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Mahler: Symphony No. 5, in C-sharp Minor Hybrid SACD


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Product details

  • Orchestra: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Manfred Honeck
  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Audio CD (19 Mar. 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD
  • Label: Exton
  • ASIN: B005GMOBI4
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,493 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Symphony No. 5 In C-sharp Minor, Trauermarsch. In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt
2. Stürmisch bewegt. Mit größter Vehemenz
3. Scherzo. Kräftig, nicht zu schnell
4. Adagietto. Sehr langsam
5. Rondo-Finale. Allegro - Allegro giocoso. Frisch

Product Description

This new 2 channel hybrid SACD of the 5th Symphony is the fourth release in a cycle of recordings of Mahler's symphonies from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and its highly regarded conductor Manfred Honeck. The previous three have featured Symphonies No. 1(EXCL00026), No. 4 (EXCL00048), and No. 3 (EXCL000450). The last and most recent of these was picked as a Gramophone "Editor's Choice" in November 2011.

Considered to be one of the best modern day interpreters of Gustav Mahler's music, the Austrian musical director Manfred Honeck began his career as conductor of Vienna's Jeunesse Orchestra, which he co-founded. He went on to become assistant to Claudio Abbado with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Vienna. After several highly successful guest appearances as conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra he was appointed its Director of Music in 2008. Honeck conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a thrilling, acclaimed performance of Mahler's Fifth Symphony at last year's BBC Proms.

The Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor was composed in 1901 and 1902, mostly during the summer months at Mahler's cottage at Maiernigg. Among its most distinctive features are the funereal trumpet solo that opens the work and the frequently performed Adagietto, which was famously used in the film 'Death in Venice'.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. E. Cox on 3 Jun. 2012
Format: Audio CD
The points in the first review above are taken, especially with regard to the slightly less fullness and possible warmth of string tone compared with some other orchestras of renown.

There are other points to make, however. Manfred Honeck - a conductor who has previously been somewhat neglected - is becoming a Mahlerian of stature. And he's raising the quality and esteem of the Pittsburgh orchestra with this cycle. (Notwithstanding the wonderful SACD sound.)This is evident from the previous Mahler symphonies yet released: 1, 3 and 4. The first two of these easily stand comparison with the best there is.

The Fifth Symphony is all of a unity, a progression from darkness to light and Honeck recognises this, seeing the end in the beginning, as it were. If, then, in the funeral march first movement he reins back the drama and power somewhat I believe this is intentional, saving the real clinching matter for the climactic place in the finale. The Adagietto seems just right in pacing and feeling - not drawn out almost interminably, nor rushed in deference to what is supposed to be a new and more authentic view. The reading throughout is fluid and the balance of forces very satisfying - something ones needs for repeated CD listening. So we get Mahler and the music without the ego some conductors are so easy to show.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Music and Film fan on 28 Dec. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Oops, after gaining a high esteem of Honeck as Maher conductor based on owning two performances of Mahler 1 (BBC and Exton) and his Mahler 3, I did not like this. In my view, it lacks momentum and tension.
Recently I've listened to quite some Mahler 5 and I must say I like the energy of Kondrashin and Barshai. These performances have some rawness I can appreciate. But I also like Bernstein and Barbirolli, who even when being slower than the two Russians, easily maintain tension.

The orchestral playing and recording are very well, but if I don't like the performance, I cannot care about that.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER on 21 May 2012
Format: Audio CD
I have a dozen versions of this symphony on my shelves. Not only is it one of the most extensively recorded of Mahler symphonies but it is also one of the most consistently successful. So how and why would I be able to recommend yet another recording? I certainly don't need another and it would have to be something special to merit recommendation, especially as this issue is undeniably expensive compared with bargain issues such as Frank Shipway's stunning reading with the RPO on their Tring label or reissues of the celebrated versions by Abbado with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the accounts in the big bargain boxes offering the collected symphonies conducted by Tennstedt, Maazel or Levine.

While their SACD sonics have generally been adjudged their strongest feature, the three previous issues in what is projected to be a complete series have met with a mixed reception regarding their artistic success, with some hearing a literalism or lack of poetry, others praising the "truthfulness" of Manfred Honeck's interpretation. Most agree that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra plays extraordinarily well, not least their Principal Trumpet George Vosburgh and Principal Horn William Caballero - and indeed those two soloists surpass themselves in this latest recording, even if their fellow string-players cannot emulate the sheen and glow of the greatest orchestras forming the competition.

The Pittsburgh has had some financial difficulties of late but has acquired stability with the appointment of Austrian conductor Honeck in 2008 and the extension of his contract through to 2020.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Allsopp on 7 Nov. 2012
Format: Audio CD
There are a dozen reviews of this recording and all of them make reference to the elephant in the room - the brass! In fact it reveals that without them as a topic of conversation there would be little else to commend the version!

This is true. The overall structure and interpretation are a good copy of other masters such as Bernstein, Abbado or Inbal but nothing more. No revelation, no passion in the phrasing and nothing stunningly original. What makes the recording stand out is the overwhelming brass playing.

When I say 'overwhelming' I mean it in the sense of being sat on by a large creature as opposed to being overwhelmed by it's impressiveness. I am sure some will love the sound of brass players showing how much noise they can make and for sure it sets Pittsburgh uniquely apart - I personally hope they stay unique because one orchestra ruined is plenty. It is just my personal opinion but having heard them destroy Tchaikovsky 5 at the proms last year I wince at hearing the same soul-less amplitude once again. Do these guys practice with decibel meters nearby, are they claiming a spot in the Guinness book of records? I played horn through music college and my own PERSONAL view is it is a ghastly and vacuous practice. I can't tell whether Honeck encourages it or endures it.

For an illustration William Caballero Obligato in the Scherzo, especially the two solo sections (Etwas Zurückhaltend) - entirely devoid of musical rational other than showing how wide the gap is between his pianissimo and fortissimo. I would listen to Stefan Dohr, Dale clevenger, even David Thompson at Barcelona all day long.

In summary, I would rather stand close to Metallica cones for two hours than this dullard show of strength from a brass section that sound the musical equivalent of rhinos charging.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Honeck/Pittsburgh hit the ball out of the park, again. 17 Mar. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It seems as though every conductor and every orchestra on earth has recorded Mahler 5 - sometimes twice, even! Therefore, it's difficult to recommend such a high priced version when one can still procure the famous Karajan and Barbirolli recordings at far cheaper prices. Still, it would be wrong for me not to garnish five full stars for this outstanding performance and recording. Exton's sound quality is second to none, save some of the best recordings from Channel Classics. More than any other determining factor, Honeck and Pittsburgh turn in a gutsy, full bodied performance that, at times, is just jaw-droppingly good from the P.S.O.'s brass section.

Normally I'm not a big fan of orchestral performances that permit the brass to dominate over everything else. But Honeck and his cooperative Pittsburgh players apply sheer amplitude in the most imaginative and intelligent manner. They don't just wipe the strings and woodwinds off the map, all willy-nilly (sorry fellow brass players). Instead, they wait for the right moments and carefully follow Mahler's specific gradations of loudness. As a result of that, the P.S.O.'s strings and woodwinds stay in the game to the finish. Just listen to the equally jaw-dropping sound that the P.S.O. strings conjure up during the famous Adagietto. Having been a former Principal Violist of the Vienna Philharmonic, Honeck coaxes just an unbelievable amount of sound from his violas and cellos over all those harmonic suspensions near the end of the Adagietto - what a sound! (even if Honeck stretches it a bit at 11:42). The finale that follows is as joyous and raucous as one could hope for, without Honeck applying the breaks too soon before the end (many conductors do - just look at what the score says to do instead). Now back to the brass.

As with their equally outstanding recording of Mahler 3 that appeared just months ago, special recognition needs to go to Principal Trumpet George Vosburgh (first movement solos), as well as Principal Horn William Caballero who does just a stunning job on the long and challenging obbligato/solo horn part in the Scherzo (Movement III). These two alone are nearly worth the price of admission.

What makes these Honeck/Pittsburgh Mahler performances go over so strongly is, as I see it, two specific factors. First, the P.S.O. conjure up a gutsy and 'earthy' sound for Mahler's 'tone world' that so appropriately matches the composer's love of nature, both physically and in terms of literature (intellectually). Many American orchestras possess the requisite weight and muscle for Mahler's music, both often times come off sounding too slick and too clinical. Not these folks.

The second factor is the balance between the various instruments within the brass section. To be specific, Honeck encourages and coaxes his horns to keep up and match 'licks' with the trumpets and trombones (with a mighty strong tuba as well). This begs comparison with the even more famous brass of the Chicago Symphony. They have muscular trumpets and trombones for sure, but their horns often times just can't keep up in terms of sheer amplitude (partly due to the difference in halls as well). Perhaps it's because Honeck is so used to hearing the almost primordial, 'natural horn' like sounds of the Viennese single F-Horns (pretty much indigenous to just the V.P.O.). Perhaps it's also because Honeck played so many concerts under conductors who like their Mahler strong in the brass (Bernstein, Maazel, Mehta, just to name a few). Regardless, the result is a sound and color that almost pays homage to the wild, outdoorsy sound of the natural horns we hear in 'historically informed' performances of Baroque and early Classical era music these days.

I find Honeck's recordings of Mahler 3 and 5 so convincing that he's forced me to go back and re-listen to his earlier recordings of Mahler 1 and Mahler 4. I'm now tempted to change my vote to five stars on his recording of Mahler 4, but I still think there's just a tad too much contrast between fast and slow sections within the two outer movements (not destructively so, but close). I also still feel that Honeck's Mahler 1 is just a solid four-star performance, but is also outstanding over the last few minutes of the first movement, as well as the entire finale.

I've rambled a lot but the point is this: this is a really good Mahler 5 in every respect!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Good...not great 2 July 2012
By Stephen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
First, let me say something about the Exton label. With the exception of CSO Resound, Exton is the most exciting label releasing new Mahler recordings. With Sieghart/Arnhem, Honeck/Pittsburgh, and Macal/Czecka, they are releasing breathtaking recordings of Mahler. As someone who is obsessed with Mahler (perhaps unhealthily so...) I have collected hundreds of Mahler recordings and my favorite recordings of the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th are all on the Exton label. It is regrettable that they do not have better distribution in the United States and it is often very difficult (and costly) to obtain the recordings. So you should grab them when you see them available.

Now about Honeck...I must say that I LOVE Honeck's work. In fact, I recently flew from Florida to Pittsburgh to attend his performance of Mahler's 6th and it was extraordinary. His recordings of Mahler's 1st and 4th are my most cherished version of those respective symphonies...so when I received his 5th I wanted to love this! But, I must admit that I was disappointed. This is a good recording of the 5th, but not great.

Of course you could do much worse than the present recording (I would rate it 8/10). The fidelity is astounding, the conducting however is not what I expected from Honeck. At no point was I surprised by any choices in the work...not that a conductor should be deliberately different. However, in order to be truly great you should offer something that you can't hear on 20 other recordings. So when a friend asked me, "why should I buy the Honeck disc over the others?" I could not in good faith give him a reason. Yet, you could do much worse than Honeck's 5th.

For great recordings of the 5th I recommend: Chailly/Concertgebouw (Chandos), Levi/Atlanta (Telarc), Boulez/Vienna (DGG), Neumann/Gewandhaus Leipzig (Berlin), Barbirolli/Philharmonia (EMI), or Barenboim/Chicago (Teldec).
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Splendid Mahler from Austria via Pittsburgh 22 Jun. 2012
By Gerontius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Mr Guerrero has already written a comprehensive review with which I completely concur (in fact, I've bought several CDs based on his reviews and I find him unfailingly accurate in his remarks, so thanks Mr Guerrero!). I would add the following to his review which I would suggest reading first as these are short comments.
1. The best finale I have ever heard. Barbirolli said that every symphony has one true climax and Honeck makes that happen here as the "chorale theme" returns at the end, greeted by blazing (raised bell is my guess) horns, the resplendent PSO brasses literally shout for joy. This is surely the effect Mahler intended. Honeck makes the finale joyful in a way I have never heard before as so many conductors get mired in the contrapuntal stodge and can't make sense of Mahler's apparent stop and start.
2. Gorgeous gorgeous Adagietto. In the Bernstein mould, but a bit more lithe and a bit quicker. Feels perfect. Lovely carpet of string tone. As a Viola player from the VPO and having grown up in the Austrian Alps Honeck has this in his blood and has many many experiences of performing in his background. You can tell. It's magnificent. And it's not just "pretty", he isn't admiring a fine piece of jewelry, this is from the inside out and it's very movingly done.
3. The PSO is surely among the best orchestras in the world based on this live showing. The insistent trumpet in the first movement has many shades and colors to his playing. Another Herseth? Impossible, but this man is close. Horns are the best section in the US as I've said elsewhere (check out the PSO Mahler 3)
4. Engineering again is a bit disappointing to me. Horns a bit recessed, winds a bit recessed, strings a bit recessed, trumpets a bit too loud (playing directly at the mikes probably) - it's a bit like the BSO broadcasts under Munch where you hear a bit too much of Voisin. My gold standard for sound is the Lyrita Malcolm Arnold English and Scottish Dances conducted by the composer and recorded around 1970. This Mahler is a live recording and as such probably can't aspire to the best studio conditions. Sound is a A- much as I commented on the Mahler 3. Maybe it's the best they can do in Heinz Hall.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very fine, but not in competition with the best 21 May 2012
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I have a dozen versions of this symphony on my shelves. Not only is it one of the most extensively recorded of Mahler symphonies but it is also one of the most consistently successful. So how and why would I be able to recommend yet another recording? I certainly don't need another and it would have to be something special to merit recommendation, especially as this issue is undeniably expensive compared with bargain issues such as Frank Shipway's stunning reading with the RPO on their Tring label or reissues of the celebrated versions by Abbado with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the accounts in the big bargain boxes offering the collected symphonies conducted by Tennstedt, Maazel or Levine.

While their SACD sonics have generally been adjudged their strongest feature, the three previous issues in what is projected to be a complete series have met with a mixed reception regarding their artistic success, with some hearing a literalism or lack of poetry, others praising the "truthfulness" of Manfred Honeck's interpretation. Most agree that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra plays extraordinarily well, not least their Principal Trumpet George Vosburgh and Principal Horn William Caballero - and indeed those two soloists surpass themselves in this latest recording, even if their fellow string-players cannot emulate the sheen and glow of the greatest orchestras forming the competition.

The Pittsburgh has had some financial difficulties of late but has acquired stability with the appointment of Austrian conductor Honeck in 2008 and the extension of his contract through to 2020. Honeck was a violinist for the Vienna Philharmonic playing under Bernstein and Pittsburgh predecessor Maazel; he generally favours a warm, Romantic, traditional sound and while he has a keen ear for balancing sonorities he is unafraid to give the brass their head.

So, what of the specific merits or otherwise of this latest issue? I find it to be very fine but without anything especially striking to say. Direct comparisons with numerous competing versions leave me convinced that Honeck's vision of this symphony lacks somewhat of energy and attention to detail. Tennstedt's phrasing, accenting and dynamics for example, are so much more varied and absorbing from bar to bar in the opening Trauermarsch. There is a lack of the necessary wildness and fierce concentration in both of the first two movements; Honeck's trumpets do not shout, nor do the flutes scream "mit grösster Vehemenz" as they should and there is insufficient Schwung in his beat. This lack of passion is somewhat redeemed by the attack of Honeck's Finale. Some have complained of the stridency of the brass here but I don't mind their out-and-out assertiveness in a performance which sometimes borders on the good-mannered.

The Adagietto, too, palls in comparison with the very best by such as Bernstein, Maazel and Tennstedt. All three had celebrated Mahler-specialist orchestras at their disposal: the Vienna Philharmonic in the case of the first two and the London Philharmonic, specially trained in Mahler by Tennstedt; by comparison with those two orchestras there is some want of richness in the Pittsburgh string tone. Nobody can make this music breathe like Bernstein while Tennstedt, too, in both his live and studio recordings, evinces his genius for long-breathed phrasing. Honeck tends to pull the tempo about rather aimlessly and loses the pulse in an account which is amongst the longest but not the tautest.

The Scherzo conforms to the established pattern of first-rate playing without quite capturing the last degree of nuance in the music - in this case, the delicate ironic balance evoking what Willem Mengelberg called "forced joyfulness".

Yet all is beautifully played in first-rate sound. There is virtually no indication that this recording was made from live performances. I have to say that I listen to this disc on standard, rather than SACD equipment, although by all accounts this series has so far met with the approval of SACD enthusiasts. Ultimately, there are too many truly great recorded versions of this most popular of Mahler's symphonies to justify my giving it a top recommendation, good as it is.
7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I hate to throw cold water on this, but... 24 May 2012
By Avalanch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Well, I hate to throw cold water on this, but this CD recording of Mahler 5 by Honeck and Pittsburgh is somewhat disappointing. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 7. It's far from terrible. It's actually rather good in many respects. It just doesn't measure up to the best of the other versions out there, ones by Bernstein, Barenboim and, yes, Alan Gilbert, who did a fantastic job with the piece in a concert performance by the New York Philharmonic a couple of years ago. This is no reflection on the Pittsburgh Symphony, which is a great orchestra, nor on Honeck, who is an excellent conductor. In fact, Honeck and Pittsburg did a better job with the Mahler 5th during a performance in Berlin last year that is available on youtube. That video performance is terrific, very exciting and executed with a lot of style. This CD recording made in Heinz Hall is, frankly, dull in comparison. If Honeck had picked up the pace a little, then the orchestra might have played with a little more commitment. I think Pittsburgh and Honeck simply had an "off" couple of days when they recorded this. Unfortunate. Better luck next time.
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