18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2011
Gergiev has been a learn-as-you-go conductor of Mahler, and despite his immense gifts, in the early stretches there were rough spots and a general sense that as a Russian, he was an outsider to this music. This live Fifth Sym. is a late arrival in the LSO Mahler cycle from two years ago -- now we have only the Ninth to go on CD. Lately Gergiev's approval rating has soared in this repertoire, with raves from even once-doubtful London and New York critics. The problem with being a ubiquitous, inexhaustible superstar like Gergiev is that it gives some reviewers pleasure to knock you for no good reason. What one hears on this CD is intense, varied, and totally engaged Mahler of the kind I love when it comes from Bernstein and Tennstedt. They both gave the impression of complete involvement, and as a result, the music means something.
This performance also means something. Not a bar is played without passionate attack. Having heard the work under Gergiev in concert, I can testify that it's an experience that leaves the audience exhausted. One can only imagine the cost to the conductor to stay this focused for an hour (and in his guise as superman, Gergiev has lately taken to scoring a second Mahler symphony after intermission). The LSO plays with virtuosity and astonishing communication; the sound form LSO Live is close up, with resounding bass and an overall visceral impact to rival any other Fifth I know.
As far as outlining the interpretation, what makes Gergiev stand out isn't anything unusual in his tempos or balances. He captures the funereal quality of the first movement with dramatic astuteness. the Adagietto is given a quiet, reflective reading, neither fast nor slow at a timing of 10:34, but made effective in contrast to the tumult that came before by being so inward and nuanced. We need this break in order not to be completely wrung out before the finale, and one is reminded that Gergiev is at his very best when phrasing soft, slow musicThe finale itself has always been a puzzle, with its seemingly light-hearted (or shallow?) exercises in counterpoint. Gergiev doesn't try to make more of it than t is, and here perhaps he could have displayed more imagination. I hear more from Rudolf Schwarz, Claudio Abbado in his remake from Berlin, and Simon Rattle, also from Berlin. Yet Gergiev's lighter, more frazioso approach is lovely on its own terms.
This is a gripping, very personal Mahler fifth that ranks among the very best; if you have never heard Gergiev's Mahler, there's no better place to start.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The Gergiev Mahler cycle has been erratic in quality-both performance and recording-and this is arguably the most accomplished instalment. However, its strengths in some ways are also its weaknesses. Tempi and balance are very conventional-nothing to raise the eyebrows or the hackles of the anti-Gergiev lobby-and as throughout this cycle, the LSO cover themselves in glory, with beautiful rich string tone to complement the renowned powerhouse brass section and plangent woodwinds. The recording too is one of the finest from this source, the quality so vastly improved since the costly acoustic refurbishment of the Barbican concert hall. However, it is just a little bit ordinary and reliable, rather than inspired as a reading. There are some cavills also-the second movement lacks some of the "extreme vehemence" specified by Mahler,and the passage preceding the entry of transformatory trumpet in the major key is very "flat",with the result that the sudden trumpet entry does not raise the hairs on the neck in the way it often can-at least for this listener. Furthermore, while I do not like the finale pplayed at breakneck speed, Gergiev's handling is a little too gentle and "strolling" rather than galloping for its own good at times. These points are not disastrous, but combine with the overrall reading to make this not an absolute top recommendation.At a concert, one would be in raptures with a performance of this quality, but such is the list of alternative recordings for repeated listening, that to be a top contender, a recording really has to be something special and this one falls a bit short.My own favourites are Bernstein (Vienna), Abbado (Berlin),Maazel (Vienna) Tennstedt (Live) and I like the Karajan especially for his handling of the last movement, though others differ on this point! There is also a superb Barshai performance coupled with his extraordinary version of the 10th. If you are collecting the Gergiev LSO set, you will be well satisfied, and indeed anyone buying this will get a very fine recording, well played and conducted and at a good price but just falling a little short of the very best . Four and a half stars! Stewart Crowe
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2014
This is a fine recording of the symphony but when you combine the LSO with considerable abilities of Gergiev then your expectations are very high and these were met. My only fears in choosing a live performance was the possibility of some extraneous noise, but I'm pleased to report that I didn't detect any such detrement. Also there is the plus of owning such a recent recording that benefits from advances in audio technology. I found it necessary to turn the volume up a notch becuase the sound level is set a little lower than the bulk of my recordings, ,