an antidote exists in the remarkable interpretive work of Benjamin Zander, who has made it his mission over two decades to renew the kaleidoscopic strangeness of the nine great symphonies and the symphonic songs. A year or so ago, Telarc released Zander's version of the Ninth Symphony, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and one could justly say that this represented the work's most revealing performance since Walter committed it to 78RPM platters in Vienna in 1938...The opening Funeral March might seem slow in comparison to other readings, but this is because Zander wants to bring out the Kafkaesque grotesquery in it. The reiterated rhythm of the opening trumpet-signal (almost continuously present) reveals its kinship (practically its identity) with the "Fate Theme" from Beethoven's Fifth. There are wonderful touches, such as the substitution of the flute for the trumpet in the third of the three final reiterations of the trumpet-signal at the end of the First Movement. Many conductors attempt to make of the Second Movement a reprise-in-variation of the First. Zander sees it as a contrast. He sees the Scherzo as a bizarre apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, weirder than either of the two "Nachtmusik" movements of the Seventh Symphony. The Adagietto is not, for Zander, a piece of dripping sentiment or a musical obsequy, but a dignified expression of love and contentment. To the Finale - with its hybrid of sonata, rondo, fugue, and chorale - Zander brings a spirit of triumphant unity, making it truly the reconciliation of all the foregoing contradictions and incommensurabilities...As in the case of Zander's Ninth, Telarc gives us, at no increase in the price, an extra disc containing a seventy-five minute lecture by Zander on the symphony, with abundant musical illustration. Zander is a superb lecturer and his exposition illuminates the score in all sorts of unexpected ways. Mahler-lovers must (MUST) buy this disc. The uninitiated but curious will discover in it the best possible entrée into the life-altering experience of Mahler's music...
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get this for the Commentary 7 May 2001
By Trevor Gillespie - Published on Amazon.com
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Benjamin Zander could probably make baroque music interesting to me the way he is able to captivate the listener with his insights to music. As a listener, it's quite easy to feel the passion that Mr. Zander has for the music about which he speaks. Telarc is quite generous to provide the bonus commentary disc in this set. It's over 70 minutes of insight into one of the greatest late Romantic symphonies ever written. Having heard the commentary on Mahler's 5th symphony over 5 times now, I'm convinced that it alone is worth the price of the CD. It's a fascinating voyage into the music of Mahler and helps break down the complexities of Mahler so that you can further enhance your appreciation of this great work.
Accompanying this great commentary is actually a very fine recording of the 5th symphony. The reason that I don't give this CD a 5 star rating is for one simple reason---lack of rich deep banging bass. This is semi-disappointing, because Telarc has a reputation for bass-heavy recordings, and that is why I've been such a fan of their recordings. If you've heard the opening 2 minutes of Bernstein's or even Chailly's recording and are familiar with the sound, you'll easily be able to tell the difference in the recorded sound. This is perhaps not the fault of Telarc. It could very well be a balance of sound that Mr. Zander was trying to achieve. Regardless of the motive behind it, the final product comes up just short of the level of Bernstein's recording on DG--at least in the loudest passages of the symphony.
If you can ignore that one problem area of this recording, what is left is a great recording of the Mahler 5. Particularly impressive is how Zander has the Philharmonia Orchestra playing on the Adagietto. This is one of those movements that has become quite popular and is usually played slow. In the commentary, Mr. Zander explains that the Adagio has been played increasingly slower over time, which was not the intention of Mahler. In fact, a more flowing tempo is to be used. This flowing tempo actually is quite effective and yet it never sounds rushed. The result is quite lovely. Credit must be given to the string players of the Philharmonia as well as the trumpets and horns. They all play wonderfully on this recording. In summary, this is definitely a CD worth buying not only for the commentary, but also the performance. I'm anxiously awaiting the release of Zander's next recording--Mahler's 4th Symphony.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mahler through Zander 4 Sep 2001
By jerrold - Published on Amazon.com
I have heard many performances of Mahler's Fifth Symphony by an assortment of conductors and orchestras over the years. In the hearing of those performances, I was always struck at how distant Mahler seemed to place himself from his audience (at any rate from me.) Or, as I now look back, was it the conductor's interpretation that distanced Mahler from me? In this new recording by Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra, I was struck at not only the verve of the performance, but by a new found richness of tempo. Indeed, I have never heard Mahler played with such clarity. Thanks to Maestro Zander's brilliant interpretation of the score (as well as an extraordinary performance on the part of orchestra,) he managed to bring Mahler from what I had experienced as being distant into a new spirit of intimacy which I, quite frankly, found to be breathtaking. I believe that we have found the key to Mahler through Zander and for this I am truly grateful.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible performance...plus a bonus disk! 6 Feb 2003
By Ryan Kouroukis - Published on Amazon.com
I have to say that this is the best Mahler 5 I've listened to so far. I have heard Solti, Bernstein-Sony and Kubelik. Mr.Zander gives a extensive lecture on disk 2 about the piece and knows it quite exceedingly. He also gives us musical examples from his and other recordings. He is definetly a Mahler scholar. His extremely firey and passionate view is not be compared and his structural awareness throughout is evident which makes it so much bigger. So all in all if you want to know more about Mahler intellectually and emotionally, this 2 disk set is for you my friend.
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