Daniel Barenboim leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in this performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.5, recorded live at the Musik Triennale Köln, in 1997.
Barenboim's Mahler Five
begins with a certain sense of detachment and continues that way, seeming both calculated and calculating by turns. The composer's famous aphorism about the process of symphonic composition being in the nature of "building a world" is quoted in the excellent and detailed booklet notes (no shortage of scholarship here), so it's intriguing to observe how Barenboim chooses to contain the warmth and passion inherent in the work. In building a world, perhaps, one must perforce define its boundaries, yet at the same time it's this very process of containment that draws attention to these qualities. Musically, then, this is undoubtedly an interesting piece of work. In production terms, we're offered a very good argument for the DVD as a vehicle for orchestral performance. What may appear at first glance to be irritatingly skittish camerawork is in fact a perfect demonstration of how careful direction can draw attention to particular areas of the orchestra at exactly the right moment. The sound quality, though aggressively digital, is airy and detailed. --Roger Thomas