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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Becoming a Mahlerian
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...
Published on 3 Jun 2012 by R. E. Cox

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2.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't have bought this one
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...
Published 2 hours ago by Music and Film fan


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Becoming a Mahlerian, 3 Jun 2012
By 
R. E. Cox (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 5, in C-sharp Minor (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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2.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't have bought this one, 28 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 5, in C-sharp Minor (Audio CD)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine, but not in competition with the best, 21 May 2012
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 5, in C-sharp Minor (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.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Am I alone in seeing the Emperor naked?, 7 Nov 2012
By 
David Allsopp "philologus" (Leighton Buzzard, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 5, in C-sharp Minor (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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Mahler: Symphony No. 5, in C-sharp Minor
Mahler: Symphony No. 5, in C-sharp Minor by Gustav Mahler (Audio CD - 2012)
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